Category Archives: Smart Grid

Nest’s Promising Results for Reducing Peak Electricity Demand

Google's Nest

Back in January when Google announced it would spend $3.2 billion to purchase Nest, EDF knew this was a company to watch. The results of three new reports, released today, confirm that controllable thermostats like the Nest Learning Thermostat are both customer-friendly and useful for energy system planners. Moreover, the reports signal that smart devices, such as those Nest manufactures, have potential for generating marked savings for utility customers.

The reports analyze 2012-2013 energy use data gathered from four major utilities across the U.S. that offer Nest energy services programs: Austin Energy, Reliant Energy, Green Mountain Energy, and Southern California Edison.

The first report evaluates the results of Rush Hour Rewards, a demand response service that changes the temperature of the homes of Nest users during energy “rush hours”, or times when demand on the grid is highest. The second examines Seasonal Savings, a program that runs for three weeks and slowly modifies the temperature according to the customer’s behavior (which this smart thermostat is able to ‘learn’ via its built-in motion sensor and understanding of its owner’s temperature preferences). Both operate during times of heavy usage, namely winter and summer. The third report analyzes home energy data of Nest customers more broadly, comparing energy use before and after the installation of a Nest Thermostat. Read More »

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Germany is Revolutionizing how we Use Energy…and the U.S. could Learn a Thing or Two

"Green Power, not nuclear energy." Germany will fully transition off nuclear by 2022.

"Green Power, not nuclear energy." Germany will fully transition off nuclear by 2022.

As the academic breeding ground of Einstein, Freud, and many other internationally-known scholars, it should come as no surprise that Germany is at the forefront of modernizing an industry as complex as energy. Over the last two decades, Germany has been revamping its electricity sector with the ambitious goal of powering its economy almost entirely on renewable energy by 2050. And last Sunday, the country broke a new record by acquiring nearly 75 percent of its total energy demand from renewable sources (mostly wind and solar). Even the European Union’s recent announcement that it will begin divesting in renewable energy by 2017 hasn’t shaken Germany’s ambition to forge ahead  in its quest to phase out fossil fuels.

Energiewende (the German term for ‘energy transition’) is by far the most aggressive clean energy effort among the G20 and could be as beneficial for other countries as it is for Germany. The German Institute for International and Security Affairs argues, “If the [German] energy transition succeeds, it will serve as an international model… The allure of the German energy transition represents an important foreign policy resource, of which full use should be made.”

At the moment, Energiewende is the closest thing the world has to a renewables-integration pilot on a national scale. If successful, this blueprint will expedite the broad scale integration of technologies that will be necessary to wean the world off fossil fuels and combat climate change. Read More »

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U.S. Climate Assessment Report Warns of Energy Challenges – All of which We’re Ready to Meet

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

There’s been plenty of attention paid to the recent release of the Third National Climate Assessment report – and appropriately so. The lead paragraph of New York Times reporter Justin Gillis’ story put it rather bluntly:

“The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects.”

Even for those of us that have been urging U.S. action on climate, the assessment was pretty stark and the message was clear: the time to act came a long time ago. We need to get busy catching up.

But the optimist in me was excited about a chapter in the report that hasn’t yet gotten much attention. Chapter 4 focuses on Energy Supply and Use, and though the energy challenges caused by climate change are formidable, the U.S. is very well positioned to meet them if our leaders will get behind some practical solutions. There are five key takeaways in the Energy chapter: Read More »

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Utilities: Your Monopoly Days are Numbered. (Yes, We've Heard this Before, but this Time…)

Source: S. Sepp, Wikimedia Commons

Source: S. Sepp, Wikimedia Commons

Competition from new players will drive innovation in the changing electric utility market

The blogosphere is abuzz with plans to create a new electric utility business model, one that reduces energy costs and pollution. The power company of the future, many experts say, will feature new electricity rate structures that reward efficiency, finance and integrate local, on-site power generation (like rooftop solar), and put more smart meters in the system to help us better understand and control our energy use.

Such changes could indeed help reduce consumer costs and pollution, yet they ignore larger opportunities to advance innovation and efficiency. Missing in most Utility 2.0 discussions is any real debate about the emerging electricity-services market, filled with hundreds of innovative entrepreneurs who want to profitably provide consumer services that revolutionize how we use and interact with electricity. Instead, most experts simply assume the monopoly structure of the past several decades will continue. The introduction of new players into the electricity market, however, challenges that assumption. Read More »

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EDF Energy Innovation Series Feature: Intelligent Energy Storage That Makes “Cents”

EDF-EIS-emailHeader-2EDF's Energy Innovation Series highlights innovations across a broad range of energy categories, including smart grid and renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency financing and progressive utilities, to name a few. This Series helps illustrate that cost-effective, clean energy solutions are available now and imperative to lowering our dependence on fossil fuels.

Find more information on this featured innovation here

America’s electricity grid was one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century. But it is showing its age.

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that if just nine of the 55,000 electric-transmission substations were knocked out, the entire country could plunge into a months-long blackout. Power outages caused by severe weather events already cost the U.S. between $25 to $70 billion a year. And Americans are using more energy than ever – 2.3 quadrillion thermal units more in 2013 than in 2012, which is greater than the total energy consumed by Maine, Montana, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Delaware, and Rhode Island combined.

Fortunately, we know how to protect ourselves from this vulnerability: move away from a highly-centralized energy generation and transmission system to one that looks more like the Internet, with decentralized energy production and smart technologies that allow us to use power most efficiently.

