Category Archives: Utility Business Models

Changes to Electricity Systems Will Enhance U.S. Grid Reliability

Cheryl Roberto PhotoLast Thursday morning, with my heart quickly jumping, I entered the grandeur of the United States Senate hearing room for the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Keeping the lights on — are we doing enough to ensure the reliability and security of the US electric grid? hearing as an invited witness. I was eager to share EDF’s vision of a cost-effective, clean energy system that enhances reliability − but I couldn’t help being a little awed by the moment. I had never testified on Capitol Hill before and the dignity of the setting and importance of the message I wanted to share weighed on me.

Here are the high points of my testimony (though you can read it in full here):

  • The nation’s electricity system stands at a transformative crossroads: The costs of distributed generation technologies like rooftop solar and battery storage are falling and energy productivity is rising. In our digital world, people have increased demands for power quality and reliability, but needs for power quantity are predicted to fall – mostly due to “gains in appliance efficiency and an increase in vehicle efficiency standards by 2025.” As a result, our system is transforming from a one-way, centralized power delivery network in which customers passively receive electricity to a two-way flow of both power and information in which customers both receive and produce electricity. The very model of centralized, utility-scale power generation is no longer sacrosanct. The electricity systems we built in the last century, and the regulations that govern them, are no longer adequate – neither to ensure reliability, or to accommodate the rapid changes in technology, consumer needs, environmental standards, and the changing marketplace. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Smart Grid, Washington, DC | Leave a comment

Indiana Governor’s Inaction Results in First Rollback of Energy Efficiency Standards in the Nation

Indiana State Capitol, Source: David Schwen

Indiana State Capitol, Source: David Schwen

At the end of March, the Indiana legislature passed a bill repealing the state’s energy efficiency standard, becoming the first state in the nation to roll back its energy savings goals. Governor Mike Pence could have signed the bill into law or he could have vetoed it. He did neither; instead, the bill became law because he took no action within the prescribed time period. His statement as to why he allowed the bill to become law left us scratching our heads.

Here’s what he said:

“I could not sign this bill because it does away with a worthwhile energy efficiency program developed by the prior administration. I could not veto this bill because doing so would increase the cost of utilities for Hoosier ratepayers and make Indiana less competitive by denying relief to large electricity consumers, including our state’s manufacturing base.” Read More »

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Roberto Rocks the House (and the Senate Too): Why Protecting Ohio’s Clean Energy Standards is Imperative

Source: American Insurance Association

Source: American Insurance Association Flickr

Cheryl Roberto, Associate Vice President and leader of EDF’s Clean Energy Program, recently testified before the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee against S.B. 310, which would freeze Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards at current levels. Sen. William Seitz, the Committee Chair, described her testimony as “passionate,” “very persuasive” and “thought provoking.”

Roberto described how the electric grid has changed. The old model, in effect for the past hundred years, relies on one-way power flows from large, centralized utility power plants, with limited customer service options and limited information available to customers on their energy usage. The new model involves two-way power flows between the utility and customers who own small, on-site solar, wind, and combined heat and power units. Customers receive detailed, real-time energy usage and price information. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Ohio, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid | Tagged | 5 Responses

Let’s Remove Roadblocks to North Carolina Solar Energy

Source: Gray Watson, http://256.com/solar/

Source: Gray Watson, http://256.com/solar/

Earlier this year, North Carolina considered providing the aerospace giant Boeing with incentives and other tax credits worth up to $2.5 billion if the company built a new manufacturing facility in the state. Given the high cost of attracting industry and jobs, North Carolina should be removing roadblocks instead for one of the fastest growing sectors already in the state – solar energy.

One recent study ranks North Carolina #2 in the country for total solar investment, and another ranks it as #3 in the country for the total amount of solar energy installed in 2013. This represents significant amounts of private capital being put to good work, creating jobs and making our farms, homes, and businesses more energy independent. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Financing, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid | Tagged | 1 Response

On World Water Day, Why Talk About Energy?

