Category Archives: Clean Energy

Finding Common Ground on Pricing Clean Energy Resources in California

Source: limelightpower flickr

Source: limelightpower flickr

This post was co-written by Chris Yunker, Rates and Analysis Manager at San Diego Gas & Electric.

Industrial and environmental stakeholders are usually portrayed as adversaries. But one exciting example from California proves there can be another side to that story. San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) worked with Environmental Defense Fund, Sunverge, Google, and the California Public Utility Commission at Rocky Mountain Institute’s eLab Accelerator to investigate electricity tariffs that enable new technologies and practices and to reveal their costs and benefits to the grid. As distributed energy resources (DERs) continue to grow rapidly, there is increasing need to enable the marketplace to value utility-supplied grid services and customer-sited resources.

SDG&E serves 3.4 million people in and around San Diego, and is also home to roughly 10,000 electric vehicles and 40,000 rooftop solar systems. SDG&E is responsible for keeping the lights on despite growing demand (the region has one of the largest EV adoption rates in the nation) and variable electricity generation (PV panels stop producing at sunset). Read More »

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Military Saves Energy, Money on the Home Front

militaryfam

Source: The U.S. Army Flickr

Home energy bills are not something most people think about when it comes to military energy conservation. Most service members are unlikely to think about them either, especially those who live in military housing, which are communities on or near bases that are managed by private firms. For soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines living in these communities, their Base Allowance for Housing (BAH) covers rent and utilities and is automatically taken out of their paychecks. While convenient and easy to manage, this system can have the negative, unintended consequence of removing responsibility for individual energy use – an issue of particular concern this time of year when temperatures are at their highest and air conditioners are working overtime.

For service members who do not live in privatized military housing, their BAH is not taken out of their paychecks, and they are responsible for paying rent and utilities. My husband and I lived off base at all of our duty stations and were responsible for paying our own bills. Although our BAH was specifically designated for these expenses, we conserved energy whenever possible to keep more money in our pockets.  Read More »

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Four Lessons in Corporate Water Efficiency

Susannah Harris pictured here on site at Verizon headquarters in Basking Ridge, NJBy: Susannah Harris, 2014 Climate Corps Fellow

I received quizzical looks from family and friends when I told them I was working on water efficiency projects at Verizon this summer. They paused, racking their brains about where water is used within the telecommunications industry. “Like in the bathrooms?” they’d ask.

The reality is that domestic telecom companies rely on billions of gallons of water per year to cool, clean, and maintain the buildings and equipment that support their expansive networks. And because customers require networks to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, much of that equipment is running around the clock. From cooling tower adjustments to grey water recycling, there are a number of water-saving opportunities available for the telecommunications industry. Implementing these practices – thereby reducing municipal water, sewer and energy bills – can also make a noticeable impact on the company's bottom line. Read More »

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The 2014 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index: Did your State, City Make the Cut?

cleantech indexjpgIf there is one thing that works in the world of advocacy, it is a ratings table that shows how one state, metropolitan area, or utility compares to its peers. The latest report, U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, from Clean Edge does just that.

The fifth annual U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index finds that California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Colorado, and New York lead the way among states in solar and electric vehicle adoption, with smart climate policies and clean energy financing driving the clean tech leadership index growth.

Clean energy is becoming a popular choice for mainstream America with 11 states now generating more than ten percent of their electricity from non-hydro renewable sources, according to the Clean Edge report. As seen in the graph below, Iowa leads the way in utility-scale wind, solar, and geothermal electricity generation. Read More »

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How Big Data Can Fight Climate Change in Los Angeles

Heat capture LASER maps

Map from the LASER Atlas showing temperature rise projections in Los Angeles

You may be wondering – as I was before we started a project with the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation over a year ago – “what the heck does Big Data have to do with climate change?”

To start, here’s a piece from Climate Central that exemplifies the new power of big data.

“Big Data allows you to say simple, clear things…to tell people about their climate locally in ways they can understand.”

