Selected category: Illinois

Illinois explores smart inverters’ potential to strengthen grid reliability

By Rebecca Goold, clean energy consultant

Last week, a federal judge protected Illinois’ Future Energy Jobs Act, which is expected to grow the state’s solar capacity to over 3,000 MW by 2030 – enough to power approximately half a million homes.

The expected influx in distributed resources like solar panels prompted the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) to set in motion NextGrid, an 18-month study focused on rethinking the roles of the utility, the customer, and energy solution providers in a 21st-century electric grid.

A large part of NextGrid involves advanced technologies like the smart inverter, a disruptive technology with the potential to improve grid reliability, create economic value for customers, and lower pollution. Read More »

Also posted in Grid Modernization| Leave a comment

New plan could double $2.5 billion energy efficiency success in Illinois

By Christie Hicks and Dick Munson

Just how valuable is energy efficiency? To the customers of ComEd, Illinois’ largest electric utility, efficiency’s value is in the billions – $2.5 billion, to be exact.

That’s how much ComEd customers have saved to date through the utility’s energy efficiency program, and thanks to a new plan under the Future Energy Jobs Act, more savings – and less pollution – are on the way.

ComEd agreed to invest $350 million each year for the next four years in energy efficiency programs, resulting in new initiatives that “will nearly double savings for customers and reduce electricity use in Illinois by 21 percent by 2030.” Read More »

Also posted in Energy Efficiency| 1 Response

What’s next for NextGrid – Illinois’ ‘Utility of the Future’ process

Many experts anticipate the electric utility industry evolving more in the next 10 years than it has in the past 100.

So noted the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), when it recently initiated the “NextGrid” Utility of the Future Study. NextGrid is a statewide, collaborative effort to rethink the roles of the utility, the customer, and energy solution providers in a 21st-century electric grid.

The ICC invited stakeholders to participate in NextGrid, welcoming suggestions for how the process should work. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), partnering with the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), recommended NextGrid ensure that upcoming technological advances enable a more dynamic grid – one that is cleaner, affordable, reliable, equitable, and more responsive to customer needs. But how do we get there? Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Utility Business Models| Comments are closed

Four reasons to be optimistic this Earth Day

I’m going to stay positive this Earth Day. I know that’s not what you might expect from me this year, but really, when it comes to America’s shift to cleaner, smarter, advanced energy, there’s reason to be optimistic.

  1. Business is booming…

The advanced energy industry is booming. This includes everything from solar and wind power, to new energy innovations that are smarter and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, like energy storage, electric vehicles, energy efficiency, and demand response.

The industry grew 29 percent in the last five years, and last year was worth $200 billion – about the same size as the pharmaceutical industry. Tesla – a sort of poster child for the advanced energy industry – just passed Ford Motor Company and General Motors in market cap. In fact, the company dropped “motors” from its name last year, a simple recognition that it’s far more than a car company. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Demand Response, Ohio, Solar Energy, Time of Use, Wind Energy| Comments are closed

Proving the negative: The challenge of calculating energy efficiency

Andrew Barbeau, senior clean energy consultant for EDF, contributed to this post.

“Efficiency is good.” That’s the mantra, a known truth, shared by both business executives and environmentalists, who eliminate waste to increase profits and reduce pollution.

When it comes to electricity, efficiency also has proven effective. Whereas power consumption a few decades ago was rising annually at more than 7 percent, the introduction of inexpensive and efficient lightbulbs, refrigerators, and smart heating and cooling has recently led to slight declines in energy consumption, even as the economy boomed and population increased.

Efficiency may be good and effective, but it is inherently hard to calculate. How do you prove the negative? Virtually every state has wrestled with the same questions of how and why electricity use didn’t happen. States with energy efficiency standards – requirements for local utilities to incentivize customers to reduce their energy use year after year – want to know if the investments are cost-effective. With new approaches to calculating energy efficiency, Illinois is tackling that question head on. Read More »

Also posted in Energy Efficiency| Read 6 Responses

Why We Still Need America’s Nuclear Power Plants — At Least for Now

Today’s American nuclear power industry is in a state of upheaval. Four new, large-scale nuclear power plants are under construction in the United States, helped by large federal subsidies. All are being built by Westinghouse, and all have faced massive cost overruns and delays. Westinghouse’s parent company, Toshiba, recently posted a $6 billion loss due to Westinghouse’s nuclear woes. (For context, that loss is half a billion more than Toshiba spent to buy Westinghouse a decade ago.) Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy protection on March 29.

Westinghouse’s bankruptcy shines a spotlight on nuclear power’s role as an electricity source – currently providing about 17 percent of our electricity in the U.S. – and raises issues concerning whether we can count on low-carbon electricity from nuclear power. The Energy Information Administration projects nuclear power’s share of electricity generation will decline slightly through 2040, but these projections don’t reflect current trends.

Existing plants face challenging economics

Nuclear plants have long been very expensive to build, and the continued low price of natural gas has only increased cost pressure. Many nuclear plants are losing money, leading utilities to consider retiring them. Total nuclear capacity is declining, and will continue to decline in the near future as plant retirements exceed the capacity of Westinghouse’s Vogtle and Summer plants, expected to come online in 2019-2020. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, New York, Utility Business Models| Read 7 Responses
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