President-elect Trump's victory tour began in Indiana last week, where he and running mate Mike Pence announced they had cobbled together enough taxpayer cash to convince Carrier – a gas furnace manufacturer that planned to move 2,000 jobs to Mexico – to keep some of its jobs in the state.
But just two years ago, Governor Pence allowed Indiana to become the first state to abandon its energy efficiency standards – a move that Carrier and other companies warned would threaten nearly 1,500 jobs and $500 million a year in local economic investment. Evidently, losing 1,500 jobs wasn't enough to worry about. Yet two years and a presidential election later, saving 1,000 on the backs of taxpayers is held up as proof that Trump is making good on his promise to reinvigorate the American economy.
Politics is theatre, but what worries me about the Carrier announcement is that it underscores how our new president and vice president don't understand the true economic potential of clean, modern energy.
The clean energy industry – everything from wind turbines and solar panels, to home energy storage and energy efficiency – is exploding around the country. In 2014, the U.S. clean energy market grew by 14 percent – at nearly five times the rate of the overall economy – to nearly $200 billion. That's bigger than the U.S. airline industry, and roughly equal to the pharmaceutical business. And this growth is creating millions of quality, homegrown jobs. If Trump wants to be the jobs president he promised he would be, someone needs to brief him on the facts. Read More
Distributed resources – like residential solar, storage, and electric cars – are becoming more mainstream every day. This presents new challenges for utilities and utility regulators who are struggling to capture their benefits, while balancing shareholder interests and reliability.
To help utility commissions around the U.S. navigate the challenges, considerations, and policy developments related to the emergence of distributed energy resources, the National Association of Utility Regulators Association (NARUC) board of directors accepted a rate manual written by its staff subcommittee at its annual meeting. The Distributed Energy Resource Compensation Manual supports a deliberate, reasoned approach to making rate design changes by providing practical guidance to its members. Read More
Co-authored by David Kirkpatrick, Techonomy’s CEO.
When Elon Musk announced his lower-priced Tesla 3 electric car in the spring of 2016, he opened the press conference with rhetorical questions. “Why does Tesla exist? Why are we making electric cars?” The audience of car fanatics and techies didn’t expect the answer he gave, though a clue came from the fact that Musk was already working to fold his other company, SolarCity, into Tesla. He continued: “Because it’s very important to accelerate the transition to sustainable transport…for the future of the world.”
Then Musk started talking about the world’s “record CO2 levels,” noting, “The chart looks like a vertical line, and it’s still climbing!” He sees Tesla as targeting climate change — the cars will connect to the solar systems and home storage batteries, so “every individual is their own utility,” and less carbon is emitted. Not what you’d expect from a car company.
Musk seldom uses the phrase, but what he was talking about was the Internet of Things (IoT) — putting computing intelligence into the objects and systems that surround us, connecting them to the network, and stitching it all into a digital ecosystem. Tesla’s cars, solar collectors and batteries all are connected, communicating via the internet. While the concept of IoT has been batted around the tech industry for a decade, with companies including Cisco and Intel placing hefty bets on its success, only now — suddenly — is it starting to make sense. Read More
Coal-heavy utilities in the Midwest have mustered a new argument to secure subsidies for their uneconomic power plants. They used to suggest the plants were needed to maintain reliability, until regional grid operators declared there was plenty of generation to ensure the lights stayed on. They then attempted to argue the plants provided jobs and taxes to the local communities, until conservative economists highlighted the inefficiency of subsidies.
Now several utility executives, including the chief executive officer of American Electric Power (AEP), are trying to regale regulators with the importance of baseload generation. The argument goes something like this: Since some power plants – largely nuclear reactors and coal-fired power plants – have a hard time ramping up and down in response to changing electricity demand, the grid needs those units to operate all the time, to provide a “base” output of power.
Such last-century thinking, however, ignores the phenomenal advances provided by modern sensors, smart meters, and telecommunications. A combination of dynamic power options – like demand response (crediting homes and business for using less electricity when the power grid is stressed), renewable energy, and battery storage, among others – allow the grid to respond more nimbly than ever before. Rather than propping up old, lumbering baseload generators, we should prioritize a more modern, cleaner grid that focuses on flexibility and diversity. Read More
New installed renewable energy capacity surpassed coal for the first time last year, the International Energy Agency reported recently.
It means that we added more wind and solar to our global energy system than oil, gas, coal or nuclear power combined – a trend that is expected to continue over the next five years.
But to truly transition to a global clean energy economy, we must accelerate this growth rate and modernize our electricity grid to maximize the potential of these new renewables. That way we can use as much clean energy as possible on any given day.
Many of these optimizing solutions already exist today.
They include technology such as powerful batteries that can store energy when renewables don’t produce electricity, for example, when the sun is shaded by a cloud.
There are also energy management tools such as demand response that pay customers for saving energy at critical times when the grid needs it. And innovative electricity pricing programs that encourage customers to shift some of their power use to times of day when clean energy sources are plentiful and electricity is cheaper.
All can, with the help of good policy, make the most of variable energy sources – as would a modernized and more dynamic electric grid. Read More