Through taking information created all around us and applying thoughtful analysis, we can comprehend and unleash it to solve our greatest challenges. For EDF, that means partnering with the country’s top universities and most innovative companies to address the biggest challenge of our time – climate change.

Today we launch the newest version of the Los Angeles Solar & Efficiency Report (LASER), a data-driven mapping tool that can help stakeholders and local leaders understand climate and pollution risks in their own communities. Empowered by this information, they can seek out and maximize available resources to deploy clean energy, reduce climate pollution, and create tens of thousands of much-needed jobs. Read More »

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NARUC Summer Meeting Highlights Clean Power Plan, Changing Utilities

The Official CTBTO Flickr

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 »

Also posted in Climate, Demand Response, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Leave a comment

After 130 Years, New York Rethinks its Electric Utility Model

Source: Frank Edens Flickr

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 »

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New Graphics from DOE Illustrate the Energy-Water-Land Nexus

Energy-Water-Land NexusI’ve talked a lot about the inextricable link between the energy and water sectors, but land is a third component in this nexus that’s starting to gain recognition – and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is taking note. In fact, they recently released a 250-plus page report on the energy-water nexus (which I explore in-depth in a recent blog post) with accompanying visuals to illustrate the connection between these three sectors.

What is a Sankey diagram?

The primary graphic used to illustrate the connection between these three resources is the Sankey diagram. At first glance, it may make your head spin, but Sankey diagrams are commonly used to visualize energy transfers (although they are also used for other things, such as migration flows).

For example, the Energy Information Agency (EIA) uses Sankey diagrams in its Annual Energy Reports to illustrate the production and consumption of different energy sources. Since the width of the arrows corresponds with quantity, the viewer can easily see where the biggest impacts lie. In this case, it’s clear to see which energy resources are gulping down our water. Read More »

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What Two Recent Transactions Say about the Future of Clean Energy Finance

PACE financing allows home owners to install solar panels and repay their loans through their property tax bill. Photo source: Michael Coghlan Flickr.

PACE financing allows home owners to install solar panels and repay the loans through their property tax bill. Photo source: Michael Coghlan Flickr.

Last week saw the completion of two exciting finance transactions that will increase investment in and reduce costs for clean energy projects.

In the first transaction, Renovate America, announced that it raised $50 million in venture capital funds to expand operations. The San Diego-based company develops residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs, which allow home owners to repay loans for energy efficiency and/or renewable generation through their property tax bill. Renovate America runs the successful HERO program, which in its first two years of operation provided $130 million in financing to homeowners in western Riverside County to retrofit their homes and reduce electricity bills.

So far this year, Renovate America has invested an additional $120 million to fund retrofits across California. EDF hopes the recently announced $50 million capital injection will not only allow Renovate America to continue its California expansion, but to expand to other states in the near future as well. We plan to work closely with Renovate America and their primary competitor Renewable Funding, which closed its venture round in April by raising $20 million. EDF’s collaboration with both companies will help additional states create residential PACE programs, attract investment for homeowners, and create jobs. Read More »

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Landmark Report from DOE Highlights New Challenges, Opportunities for the Energy-Water Nexus

Source: Department of Energy

Source: Department of Energy

If we can send a man to the moon, we can ensure the viability of essential resources – such as energy and water – in an unpredictable future affected by climate change.

A recent report released by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), The Water-Energy Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities, attempts to plan for this uncertainty by providing a landmark review of the US energy-water nexus – the first report of its kind from DOE.

Although there were many compelling findings in this 250-plus page report, for me there were two compelling themes worth noting: 1) energy and water are fundamentally intertwined, but so is land in this nexus, and 2) the Federal Government has an important role to play in providing support and leadership to the entities that govern these resources so that they may begin planning for the effects of climate change more holistically and collaboratively.

The energy, water…and land nexus

The DOE report affirms that the energy and water sectors are highly interconnected, but it also sheds light on a third component that’s becoming increasingly difficult to isolate from the energy-water nexus: land. Read More »

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