Energy Exchange

A Good Grid is Like a Good Vacation: Balanced and Well-Timed

photo-1456425712190-0dd8c2b00156On vacation and awake in my too-soft bed at 5 AM while my family snored, I was regretting my misaligned sleep schedule. But then I realized time was on my side, so I tiptoed out in solitude for sunrise at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Thanks to my very clever smart phone that is also a camera, my amateur photos (sort of) reveal the majesty of this national landmark. When we realize the schedule of Nature’s wonders is both beautiful and indefatigable, and humble ourselves with simple acts of realignment, harmony can be found amidst the springs and cliffs of our lives.

Just as timing helped me take advantage of something I would have otherwise missed and my smart phone aided in capturing the moment, similar lessons can be learned in how we use energy. My phone, when linked to a smart thermostat, can help align my electricity use with cheap, clean energy resources like solar and wind. Soon residential customers of California’s “big three” utilities, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SoCal Ed), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), will be able to take full advantage of this option.  Read More »

Also posted in California, Electricity Pricing / Read 3 Responses

We’re wasting solar energy because the grid can’t handle it all. Here’s a solution.

caligrid_378x235California has a nice problem: It’s producing so much clean solar energy that the state’s electric grid is at capacity, and sometimes beyond.

As Vox’s David Roberts reports in his excellent piece about California’s grid headache, it makes good sense to expand the system by interconnecting state-run energy markets.

But he also notes, at the end of his story, some other and complementary strategies California can use to increase its grid bandwidth – while accommodating rapidly growing, but variable, renewable energy sources.

Connected grids, alone, are not a long-term fix. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Grid Modernization, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy / Read 3 Responses

An Historic Moment: Advanced Meters Make their Way to New York City

NYC at nightDo you remember where were you were and what you were doing the day the first iPhone was released? What about the moment when Senator Obama became a real contender for the White House? It is rare to experience a pivotal moment in history, and appreciate its significance in real time.

Last week, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) approved a plan by New York’s largest utility, Consolidated Edison (ConEd), to distribute advanced meters (also known as “smart meters”) to more than 3.2 million electric and 1.2 million gas customers in New York City. Advanced meters, a key component of the smart grid, can unlock the many benefits of clean energy while empowering customers to take charge of their energy use. For me, this move by the PSC was a pivotal moment in New York City’s history. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Grid Modernization, New York / Read 1 Response

A Stealth Tool to Modernize the Electric Grid

Electricity regulators, clean energy innovators, and rappers have all lamented poor communication. And some have pushed for cleaner, cheaper, more reliable solutions for meeting our energy needs. This is particularly so with the much anticipated emergence of a new kind of non-event based, price-responsive demand response (DR), or flexible DR.

Whereas traditional DR signals customers to voluntarily and temporarily reduce their energy use at times when the electric grid is stressed, this type of DR does that and more. The big difference? It signals customers, their appliances, and their electric vehicles to increase their energy use when electricity is clean, plentiful, and cheap.

For example, electric vehicles can be programmed to charge at mid-day when the sun is bright and solar energy is at its peak, and use that stored energy when the sun sets. Better yet, many of our cars, homes, and appliances can be programmed to monitor grid conditions in real time, via the Internet, and respond accordingly by charging or defecting. Also known as a “set-it-and-forget-it” feature, this function enables the seamless integration of flexible DR while also supporting the full potential of energy efficiency measures and distributed energy resources (DERs), like rooftop solar and energy storage.

The seamless and stealth nature of this type of DR, which can be largely automated by tools and service providers, is something neither the customer nor the utility have to think about. It’s like a secret agent, operating behind walls and wires to find the greatest energy (and cost) saving-potential. Regulators need to unleash this “secret agent DR” by rewarding it fairly and efficiently in the energy marketplace, giving it a “license to thrill” in households and businesses across California. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Grid Modernization, Renewable Energy / Read 1 Response

Three Technologies that will Keep Energy Costs in Check

Jay Godwin photo - 07/31/2015 Location: The Mueller community in Austin, Texas. Caption: Mueller resident Dennis Mick is a Pecan Street program participant. He has solar collectors on his roof and an electric car in his garage. Information about his energy use can be accessed through mobile apps and on the web.Many American households and businesses saw energy costs soar this summer with July being the hottest month in Earth’s hottest year on record.

Utilities rely on “peaker plants” during these record-setting heat waves to avoid blackouts. Such plants are more expensive and often more polluting to operate, and utilities pass the higher costs straight on to their customers.

Fortunately, this energy equation is changing. Innovative pricing and smart energy systems are gradually taking hold across the United States, already allowing homes and businesses to save energy and cut costs. It’s just the beginning of what I call our next energy revolution.

Here are three technologies on the market today that are fueling this trend: Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, General, Renewable Energy / Read 1 Response

Four Things California Should Consider before Rolling Out Time-of-Use Pricing

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This summer the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ordered big changes in how Californians will pay for electricity. Starting in 2019, residential customers of the big three investor-owned utilities (Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric) will be switching residential customers to the same pricing plan used by commercial and industrial customers:  time-of-use (TOU) electricity pricing. This approach rewards people who shift some of their electricity use to times of the day when renewable energy is plentiful and electricity is cheaper. Before rolling this out to all 33 million Californians, however, the CPUC has instructed the utilities to perform experiments on how best to design and then market TOU pricing to customers. Read More »

Also posted in California / Read 2 Responses