Category Archives: Smart Grid

Disruptive is a Buzzword…but it’s true for Batteries

batteryFor more than 100 years, the U.S. power system relied on fossil-fueled power plants to meet our growing energy demand. Now, clean energy resources like renewables are quickly changing our energy mix. But what happens when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing? What about when power demand momentarily outpaces supply? That’s where batteries and energy storage come in, offering a fundamental, even disruptive change to the U.S. electricity system as we know it.

Batteries are energy game-changers

Today’s electricity system not only overproduces to be prepared for unforeseen problems, it also deploys dirty “peaker” plants that fire up during those few times per year when electricity demand is high (like during a heat wave) and the electric grid is stressed. With batteries, there’s no need for either overproduction or inefficient backup reserves, ultimately saving both utilities and customers money.

Batteries can provide bursts of electricity incredibly fast, often in milliseconds, and with far quicker reaction times than traditional power plants. As a result, energy storage helps the electric grid absorb and regulate power fluctuations, providing electricity fast, when and where it’s needed. Since the supply and demand of power must be carefully balanced, this ability helps prevent the grid from experiencing brownouts or blackouts. Read More »

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Utility 2.0: “REVolutionizing” the Use of Distributed Energy Resources

new-york-city-105862_640New York opened its “Reforming the Energy Vision” (REV) proceeding earlier this year to re-examine the utility business model. As part of this proceeding, state regulators will also look into removing market barriers preventing greater deployment of distributed energy resources (DER), which are smaller-scale clean energy resources, such as energy efficiency, energy storage, and local, on-site generation.

In recent years, DERs have made great strides due to market reforms, advanced technologies, and declining costs. Despite these advances, DERs serve less than 1% of national electricity demand as the existing utility business model and regulatory policies still favor traditional electricity distribution from a centralized grid.

Though the REV proceeding is in its early stages, the Department of Public Service Staff (Staff) has provided guidance recommendations for eliminating these market barriers. Using the Staff’s filings, EDF has drafted a white paper that compiles a Top 20 list of the changes required before we will see greater use of DERs. If adopted, these recommendations would result in a sea change for incorporating DERs into New York’s electric system and would provide a template for other states to follow. Read More »

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In the Wake of Court Ruling, What’s the Future of Demand Response?

supreme courtOn September 17th, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals declined en banc review of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Order 745, dealing a blow to FERC’s regulation on demand response. This sounds complex, but behind these technical terms, hidden in plain sight, is a monumentally important and unfortunate legal outcome: we’re likely about to see an unnecessary rise in electricity prices and increase in new polluting power plants. This is bad news for the consumer, bad news for efficiency, and bad news for the environment.

First, a bit of background…

FERC Order 745, issued in 2011 by the federal agency that regulates electricity throughout the United States, has successfully allowed demand response to fairly compete in the electricity marketplace with more traditional energy resources like coal and natural gas.

Demand response is an important clean energy resource used by utilities and electric grid operators to balance stress on the electric grid by reducing demand for electricity, rather than relying on dirty “peaker” power plants or new infrastructure. It pays people to conserve energy during periods of peak or high demand in exchange for their offset energy use. This makes our grid more efficient, reduces harmful air emissions from fossil fuel plants, and keeps electricity prices lower. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response| Comments closed

Germany's Energiewende Proves Electricity can be Clean and Reliable

electric-power-273644_640Since 2004, the year of the first major revision of Germany’s Renewable Energy Act (EEG), the country has added at least 35 gigawatts (GW) of solar and 35 GW of wind to its electric grid – enough to offset upwards of 35 coal plants. What’s more impressive is during the first half of 2014, close to 29 percent of Germany’s electricity came from renewable sources. For perspective, America’s renewables percentage, at about 14 percent, was half of Germany’s during this timeframe.

Meanwhile, the country has improved its status as a grid reliability leader, causing the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Energy Transition blog to conclude, “Clearly, installing the equivalent of 100 percent of peak demand as wind and solar capacity does not bring down the grid.”  Renewables International further asserts, “Renewables have not yet reached a penetration level that has detrimentally impacted grid reliability.”

This success runs contrary to the predictions of Energiewende’s critics, who have sounded the alarms about investing in “too much” renewable energy. Some of these concerns are more valid than others, but the truth is, most of these claims are blown out of proportion, fixable with solutions that are not overly complex, and/or based on no empirical data. Read More »

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Utility 2.0: New York State Envisions New Platform Giving Equal Priority to Clean Energy Solutions

brooklyn-bridge-71800_640New York’s “Reforming the Energy Vision” (REV) proceeding aims to reform the state’s long-standing electricity system to lay the groundwork for a cleaner and more efficient grid that allows for more customer choice and competition from third-party energy services companies. Forming the centerpiece of this 21st-century vision is a platform that would smoothly integrate innovative energy services and solutions into the existing grid, allowing them to compete on equal footing with electricity from centralized power plants.

Currently, the electric industry comprises three functions: generation, transmission, and distribution. Generation refers to making electricity, traditionally from large, centralized power plants. Transmission refers to sending that electricity along high-voltage wires to substations closer to electricity customers. Distribution refers to delivering the power from the substations to homes and businesses. In its recent straw proposal, the Department of Public Service Staff (Staff) recommends splitting the distribution function into two parts, one performing the traditional delivery service and the other serving as the Distribution System Platform Provider (DSP), to grant equal priority to energy solutions that are not centralized, such as on-site, distributed generation and energy efficiency. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, New York, Utility Business Models| Comments closed

Companies Turn to Technology to Engage Consumers in Smart Energy Management

By: Claire Dooley, student at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management

claire_dooley_blog_0Most of us in America would argue that affordable and reliable energy access is a basic life necessity, possibly even a basic human right. However, JD Power & Associates recently reported that only 3% of consumers are actually reviewing their energy usage more than once a month. Interaction with this commodity is almost entirely passive. Utilities do whatever it is they do to keep the electrons flowing, and we pay the bill.

With all of the public attention that energy’s impact on climate change has received in recent months—including IPCC findings that human-induced global warming is unequivocal and a new EPA regulation on coal-fired power plants—consumer awareness and interest in curbing our reliance on dirty energy is on the rise. Concurrently, the massive influx of residential clean energy technologies is providing unprecedented opportunity for the public to participate in climate change solutions. Read More »

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