Energy Exchange

With dynamic electricity pricing, more data can lead to more savings

By Kim Sha and Ben Liu, clean energy interns

Illinois’ largest utility, ComEd, is almost finished deploying advanced metering infrastructure to its customers. In fact, there are now more than 3.8 million installed smart meters in Illinois, feeding anonymized energy-use data – recorded in half-hourly kilowatt-hours – back from the grid.

How to make use of this unwieldy flood of data and enhance the efficiency of the grid? Our new paper, Modelling Marginal System Costs for the Commonwealth Edison Distribution Network, provides a framework for regulators, utilities and other researchers to begin to examine the insights provided by smart meter data, highlighting opportunities to save money for customers and utilities alike. Specifically, our study shows that under real-time electricity pricing, ComEd customers can save money not only by changing how much electricity they use, but by adjusting when they use it.

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100% by 2045: California evaluates one of the nation’s biggest clean energy goals

It’s summertime in California, and one thing that means is lots of sunshine. Lucky for us, the Golden State is a national leader in turning that sunshine, and other renewable resources, into electricity to power homes and business across the state.

Currently, the state is working to produce 50 percent of its electricity from clean energy resources like solar and wind and is closing in on that goal. Next month, lawmakers will get the chance to advance that goal even further – to 100 percent by 2045.

SB 100, authored by Sen. Kevin de León, is the bill that, if passed, could solidify the new, bigger, bolder target. California would be the second state in the nation to pass this high of a target – only behind Hawaii. A handful of other states are considering aiming at 100 percent clean energy, including Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

California’s leadership could help tip the scale. California has the opportunity to show the rest of these states and countries across the world that 100 percent clean energy is possible. With climate change already affecting us, we don’t have much more time to waste.  Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Electric Vehicles, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Solar Energy / Read 1 Response

California’s disadvantaged communities could benefit from time-of-use electricity prices, but it won’t happen automatically.

By Lauren Navarro, senior policy manager, and Jamie Fine, senior economist

It’s no secret that California is a clean energy leader. The state is on track to meet its renewable energy goals, with many utilities hitting targets ahead of schedule. In order to transition to a system that can handle increased levels of clean energy like solar and wind, we need innovative solutions to take advantage of these resources. One low-cost solution is to change how we pay for electricity – making it cheaper when it is powered by clean resources and more expensive when powered by fossil fuels with time-of-use pricing. Utilities are on their way to bringing this to Californians, piloting the new rates in advance of a full rollout in 2019 and building on the successful rollout of these rates to commercial customers a few years ago.

For many Californians, the shift to time-of-use pricing will be new, but not impact their bills very much and could even save them money, particularly for people who live along the coast. However, for some customers – communities with lower incomes in hotter areas of the state that are more vulnerable to possible summertime bill increases – shifting when they use electricity can be harder, and without help their costs could increase. Rightly, lawmakers and regulators have pushed for extra attention for these vulnerable customers as the state moves toward time-of-use rates. While utilities acknowledge this discrepancy as an issue, none are offering sufficient, robust solutions (you can learn more about this in our recent blog).

A new bill introduced last week by California Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula would add that utilities must consider how time-of-use rates could impact low-income customers in disadvantaged communities before putting them on the new rates. It is vital to protect the most economically and environmentally vulnerable Californians from financial hardships. And the answer is not easy. All Californians stand to benefit from rates that could lower pollution and integrate more renewables – yet, we don’t want to heedlessly roll-out the rates in a way that results in higher electricity bills for customers with low incomes. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Equity, General / Comments are closed

Utilities planning to move Californians to time-of-use pricing need solutions for low-income customers

By Andy Bilich, clean energy analyst, and Jamie Fine, senior economist

Last month, all three of California’s major investor-owned utilities submitted applications to the California Public Utilities Commission detailing their respective strategies for how to transition residential customers to time-of-use pricing. Time-of-use pricing, if done right, is a low-cost strategy to help meet California’s climate and clean energy goals. This innovative tool can help the state rely more on clean energy and less on fossil fuels, at the same time delaying the need for new infrastructure and reducing costs and harmful emissions. While a significant number of Californians will be able to adapt to this new pricing, the shift this summer and next will likely be more challenging for some ─ namely, low-income customers in hot areas of the state.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) supports time-of-use pricing for its benefits to the environment, the electric system, and customer’s pockets. However, the utility plans have some troubling gaps that may prevent the new system working for everyone. For California to pioneer a clean economy for all, the utilities and the commission must proactively overcome barriers facing vulnerable customers who need more help adjusting to time-of-use rates. Read More »

Also posted in California, Electricity Pricing / Read 2 Responses

Southern California Edison attempts to delay renewable-friendly electricity rates

By Larissa Koehler and Jamie Fine

California has worked hard to build up a nation-leading clean energy portfolio. And the state has been hugely successful in adding renewable energy, especially solar, to the electric grid. However, having too much solar energy on the grid relative to energy demand can lead to grid operators turning off that clean power. This is costly for customers and makes it harder to meet our clean energy goals. One solution?  By putting price signals in place, such as time-of-use (or TOU) rates, we can encourage customers to use energy at times when solar or wind power is abundant.

TOU pricing does this by making electricity cheaper when the supply of electricity exceeds demand. Times of day when solar panels across the state are generating power will align with predictable low prices. If done right, TOU pricing can give Californians control over their energy bills, avoid pollution from fossil-fuel power plants, and maximize the production of renewable energy without additional cost.

The California Public Utilities Commission – the body that regulates utilities in the state – supports this strategy. In 2015 it decided to transition residential customers to a default TOU rate, with the explicit goal of integrating more renewable energy. Unfortunately, Southern California Edison (SCE) – a utility that serves electricity to over 3 million Californians – is proposing to delay putting some or all of their customers on these rates. This setback could have negative economic and environmental impacts. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing / Read 6 Responses

This Earth Day, 100 percent clean energy is 100 percent possible

More than 25 U.S. cities, 12 countries, and at least 89 companies have all committed to transition to 100 percent renewable energy. That’s because they all recognize the unstoppable potential clean energy has to create jobs, strengthen and protect the economy, and fight climate change.

Now, U.S. states are throwing their hats into the 100-percent renewable ring. California and Massachusetts have proposed plans to get there, while Hawaii has made the pledge. This 100-percent dream does not come from fantasy, but is actually the result of a number of coalescing factors.

Earth Day is our time to recognize what’s more: With the right mix of clean energy technologies and solutions, 100 percent renewable is 100 percent possible.

100 percent is possible

Cost competitive and scalable renewable energy has taken off over the past 10 to 20 years. The hungry solar market in California for example, has resulted in exponential growth of utility-scale and rooftop solar over the last decade, creating over 150,000 jobs throughout the Golden State.

Recently, California powered 40 percent of its midday energy demand with solar power. A steady stream of policy actions at the state and local level – timed with the dramatic drop in costs of renewables – have helped make this possible. Across the U.S., current RPS policies alone could result in these benefits:

  • Renewables contributing 40 percent of total electricity generation in the U.S. by 2050;
  • Reducing climate change-causing greenhouse gases and harmful air pollutants like SOx and NOx (which together form ozone) by 6 percent; and
  • An almost 20 percent increase in jobs.

The bold inspiration, urgency, and benefit of 100 percent renewables is without question, but the pathway for getting there is less clear and will vary by state and region. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Grid Modernization, Solar Energy, Utility Business Models / Comments are closed