Source: UN Water

Source: UN Water

The theme of this year’s World Water Day on March 22nd is the “energy-water nexus,” and the timing couldn't be better. According to the United Nations (who first established World Water Day in 1993):

  • 780 million people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water.
  • 1.3 billion people worldwide lack access to electricity.
  • 90 percent of the power generation in the world comes from water-intensive fossil fuels.
  • As countries progress and develop, there is an increased risk of conflict between power generators, other water users, and environmental concerns.
  • By 2035, global water withdrawals for energy are predicted to increase by 20 percent, and water consumption for energy is expected to increase by 85 percent.

For the past year, I’ve been trying to bring awareness to the connection between energy and water in Texas, but this issue is much bigger than a single state. Energy and water are both basic components of life and economic progress, and they are also inextricably linked. Energy is used to secure, deliver, treat, and distribute water, while water is used (and often degraded) to develop, process and deliver energy. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus | Tagged | 2 Responses, comments now closed

‘Utilities 2.0’: The Future May Be Sooner Than We Think

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Last month, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel called “Utilities 2.0: The Role of Distributed Generation and Demand Response in Evolving Utility Business Models.” The topic may sound esoteric, but to the more than sixty people in attendance, and at least fifty more watching online, the event, which was sponsored by clean energy networking group Agrion, offered insight into how these options will in a not-too-distant future revolutionize the way all of us consume electricity.

The energy industry is abuzz with talk of how distributed generation, which enables consumers to draw power from on-site sources, such as rooftop solar, and demand response, which rewards customers who use less electricity during times of peak demand, are transforming the electric utility industry. A once-in-a-generation paradigm shift is already in motion, and exactly how it will play out is anyone’s guess. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Dynamic Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid | 2 Responses, comments now closed

Minnesota Advances First Statewide Plan to Fairly Value Rooftop Solar

rp_iStock_Solar_Installer-300x270.jpg

Most people do not typically associate Minnesota with abundant sunshine, but after a landmark decision by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) yesterday the sun is definitely shining on this snow-swept state. The PUC established the first statewide program to fairly value investments in rooftop solar electricity generation. I listened to a portion of the public meeting and oral arguments, which lasted several hours and demonstrated much thoughtful work. Through a refreshingly civil display of democracy and Midwestern hard work, state officials, utilities, and the solar and environmental community were able to hash out a method for valuing solar resources that are key to a clean energy future.

Yesterday’s decision dealt with the ongoing debate over how much solar power is worth to a utility, its ratepayers, society, and the environment. The PUC did not establish a set price for a statewide solar tariff, but rather the method to be followed when utilities calculate how much to pay for electricity generated by rooftop solar systems. Minnesota utilities will now have the option to file tariffs using this method instead of net metering, the more common but controversial and less scalable cousin of the “value-of-solar” (VOS) tariff.

Read More »

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Illinois Shows Clean Energy Leadership by Fast-Tracking the Smart Grid

SmartMeterIn a victory for Illinois residents and the environment, Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEdtoday formally proposed to the Illinois Commerce Commission an accelerated timetable for completing its deployment of four million smart meters. ComEd began installing smart meters last fall as part of the Energy Infrastructure and Modernization Act of 2011. With this proposal, the Illinois utility will complete its meter installation almost five years earlier than planned.

Modern, smart electricity meters are a key component of the smart grid. These devices help eliminate huge waste in the energy system, reduce overall and peak energy demand, and spur the adoption of clean, low-carbon energy resources, including wind and solar power. By enabling two-way, real-time communication, smart meters give every day energy users, small businesses, manufacturers, and farmers (and the electricity providers that serve them) the information they need to control their own energy use and reduce their electricity costs. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Dynamic Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Illinois, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid | Tagged , , | Comments closed

Changing Times for Electric Utilities

Source: Edison International

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 Natural 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 »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Dynamic Pricing, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid | Tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Hawaii Taps On-Bill Repayment Program for Clean Energy Financing and Job Creation

Source: The Green Leaf

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.

Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, On-bill repayment, Renewable Energy | Tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed