Selected category: Utility Business Models

Ohio Has Another Subsidy-Seeking Utility on its Hands

power lines unsplashAnother year, and another Ohio utility is sidling up to the trough for a bailout.

Dayton Power & Light (DP&L) is asking for $1 billion over seven years, and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) will soon hold a hearing on the application. And like its fellow Ohio subsidy-seeker, FirstEnergy, DP&L is veiling its billion-dollar request with talk of making the grid smarter and more modern.

No doubt grid modernization is a worthy investment. The only problem is, DP&L will not commit to spending any of the requested funding on grid modernization, but only offers that it may do so. Since DP&L won’t commit to modernizing the grid, it’s more likely the utility wants to spend the funds for other purposes, such as shoring up its balance sheet, paying off old debt, and operating its old power plants.

Although Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) supports grid modernization, we do not support DP&L’s proposal because the utility could divert the funding for these other purposes, which would be harmful for customers and the environment. Read More »

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America Needs Critical Energy Data in a "Post-Fact" World: 2 Quick Examples


electrical-power-linesBy Jeremy Proville, senior manager, GIS & Economics

We learned last month that scientists are rushing to save critical climate data on government websites before the Trump administration takes over. They fear that such data may be deleted and forever lost, and it’s not hard to see why.

The incoming administration has announced plans to roll back existing climate change initiatives and there have been proposals to cut research programs that support a broad range of scientific expertise, such as weather prediction critical to farmers and to states vulnerable to major disasters.

In addition to science-based climate data, however, there is concern that other critical information and analyses under the purview of agencies such as the U.S. Department of Energy may be imperiled early next year. Unbeknownst to many – including, perhaps, to the president-elect and his circle of insiders – all these datasets benefit a broad range of sectors that rely on solid economic forecasting.

Here are just two datasets that are absolutely central to the work economists and analysts do to help industry and other decision-makers interpret energy opportunities and challenges in a rapidly changing world. Read More »

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Recent AEP Decision in Ohio a Mixed Bag for Clean Energy

free_electric_power_lines_and_blue_sky_creative_commons_attribution_9368799968Market forces and technology are increasingly making old, dirty power plants uneconomic, which creates an opportunity for clean energy progress and cleaner air. However, outdated rules and entrenched interests can complicate the path to a healthier energy economy, as evidenced by a new settlement in Ohio.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) recently approved an American Electric Power (AEP) settlement that contains both promising and discouraging components.

The PUCO decision forces AEP to reconsider its ownership of power-generating plants. Realizing old coal-fired units can no longer compete against newer natural-gas and renewable facilities in deregulated markets, AEP suggests it faces two options, one being to ask Ohio legislators to overturn the state’s deregulation law, allowing AEP to return to the less-risky days of guaranteed profits on any of its power plants.

However, a recent study by Ohio State University and Cleveland State University found that the competition enabled by deregulation allowed Ohio customers, businesses, and industries to save $15 billion on electricity over the past four years and is expected to save the same amount by 2020. If the state were to return to a regulated system, Ohioans could miss out on those billions of savings. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Ohio| Comments are closed

How Maryland Tackles Grid Modernization Could Have Big Impact

15671323838_0aac227627_bThe need to plan for and design a more efficient, cleaner, and resilient electricity grid has never been greater. Our aging grid is ill-prepared to keep pace with rapid technological advances and an increasingly distributed, dynamic energy system. A greater number of customers are producing electricity themselves, demanding expanded energy choice and a more interactive relationship with their utilities. In the meantime, an increased number of severe storms in recent years keep pressing the need for resilience. In order to meet these challenges, we need to look beyond traditional planning solutions for how we make, use, and distribute electricity.

This year has seen a flurry of activity on grid modernization in states across the U.S. As 2016 comes to a close, the spotlight is on Maryland as it joins the ranks of states investigating how to transform our electric system. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Data Access, Energy Innovation, Grid Modernization, Voltage Optimization| Comments are closed

The Killer App for The Internet of Things? Combating Climate Change.

graphicCo-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 »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Innovation, Energy Storage, Grid Modernization, Solar Energy, Time of Use, Wind Energy| Comments are closed

Baseload Power is So Yesterday. A Cleaner, Modern Electric Grid Deserves Flexibility.

power-lines-unsplash2Coal-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 »

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