Source: Johannes Rössel, wikimedia commons
It would be logical to assume that we make decisions based on our needs, desires, and values regardless of how the choice is presented. For instance, we wouldn’t expect the choice to become an organ donor to depend on whether you must check a box to accept or decline donation. But we would be wrong: our decisions depend a great deal on how the choice is presented.
Choice architecture gets to the heart of the debate on whether it’s preferable to offer people the opportunity to opt-in or to opt-out, and this question has become crucial to the discussion about time-variant electricity pricing throughout the country.
Opt-out vs opt-in time-variant pricing
Currently, most electricity customers pay for electricity at a single flat rate (i.e., one price per kWh consumed). Such pricing is simple but doesn’t reflect actual system costs, which are higher during times of the day when overall energy demand peaks. Time-variant pricing instead allows utilities to charge more for electricity during periods of peak demand, and less during periods of lower demand. Read More
By: Michael Panfil, attorney for EDF’s US Climate and Energy Program, and Jamie Fine, senior economist for EDF’s Clean Energy Program
Demand response encourages customers to shift their energy use to times of day when there is less demand on the power grid or when more renewable energy is abundant. It is an invaluable component of the smart grid that improves air quality, enhances electric grid reliability, and helps utilities, homes, and businesses financially benefit from conserving electricity.
Yesterday, a diverse group of organizations submitted an important and far-reaching settlement agreement on the future of demand response in California to the California Public Utilities Commission (Commission) for its approval. The settling parties – including EDF, California investor-owned utilities, California Independent System Operator (CAISO), consumer groups, and others – recommend, for the first time, a path to properly value, realize, and account for demand response. If approved, these changes have the potential to increase the role of demand response in meeting California’s energy demands, reducing hazardous air pollution, and more efficiently operating the state’s electrical grid. Read More
Source: Lewis Clarke
New Jersey is a national leader in solar power. With close to 1,300 MW of solar energy currently installed, the state ranks third in the country in solar capacity.
A commitment to photovoltaic (PV) technology has helped New Jersey reduce carbon emissions, create jobs, and lower electricity bills. Yet despite its impressive track record in New Jersey, distributed solar PV proved vulnerable when it was most needed – during an historic electricity outage in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. With another hurricane season upon us, it’s a good time to look at ways solar can be utilized when the grid fails.
An unfortunate reality
When Superstorm Sandy hit, residential and commercial PV owners were frustrated upon realizing that their solar panels were rendered useless without a functioning central grid, even when the sun was shining brightly. Read More
The Official CTBTO Flickr
The annual summer meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) is a meeting of the minds like no other. Utility companies, regulators, staff, advocates, and trade press from around the country gather to discuss emerging trends and challenges, and it’s a great opportunity to understand what is on the collective mind of those empowered to oversee our country’s electricity system.
This month, over a thousand utility professionals attended the 2014 NARUC summer meeting in Dallas, which was dominated by two topics: the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan and the evolving utility business model.
This resulted in some very interesting conversations about changing the regulatory paradigm to incent the use of new technologies, optimize grid operations, and achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Read More
Source: Frank Edens Flickr
America’s electric grid has not been updated since World War II when telephones, dishwashers, and air conditioning were the cutting-edge technology innovations of the century.
Today, this same grid is struggling to cope with the technological advances of the last decade, a reality that hit home for New Yorkers in the wake of Superstorm Sandy when millions of people lost power for days and even weeks.
But New York is taking steps to change this. A proposal to overhaul the state’s utility business model could dramatically change how people interact with their power company.
It could bring in innovative technology to help homes and businesses better manage their own energy needs, while at the same time reduce carbon emissions – changes that would have national implications. Read More
The U.S. electric grid has not been updated since World War II when telephones, dishwashers, and air conditioning were the cutting-edge technology innovations of the century. Today, this same grid is struggling to cope with the technological advances of the last decade, a reality that hit home for New Yorkers in the wake of Superstorm Sandy when millions of people lost power for days and even weeks.
