Selected category: Utility Business Models

3 Policies Driving Innovation in the Electricity Sector

solar photoAs rapid changes in energy technology – both in renewable and fossil fuel sources – transforms the way we power our lives, we have a chance to leave our children a prosperous world and reduce the effects of climate change. But, to scale fast enough, we need smart policies – at all levels of government.

National policies are essential to raise our level of ambition, put a price on carbon, limit emissions from key sectors, and spur innovation. For example, the Clean Power Plan would accelerate the adoption of clean energy technologies. But, many states are taking strides to promote innovative technologies and paving the way for national policy. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, Climate, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Grid Modernization| 4 Responses

Putting the Customer First: How California can Achieve a Distributed Energy Grid

3725860708_50e3dd08c7_zIf you have ever worked in the service industry and dealt with a difficult customer (or even seen one in action), you are likely inclined to recall the oft-used adage, “the customer is always right.” Clichéd as that phrase may be, it is not without merit. Here at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we believe the same truism applies to how utilities approach providing electricity.

In a recent ruling issued in the Integrated Distributed Energy Resources (IDER) proceeding, California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Commissioner Michel Florio found, quite properly, that utility business models need to be evaluated in order to put more customer and third party-owned distributed energy resources, like rooftop solar and energy storage onto the grid. Currently, utilities receive a rate of return if they build infrastructure necessary to support our central power grid (like pipelines for our aging natural gas system). If clean, distributed energy sources make that infrastructure less essential, it could jeopardize the utilities’ revenue stream, thereby discouraging them from including these cost-effective energy resources in our power mix. Read More »

Also posted in California, Grid Modernization| Read 6 Responses

A Bailout by Any Other Name: FirstEnergy Still Trying to Stick It to Ohio Customers

handshake_iStock_000000409076_L3You have to give some credit to FirstEnergy. It does hire creative lawyers.

After the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) effectively killed the utility giant’s $4-billion bailout request to keep its uneconomic power plants online, those expensive attorneys figured they could redefine a few words and restore the subsidies. In an attempt to thwart FERC’s decision, the utility is asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to consider “modifications” to its bailout plan. However, these changes will still result in increased customer bills at the rate of $4 billion.

For almost two years, FirstEnergy argued it needed to prop up its uneconomic generators with “power purchase agreements” (PPA) between the utility and its affiliate companies. After federal regulators declared such transactions were illegal because they distorted competitive markets, FirstEnergy lawyers are now saying, “Just kidding!” Instead of using the term “PPAs,” the utility now prefers “surcharges,” skirting FERC’s ruling and hoping it won’t notice there’s been no real change. Read More »

Also posted in FirstEnergy, Ohio| Comments are closed

Benefits of Clean, Distributed Energy: Why Time, Location, and Compensation Matter

solar-panels-new-yorkNew York is preparing for a future in which clean, distributed energy resources – such as energy efficiency, electric vehicles, rooftop solar panels, and other types of local, on-site power generation – form an integral part of a more decentralized electric grid. This is the future the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) wants to see realized through its signature initiative, Reforming the Energy Vision (REV).

This vision means the role of the customer is changing: from recipient to both user and provider of electricity and other grid services. By investing in clean, distributed energy resources, customers can make the electric system more efficient and contribute to a cleaner environment, while gaining greater control over their energy bills. Read More »

Also posted in New York, Solar Energy| Read 1 Response

Texas Cities Lead on Solar, But Tapping The State’s Potential Has Just Begun

Mueller_austin_solar_array1Last year solar power saw unprecedented growth and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. So where is much of this growth happening? In one word: cities.

In a new report from Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group, Shining Cities 2016 identifies the urban centers fostering growth in solar energy, and the policies and programs that can maximize solar potential. The cities that topped the list were, not surprisingly, primarily from the sunshine-abundant Pacific region, followed by an equal amount of cities from the Mountain, South Central and South Atlantic regions. These centers of connectivity and growth are major electricity consumers, and therefore important movers in the transition to a clean energy economy.

But there are still vast amounts of untapped solar potential in the U.S. – specifically 1,118 GW, which equates to 39 percent of total national electricity sales (enough to power over 782 million homes a year) – according to a study on “rooftop solar power generating capacity potential” by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The same study stated that Los Angeles, the city currently with the most solar capacity, could host up to 42 times its current solar capacity, providing up to 60 percent of the city’s electricity. This staggering amount of renewable energy is possible in other cities across the U.S. as well – even in unlikely states, such as Texas. Read More »

Also posted in California, Electricity Pricing, Solar Energy, Texas| Read 6 Responses

Ohio Failed to Protect Customers and Markets – So Federal Regulators Came to the Rescue

columbus-898928_1280The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently rejected Ohio-based utilities FirstEnergy and AEP’s bailout deals, which the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) recently approved. FERC, which is responsible for ensuring fair wholesale electricity prices, recognized that these backroom bailouts were “abusive,” taking advantage of “captive” customers and harming the competitive market. Fortunately, FERC’s rulings protect customers and markets – which the PUCO utterly failed to do in approving these deals.

FirstEnergy and AEP wanted these bailouts to protect their old coal and nuclear plants, which are losing money because they cost more to operate than the money received from power sales. The companies considered shutting down the plants, but they concocted the backroom bailout deals in a last-ditch attempt to keep them open and money rolling in. Read More »

Also posted in Ohio| Read 6 Responses
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