Category Archives: Clean Energy

Schooling Demand Response in Texas Academia

By: Corina Solis, graduate of Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

2014-training-yale-cropThe Alamo Colleges began participating in local utility company, CPS Energy’s Demand Response Program in the summer of 2013. This Demand Response Program is one of CPS Energy’s strategies to achieve its 2020 goal of saving 771 megawatts of energy. The Alamo Colleges participated in the program in order to take advantage of a significant rebate opportunity, which was a maximum of $120,600 in 2013 and is $130,650 in 2014. Rebates are based on the level of participation, and in 2013, the Alamo Colleges earned rebates totaling $103,000. Through a self-funding strategy, all of this money went back to the Alamo Colleges to pay for faculty and staff salaries.

As an extra benefit, while saving all of this money, the Alamo Colleges trim their carbon footprint each time they participate in demand response. Last year, the Alamo Colleges prevented 2,250 lbs. of CO2 from going into the atmosphere from its demand response participation. This year, the Alamo Colleges are contracted to prevent up to five and a half tons of CO2 from escaping into the atmosphere, which would otherwise take 140 tree seedlings ten years to naturally take out of the atmosphere. Read More »

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New York Green Bank’s First Deals Underscore State’s Commitment to Clean Energy Future

ny-green-bankClean energy finance is thriving in New York State. This week, Governor Cuomo announced the New York Green Bank’s first set of deals, totaling an impressive $800 million in clean energy investments across the state. The projects funded by this investment will yield an impressive annual reduction of 575,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, roughly equivalent to removing 120,000 cars from the road or planting 15 million trees per year. This move helps cement New York’s role as a leading state in the clean energy economy.

By offering attractive interest rates and other incentives to stimulate interest from the private sector, green banks encourage investment in clean energy projects that may otherwise have difficulty obtaining private financing. Ideally, these initial deals then set the stage for an active and self-sustaining market in renewable energy and energy efficiency finance.

And the NY Green Bank is starting off swinging: its initial investment of $200 million catalyzed $600 million more in investment from prominent financial institutions, such as Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank. Read More »

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Flexible Pollution Rules can Boost the Economy: 5 Reasons Why

economy_378x235Nobody likes being told what to do.

Gina McCarthy, head of Environmental Protection Agency, knows that. So she asked her agency to craft a plan that leaves it up to states to shape their energy future – as long as they cut carbon emissions from power plants.

Often lost in the heated debate over EPA’s Clean Power Plan, however, is the fact this built-in flexibility will also give a boost to clean technology ventures, and speed up energy innovations already under way in many states. It could bring down costs for consumers, and maybe even give a much-needed boost to our economy.

Here’s how. Read More »

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Is Energy Efficiency a Good Thing Even with Rebound?

By: Inês AzevedoKenneth GillinghamDavid Rapson, and Gernot Wagner.

ceiling-163866_640Lighting is critical to our livelihoods. Humans have used lighting technology since long before industrialization. For many centuries, this lighting was extremely inefficient, with over 95% of the energy consumed wasted as heat. Recently, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura for their remarkable contributions towards highly efficient light emitting diode (LED) technology. A day later, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus reignited a long standing debate with an Op-Ed inThe New York Times claiming that these developments are not likely to save energy and instead may backfire. (TheTimes has since corrected a crucial point of the article, and it has published three letters to the editor, including one by a subset of co-authors here.)

As evidence for these claims, Shellenberger and Nordhaus cite research that observes the vast improvements in the efficiency of lighting over the past two centuries having resulted in “more and more of the planet [being] dotted with clusters of lights.” They take this as evidence of how newer and ever more efficient lighting technologies have led to demand increases and, thus, have “led to more overall energy consumption.” Further, they refer to “recent estimates and case studies” that suggest “energy-saving technologies may backfire, meaning that increased energy consumption associated with lower energy costs because of higher efficiency may in fact result in higher energy consumption than there would have been without those technologies.” Read More »

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Point – Counterpoint: Heartland Institute Gets It Wrong on Wind

Source: AWEA

Source: AWEA

On the heels of a recent Forbes blog post where I call out Texas' Comptroller for playing favorites in her biased scrutiny of Texas' wind industry, comes another Forbes piece by James Taylor from the Heartland Institute. Confusing correlation with causation, Taylor claims wind energy causes higher energy prices. However, an increase in electricity prices cannot automatically be accounted for by pointing the finger at wind energy. That’s simply playing fast and loose with the facts.

This is the same tired slant we have heard from Heartland Institute time and time again. Not surprising – when pundits want to cherry pick data to make their argument strong, it doesn’t always work.

First there are many, many factors that determine energy rates, not just one type of resource. In an analysis of utility rates, economists Ernst Berndt, Roy Epstein, and Michael Doane identified 13 reasons why an electric utility’s rates may be higher or lower than the average. They include things like the average use per customer, age of the electricity distribution system, generation resource mix, local taxes, and rate of increases prior to any implemented renewable portfolio standard (RPS). So faulting renewables for high energy prices is a bogus claim. Furthermore, there is no data showing a nationwide pattern of renewable energy standards leading to rate increases for consumers. The report states: “American consumers in the top wind energy-producing states have seen their electricity prices actually decrease by 0.37 percent over the last 5 years, while all other states have seen their electricity prices increase by 7.79 percent over that time period." Further, 15 studies from various grid operators, state governments, and academic experts have examined the impact of wind energy on wholesale electricity prices and confirmed that wind energy reduces electricity prices. Read More »

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How this Building Saved Energy and Made $80K (and Counting)

chicagowacker2_378x235For 10 weeks this summer, EDF Climate Corps fellow Karan Gupta worked for JLL, a commercial real estate firm, to optimize energy use at one of the company’s largest buildings: 77 West Wacker Dr., a 1-million-square-foot commercial office building in downtown Chicago.

At the core of Karan’s work was demand response – an energy savings tool that pays people to shift their electricity use to times of day when there is less demand on the power grid, or when more renewable energy is abundant.

I spoke with Myrna Coronado-Brookover, JLL’s senior vice president and general manager, to find out why her company placed a bet on this technology. 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 »

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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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Benefits of Clean Power Plan Are Measureable – Drop for Drop

Hallisburg Texas power plantSince EPA released its proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP) in June of this year, the plan has been a hot topic in every state. In Texas alone, the state has held a joint regulatory agency hearing and two days of legislative hearings. Unfortunately, in both cases, the general tone of testimony was that of Chicken Little. But I prefer to view the CPP as a fantastic opportunity and certainly don’t think the sky will fall because of it. In fact, our skies should be considerably brighter without all that carbon pollution clouding them up.

I’ve written before about the opportunity for Texas to amplify current trends and increase our energy efficiency and renewable energy to meet these goals. And there’s an added benefit to transitioning away from coal-fired power plants and toward cleaner energy choices, one that will be critical in a state like Texas that’s in the middle of a multi-year drought: water savings and relief for our parched state.

What if I told you that with the CPP, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which controls the power grid for roughly 80 percent of the state, could save more than 60,000 acre-feet (or nearly 21 billion gallons) of water per year by 2030? 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 Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, New York, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| 2 Responses