That’s exactly what Green Charge Networks (GCN) is doing. Over the past few years, this Silicon Valley smart grid company has been building an intelligent energy storage system called GreenStation™ that reduces stress on the electric grid, reduces greenhouse gas pollution, and, the company says, offers customers a five-year return on investment. Read More »

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Resiliency+: Renewable Energy Can Boost Grid Resilience in Vulnerable New Jersey

Resiliency+ is a new blog series, which highlights the ways in which different clean energy resources and technologies can play an important part in increasing energy resiliency in New Jersey and around the country. Check back every two weeks, or sign up to receive Energy Exchange blog posts via email.

BAPV_solar-facadeRenewable energy, such as solar and wind power, provides clean and sustainable power to our electricity grid. But it also offers other benefits beyond environmentally-friendly electricity. Renewable energy can increase energy resiliency by keeping the lights on, including at critical facilities in the wake of a natural disaster. That’s why it has the potential to play a particularly pivotal role in New Jersey, which is vulnerable to vicious storms such as Superstorm Sandy.

Renewable energy, unlike other forms of energy, is less vulnerable to sustained disruption. Other, more traditional forms of energy, such as fossil fuels, require an input (coal, oil and gas, etc.) that needs to be shipped, often via pipeline, to create electricity, leaving them vulnerable to a natural disaster that might interrupt transport. On the other hand, renewable energy has the ability to generate stable, on-site power from sources such as solar and wind when it operates from a microgrid. A microgrid can generate power both connected to and independently from the main, centralized grid. They can vary in size, providing power to several city blocks or to an individual home, but microgrids have the unique potential to “island” from the main electricity system. This is important during and/or in the wake of a natural disaster like Superstorm Sandy because this autonomous electricity system is able to power local buildings regardless of whether or not the main electric grid is down. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, New Jersey, Renewable Energy| Tagged | Comments closed

What it Takes to Compete in the Global Energy Race

cleanenergyraceAs the international sporting world shifts its sights from somewhat snowy Sochi (host of the 2014 Winter Olympics) to balmy Brazil (host of this summer’s soccer World Cup), a recent European Commission report shows that the European Union (E.U.) has its eyes fixed on taking the lead in another global contest of sorts: The race for a more competitive, secure, and sustainable energy economy. At stake are neither medals nor trophies, but long-term economic strength. As Europe – and, indeed, the rest of the world – play energy hardball, what does it mean for the global energy competitiveness of Team USA? Let’s look at the stats.

Current energy costs and competitiveness

Reliable, affordable energy powers industrial innovation and growth, making energy costs and policies one of the most important drivers of economic competitiveness.

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New York Among the First States to Re-Evaluate its Utility Regulatory Framework

By Doc Searls via Wikimedia Commons

By Doc Searls via Wikimedia Commons

For most people, thinking about electricity is confined to two possible events: the arrival of the monthly bill and when the power goes out. The fact that most people don’t think about their electricity outside these two events — and let’s hope the latter is infrequent — is a testament to the robust regulation that has shaped the structure of the electric grid.

But cracks are forming that threaten the very foundation of the existing regulatory compact between utilities and customers. Extreme weather events caused by climate change and evolving consumer trends are testing the viability of the electricity system. The regulations that were crucial for maintaining stability in the 20th century are now forming barriers that make it difficult for utilities to adapt for a future that is fast approaching. Read More »

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Utilities Beware, Solar Power and Energy Storage Could be Coming for your Customers

GridDefection

Source: John Rae

The use of rechargeable batteries – in everything from iPhones, TV remotes, and even cars – has become pervasive over the past few years, especially as they have become more affordable. So why can’t we use them to help power our homes and businesses, too? The idea isn’t that complicated. But the cost of large-scale energy storage is still prohibitively high.

However, in select markets, like Hawaii’s commercial building market, privately connected battery storage is already cheap enough, compared to utility rates, to warrant installation. Furthermore, other energy storage markets, like California and New York, could reach the point of commercial viability in the next ten years – and not just for commercial buildings, but the residential market, too. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Electric Vehicles, Energy Storage, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models| 1 Response, comments now closed

Demand Response: People, not New Power Plants, are Driving the Clean Energy Future

Clean energy resources, like wind, solar, and energy efficiency, have certain key advantages over traditional, fossil fuel-based resources: they don’t require expensive, polluting fuels or large capital investment, consume little to no water, generate negligible carbon emissions, and are easily scalable. To take full advantage of low-carbon, renewable energy sources, we need a power grid with enough flexibility to harness clean energy when it is available and abundant. That’s where demand response, a people-driven solution, comes in.

On a hot summer day, for example, electricity use rapidly increases as people turn on air conditioners to avoid the heat of the late afternoon. A decade ago, the grid operator’s only option is to turn on another fossil fuel power plant to meet the increased need for electricity. But, at any given time, there are thousands of light switches left on, idle water heaters, cycling swimming pool pumps, and forgotten thermostats that people could temporarily turn off or down, if only they were offered the right incentive. If asked, people can adjust their power usage in exchange for a financial reward. We call this “demand response,” and it is increasingly helping to balance the flow of electricity with our energy needs at a given moment.

Demand response diverts money that would generally go to a fossil fuel power plant to homeowners and businesses instead. In this scenario, a utility or demand response provider sends a message for participants to reduce electricity use at key times in exchange for a credit or rebate on their utility bill, in addition to the cost savings they will earn through conservation. Of course, participants always have the option to opt-out with the tap of a button on their smart phone or thermostat. Read More »

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