But New York is taking steps to change this, first by initiating a proceeding in April to overhaul the state’s utility business model, and now by opening the proceeding to comments. EDF filed our comments (Track 1 and Track 2) in this case last Friday, July 18th, and commends the New York Public Service Commission for the opportunity to provide our input on this exceedingly important policy that will have national implications.
New York played a leading role in establishing today’s utility business model. Thomas Edison developed the first power plant on Pearl Street in Manhattan in 1882, serving 85 lighting customers. Read More
Source: Advanced Telemetry
Office building employees in Charlotte, North Carolina are taking small, voluntary actions to save energy. These steps are making a noticeable difference on utility bills and Duke Energy, the country's largest utility, can prove it.
Duke's Smart Energy Now program is the first commercially-available program of its kind in the country to use behavior change to reduce energy use in office buildings. The program helped participating customers save about six percent in energy over three years, exceeding the five percent goal and representing enough savings to power nearly 2,600 homes for a year.
Through the use of gentle reminders and friendly games, the program encourages uptown office workers to turn off computers and lights and find other easy ways to save energy. An innovative electronic kiosk in the lobby of each participating building shows real-time energy use, and participants can check their progress.
Smart Energy Now is part of Envision Charlotte, an initiative led by companies in the city center to improve energy efficiency and sustainability. The program is helping Envision Charlotte meet its goal of reducing energy use by 20 percent over five years. Read More
Source: Paul Cross, https://flic.kr/p/7AU7PK
Like many relationships, the one between utilities and their customers can be complicated. Sure, they’ve been together for decades, but no longer are customers satisfied with a distant, disengaged power company selling them more and more megawatts.
As the utility business model evolves into one based on diverse energy services, utilities must find ways to prioritize and improve their customer relationships if they hope to thrive in the new energy economy.
What do customers really want?
It doesn’t take years of market research to discover that utility customers enjoy saving money. But just as important as a low price for power – if not more so – is a genuine feeling of power. Just ask Dr. Philip Lewis of global energy think-tank VassaETT, who has researched the subject for years. His findings show that customers want to be in control of their energy behavior. They want market transparency and predictable rewards for their choices. The bottom line, says Lewis, is that customers want to feel like equals with their electricity suppliers, not captives. Read More
Workers install solar panels on a home in Austin's Mueller neighborhood, a project of Pecan Street Inc.
As I stroll through the Mueller neighborhood in Austin, TX, I see parks, fountains, two-door garage homes – absolutely nothing out of the ordinary – just your average suburban neighborhood. But I know better.
Under the surface of this community lives the most “connected” network of energy customers in the country. Mueller is the launching site for Pecan Street Inc.’s living smart-grid research project and, according to a recent issue of Time Magazine, America’s Smartest City.
The Time article features homeowners who generate and make money on their solar panels, while enjoying access to minute-by-minute energy use data. It shows their sense of stewardship and empowerment.
The story does a good job summarizing the mission of Pecan Street, of which Environmental Defense Fund is a founding member and environmental partner. But the author misses one important point when he writes: “The rest of America may never realize Mueller’s vision for the future.”
The truth is, we have cause for a lot more optimism than that. We believe that the Mueller model is scalable and EDF is working hard to make sure the rest of the country can also enjoy the benefits of a smarter, cleaner home. Read More
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.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) describes demand response as “changes in electric usage by end-use customers from their normal consumption patterns in response to changes in the price of electricity over time, or to incentive payments designed to induce lower electricity use at times of high wholesale market prices or when system reliability is jeopardized.”
There is quite a bit to unpack in that definition, but put simply, demand response is little more than a way of financially motivating customers to reduce their energy use when electricity is particularly scarce and expensive or when the wires are overburdened (check out EDF’s other blog posts and resources that go into more detail). The end result is a more efficient electric grid which is less overbuilt and less dependent on inefficient fossil-fuel plants that are often uneconomic to operate and highly polluting, but may be called upon when all else fails. Read More