Source: Edison International
Two seemingly unrelated announcements drew much attention in the electric utility industry recently. First, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) (the trade group for the U.S. electric utility industry) and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) jointly recommended changing how utilities should be regulated. Second, Duke Energy announced it will sell 13 Midwest merchant power plants. These announcements are actually related because they both result from the same dramatic changes affecting the electric utility industry. As Bob Dylan aptly noted, “the times they are a-changin’.” Regulators and other stakeholders must be prepared to address these changes.
Under the traditional business model, electricity usage grew steadily. Utilities built ever-larger plants to serve this growing load. The bigger plants were more efficient than existing plants, so the unit cost for electricity steadily declined. Utilities benefited by steadily increasing their revenues. Customers benefited from declining unit costs. For utility customers, it was like paying a lower price per gallon of gasoline every time you filled your tank.
But this traditional model is crumbling, due to several factors: Read More
Source: The Green Leaf
EDF has been advocating for states to establish On-Bill Repayment (OBR) programs that allow property owners and tenants to finance clean energy retrofits directly through their utility bills with no upfront cost. California and Connecticut are working to establish OBR programs, but Hawaii is expected to beat them to the punch. Hawaii’s program is critical as electric rates are about double the average of mainland states and most electricity has historically been generated with dirty, expensive oil.
Given the potential of OBR to lower electricity bills, reduce that state’s carbon footprint, and expand job growth in the clean energy sector, EDF has been working closely with Hawaii and multiple private sector investors for the past year to develop their OBR program. Once formally launched later this spring, Hawaii’s program will be one of only two in the nation, preceded by New York who enacted their program in 2011.
By: Elizabeth B. Stein, Attorney and Adam Peltz, Attorney
Source: Iwan Baan
In Tuesday’s blog post, we discussed the recently concluded Con Edison rate case, its context, and its significance in advancing clean energy and grid resilience in New York. Today, we take a closer look at the final Order posted last Friday by the New York State Public Service Commission (the Commission) to uncover some of the more encouraging outcomes buried in this 300+ page document:
- Con Edison agreed to various measures that allow for more distributed generation, i.e. on-site power generation, such as combined heat and power, rather than relying solely on power generation and distribution from the traditional, centralized grid. For example, Con Edison agreed to pay for some fault current mitigation, which enables distributed generation to be connected to portions of Con Edison’s grid where it would otherwise be prohibited, and agreed to develop an implementation plan for a microgrid pilot. Additionally, Con Edison agreed to treat customer-sited projects, including distributed generation, as integral parts of its system by considering them in its 24-month planning horizon. Because some distributed generation can operate in an ‘islanded’ mode, or separate from the main grid, and can thus continue operating in a power outage, distributed generation can play a critical role in improving resilience. Read More
By: Susan Leeds, CEO of the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation (NYCEEC)
As New York City gets repeatedly hammered by snow, ice and the evil “wintry mix,” one could almost forget the world is warming at an ever faster clip. But the experts in the room earlier this month at the roundtable discussion on ‘Economics of Energy Retrofits’ at Urban Green Council (New York’s chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council) know the debate is over. Climate change is real and the window for action is closing. That’s why it’s more important than ever to work toward removing barriers to clean energy financing now.
As the De Blasio administration strives to build a more affordable New York City it’s important to note that clean energy building upgrades are central to this mission. By reducing energy use, building owners and their tenants can realize millions of dollars in annual savings while slashing dangerous carbon pollution for cleaner air and water. Read More
By: Elizabeth B. Stein, Attorney and Adam Peltz, Attorney
Source: Iwan Baan
The New York State Public Service Commission (Commission) took a historic step late last week, unanimously approving an Order that requires Con Edison to implement state-of-the-art measures to plan for and protect its electric, gas, and steam systems from the effects of climate change. This announcement regarding the future of New York State’s largest utility comes as a welcome coda to local storm recovery and resiliency efforts that have been in the works for some time now.
On October 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy clobbered the coastline of New York City. Homes were swept away or badly damaged as corrosive salt water flooded basements, while millions lost power. In one of the enduring images of the storm, an exploding transformer at East 14th Street caused the “city that never sleeps” to go dark below 40th Street and stay that way for the better part of a week. Read More
Energy and water, two of our most important global resources, are inextricably linked. And yet when it comes to planning, the regulatory agencies in charge of managing these precious resources are often separate and uncoordinated in their decision-making. With the World Bank’s recent unveiling of its Thirsty Energy initiative, it seems that the energy-water nexus is finally being taken seriously- and on a global scale.
