By: Abdul Wadood, EDF Climate Corps Fellow and graduate student at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering
How does one maintain a facility of 4.2 million square feet, with five acres of roofs, that is two city blocks long and has 375 tenants? And, how does a building built in 1930 (also the largest building in the world at that time) compete with current technological innovations and new energy conservation trends? The answer lies in having accurate data, which can be a challenge considering the sheer size and age of this particular building.
The building I am referring to is the Merchandise Mart. Also called ‘The Mart,’ this building centralizes Chicago’s wholesale goods businesses by consolidating home, office, casual furnishings and a large variety of luxury home kitchen & bath showrooms under one roof. At the same time, the building now forms part of Chicago’s growing tech triangle community near the famous city loop as 1871, Motorola Mobility, Braintree, All Scripts, CCC and Yelp are in the building.
Every EDF Climate Corps fellow can fathom the potential of implementing energy efficiency measures – especially since it is a current industry trend. However, this does not come without challenges. As a student at Duke, I thought putting in long study hours, deskbound in a library only to be chauffeured home by campus safety was difficult.
A new utility business model – “Utility 2.0” or “reform” – is the hot topic in statehouses and regulatory commissions across the country. This is due to many factors: technological innovations in the energy sector, changing consumer expectations, increasing electricity prices, tighter regulations, and the need to decarbonize our energy sector as we grapple with climate change.
Some argue utility earnings should be based on performance rather than volumetric electricity sales. They suggest utilities’ monopoly interests should be aligned with enabling clean energy services – such as on-site renewable energy and home energy management – instead of simply delivering more electricity.
Key to this new approach is the ability to define – and then measure – performance. This will require a set of metrics by which utility investments can be judged and rewarded. Illinois was the early adaptor of performance-based metrics for its historic smart meters roll-out and is finalizing a set of metrics this week that are critical to designing a utility business model for the future. Read More
Imagine you’re trying to lose weight. If you step on the scale once a month, how can you possibly know how each of your daily decisions affects the number? Weighing yourself every day would be a step up, giving you a much clearer picture of the effects of each day’s choices. Now imagine the potential results if you could access real-time data – if you were able to see just how many calories were in each food you picked up, as well how much energy you were exerting at any given moment.
Thanks to a meta-analysis on behalf of the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE), we can now see that access to this kind of granular, real-time data on electricity use leads to significant household electricity savings.
Survey highlights importance of timeliness and granularity
The ACEEE survey aggregates multiple studies designed to evaluate the effectiveness of different types of electricity customer feedback from the past 20 years, including 61 trials from around the world: 33 from the U.S., 13 from Europe, 9 from Canada, and 3 others. Such a diverse pool allows us to draw important conclusions about consumer energy use habits while controlling for variations in culture, climate, and energy use patterns. The results are displayed in the graph below. Read More
For months now there has been much secrecy and mystery surrounding the location of electric car revolutionary Tesla's new $5 billion Gigafactory. The factory will supply cheaper batteries for the company’s Model 3 electric car and will be large enough to manufacture more lithium-ion batteries than the entire industry produces now. Due to its sheer scale, the factory is expected to reduce the cost of batteries by almost one-third and create close to 7,000 jobs directly and thousands more indirectly.
Amidst all the rumors abounding, closed door meetings, and tax break wars, I wrote about Tesla’s search for the perfect factory location – of which Texas was in the running. Despite Tesla breaking ground near Reno, Nevada a few weeks ago, there was still speculation about where the Gigafactory might be located, and Texas' chances remained somewhat alive.
But no more. Tesla indeed confirmed that Reno will be the home of the Gigafactory. This is great for Nevada’s economy, but as a Texan, it still feels like a bit of a blow – though I’m not surprised.
While Texas Governor Rick Perry personally lobbied for the Gigafactory to make its home in Texas, it doesn’t help that he’s at the helm of a state hostile to clean energy, despite leading the nation in wind power. Although I’m hopeful that future clean tech endeavors will come to Texas, the existing status quo needs to change to combat this hostility. Read More
The New York Public Service Commission (Commission) has embarked on the landmark Reforming Energy Vision (REV) proceeding to design a new business model for electric utilities. Today’s business model allows utilities to earn revenues based on how much money they spend to supply and deliver electricity. Under the new model, utilities will earn revenues based on the value of services they deliver to customers and the environment.
Currently, utilities dominate the electricity service market, limiting customer access to the full range of products and services otherwise available in a truly open market. One focus of the proceeding is to remove the barriers preventing third parties, such as retail electric suppliers, solar energy companies, or smart meter providers, from fully participating in the energy market. Allowing full participation by third parties would lead to increased innovation and fuel the development of new products and services. Read More
Governor Brown has the opportunity to make energy-saving upgrades possible for families and small business owners by signing Assembly Bill 1883 (Nancy Skinner- Berkeley). This bill would significantly lower the cost of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), a tool which enables property owners to take advantage of energy efficiency and rooftop solar PV for their homes or buildings with no money down, allowing them to pay off the investment over time through their property tax bill.
AB 1883 would streamline the PACE process and drive down the fixed transactional costs associated with commercial projects. Lowering these transaction costs is especially important for small businesses because high transaction costs can reduce the economic viability of the smaller energy upgrades that small business typically need. AB 1883 also incorporates new options for financing rooftop solar PV through PACE, which will enable a greater number of homeowners and small businesses to qualify for cost-saving solar PV contracts. Read More