Category Archives: Clean Energy

Untapped Incentives for Energy Efficiency Projects

By: Abraham Weiner, 2013 EDF Climate Corps Alumnus

money presentAs an EDF Climate Corps fellow back in 2013, one task that was of particular interest to me was figuring out how to help my host organization fund, in whole or in part, its efficiency upgrades. In my research, the most unique funding source I found was the energy efficiency forward capacity market.

This program allows those who invested in energy efficiency over the last several years to go back and obtain additional incentive dollars on top of traditional utility rebates. This is essentially free money for organizations who have invested in efficiency measures. In fact, when I was a fellow, I identified over $50,000 in incentives that my EDF Climate Corps host organization was eligible for from projects completed before I even arrived.

In order to explain how this program works, I need to explain who PJM is and what they do. PJM Interconnection is a regional transmission organization. They coordinate the activity of suppliers, generators, and utilities to maintain an adequate flow of electricity on the grid. Their territory touches 13 states and the District of Columbia, and they are the largest electricity market in the world. They are also unique because they allow energy efficiency to participate in their forward capacity markets. Fortunately, my EDF Climate Corps host organization was in their territory. Read More »

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National Program Aims to Expand Minority Participation in Energy Sector

EDF Climate Corps fellow Olivia Moreno uncovers ways to increase energy efficiency at University of Texas at El Paso.

EDF Climate Corps fellow Olivia Moreno uncovers ways to increase energy efficiency at University of Texas at El Paso.

It's no secret that minorities are underrepresented in the energy field.

In the United States, Hispanics, African Americans, and American Indians make up 24 percent of the overall workforce, yet only account for nine percent of the country’s science and engineering workforce.

An initiative called Minorities in Energy (MIE) aims to change those numbers. It is creating a sustainable model that identifies diverse stakeholders to address challenges and opportunities for underrepresented communities in the growing energy economy, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, and climate change.

Launched a year ago by the U.S. Department of Energy, MIE has built an impressive list of ambassadors and partnerships. Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz puts it this way:

"We can only be successful in achieving our energy goals if we are inclusive of America's diverse communities." Read More »

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Smart Meters Need Effective Electricity Pricing to Deliver Their Full Benefits

By: Beia Spiller, Economist, and Kristina Mohlin, Economist

walletSmart meters, which provide detailed electricity use data throughout the day, are a critical piece of a smarter, more resilient 21st century energy system. But they are not a cure-all for modernizing our antiquated power grid.

In Matthew Wald’s recent New York Times article, entitled “Power Savings of Smart Meters Prove Slow to Materialize,” he argues that smart meters have failed to produce measurable savings. And we agree – but not because smart meters themselves have failed. Rather, most customers with smart meters don’t have access to people-powered, or time-variant, electricity pricing, which creates opportunities to save money. This is a missed opportunity for customers, utilities, and the environment.

Time-variant pricing better reflects electricity costs

Throughout most of the country, the price paid for residential electricity is the same regardless of the time of day when it’s consumed. This arrangement is a byproduct of an earlier era, one in which electricity information was difficult to convey and the actions of individual customers was impossible to gauge in real time. In practice, electricity is actually dirtier and more expensive to produce and transmit at certain times of the day, particularly when everybody wants it – for example, at 6pm during a heat wave when customers are cooling their homes. Also, during this high-demand time, energy prices spike and electric utilities flip on expensive and dirty fossil fuel “peaker” power plants to meet energy demand. From an economic point of view, it would be more efficient for electricity used at these peak demand times to have a higher price. Read More »

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New Development in Demand Response Ruling Signals Possible Supreme Court Review

supreme-court-545534_640Late last week, the Solicitor General signaled its intention to file cert. before the Supreme Court in the demand response Order 745 case, EPSA v. FERC. Hidden within this legalese is an important update about a significant (and already complex) case.

So what does it all mean?

First, a bit of background

Demand response pays customers to conserve energy when the electric grid is stressed. With demand response, people and technology, not power plants, help meet energy demand. This is good news for customers, who pay less for electricity, the environment, via reductions in harmful air emissions, and the electric grid, by making it more efficient.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), tasked with ensuring our nation’s wholesale electricity rates are ‘just and reasonable,’ created Order 745 to ensure that those providing demand response as a service would be adequately compensated. Read More »

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Illinois Legislators Pledge Support for EPA’s Proposed Carbon Regulations

illinois legislatorsWhile the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sorts through the more than 1.6 million comments received on its proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP), one group is stepping out to pledge its support of the landmark proposal. 53 Illinois legislators recently signed a letter urging the EPA to finalize the plan, which will set limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants for the first time ever.

Power plants currently account for nearly 40 percent of the nation’s carbon pollution and Illinois’s proposed target would result in a 33 percent reduction in the state’s carbon output by 2030. Fortunately, due to impressive state efforts to invest in clean energy over the past few years, Illinois is well-positioned to meet the challenge.

CPP is an economic opportunity

The Illinois legislators argue the CPP will help the state “achieve even greater cuts in our emissions, health benefits for all our citizens, and will spur further growth in our state’s economy.” The CPP will further the state’s transition to a clean energy economy by attracting investment in innovation, creating more jobs, and keeping electricity prices affordable. Read More »

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Bringing Storage Beyond the Closet and into the Socket

rp_ca_innov_series_icon_283x204.jpgEDF’s Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goals of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technologies and ideas.

When someone says the word “storage,” the first thing that usually comes to mind are boxes stuffed into the back of the closet, or that deserted facility with orange doors near the freeway off-ramp.

These days, energy innovators across California are giving storage a whole new meaning – and helping to revolutionize the system that brings electricity to homeowners and businesses alike. One of the entities leading this revolution is Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), a utility in the midst of piloting new battery energy storage technology to determine how effectively it can provide a variety of grid services, including the integration of intermittent renewable generation from solar and wind.

Increasing amounts of distributed energy generation in both urban and rural areas – coupled with increasing customer demand associated with things like population growth and consumer electronics – makes energy storage an important tool to keep generation and energy use in balance. This balancing function is an important asset for integrating renewables into the grid, as storage can soak up solar and wind energy when they are abundant and discharge that energy when it is otherwise unavailable. Through this charge / discharge cycle, energy storage could lower the need for traditional fossil fuel sources and reduce resultant air pollution. Read More »

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