This new initiative aims to address the interconnection between energy and water head-on by providing countries with “assessment tools and management frameworks” to help governments “coordinate decision-making” when planning for future energy and water infrastructure. Fortunately, this kind of guidance couldn’t come soon enough. Here’s a cool infographic from the Thirsty Energy website to illustrate where we are and where we’re headed: Read More
Ben Franklin famously said, “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.” This saying certainly holds true for smart grid deployment plans, which can cost utilities several hundred million dollars. Given these high stakes, good planning is essential.
Many utilities have installed smart grids. Currently, 25% of U.S. electricity customers have smart meters, a key component of the smart grid. Some early deployments were rocky, but utilities have learned their lessons. Utilities have incorporated these lessons learned in the planning process for more recent smart grid deployments. A well-thought-out smart grid deployment plan should address the following topics: Read More
As we approach the end of 2013, Texas’ power grid is soon to embark on a new clean energy path. While most people don’t get too excited about electrical transmission and distribution lines, the much awaited Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission project– set to come online in a few weeks and roll out through 2014 – could be the exception.
Approved by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) in 2008, CREZ is a 3,600 mile transmission line that will connect remote West Texas wind energy to the eastern cities that need its power – 18,500 megawatts of power to be exact. This is enough power to energize 3.7 million to 7.4 million homes and increase available wind power supply by a whopping 50 percent.
Much like some other wind-rich regions in the country, wind in the West and Panhandle regions of Texas was partially unused, or curtailed, because local communities could not use all of the available supply and the state’s current, outmoded electric grid could not efficiently deliver the abundant energy to high-demand eastern cities. This "congestion" bottleneck forced wind farms to lower prices and at times pay the utilities to take their electricity. Read More
In the 1983 thriller WarGames, Matthew Broderick plays a teen-age computer geek who unknowingly signs onto a Pentagon computer while hacking into a toy company’s new computer game. Thinking that he’s simply playing a game called Global Thermonuclear Warfare, Broderick launches the game and nearly starts a nuclear war. The North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) will hold its own war game next month with a simulated attack on the U.S. power grid.
The drill, called GridEx II, will take place on November 13-14 of this year. The participants will include 65 utilities and eight regional transmission organizations, representing most of the nation’s electricity customers. The drill will test how well the electric utility industry and the grid itself respond to physical and cyber attacks.
A NERC Critical Infrastructure Protection Committee (CIPC) working group will begin the drill by sending participants a series of simulated physical and cyber attacks, climaxing in a national security emergency. Participants will then respond and interact with each other, just as they would in a real emergency. The simulation will last 36 hours, and the CIPC working group will evaluate the participants’ responses and provide feedback on how their actions impact the ongoing scenario. After the drill, the working group will analyze the results and prepare a report on lessons learned.
Duke Energy is the largest utility in the United States, so of course it gets a lot of attention in its home state of North Carolina. Yet millions of residents in rural parts of the state rely on electric cooperatives, not Duke Energy, to keep the lights on. In fact, rural cooperatives serve all or part of the customers in 93 of 100 counties in North Carolina.
This is important because rural areas have just as much, if not more, need to increase energy efficiency. Case in point: a seven-county area in eastern North Carolina served by Roanoke Electric Cooperative. The cooperative has made great strides in promoting energy efficiency, yet there are still customers with utility bills that are higher than their mortgage payments some months. Close to half of Roanoke Electric’s customers live in manufactured homes, which typically have less energy-saving insulation than standard homes. And, in an economically-distressed region, few homeowners have extra money to pay for energy efficiency improvements, like caulking around windows or adding insulation.
Now, thanks to a new program offered by Roanoke Electric Cooperative, homeowners can secure low-cost loans from a private lender to make home improvements that will reduce energy use and save money. The loan is paid back on the monthly utility bill, reducing paperwork for homeowners and making repayment easier. In this program, the energy efficiency home loan is made by Generations Community Credit Union, a lending institution focused on assisting underserved rural communities in North Carolina. Homeowners can borrow up to $4,000 for improvements, with interest rates as low as 3.5%.