Energy Exchange

Utility 2.0: NY Utility Regulators Should Consider Change to “Formula for Success”

Source: Daniel Schwen, Wikimedia Commons

Source: Daniel Schwen, Wikimedia Commons

Acquire more customers, sell more electricity. This primary formula has fueled the runaway success of utility companies in America, as well as the rest of the world, for well over a hundred years.

But today, in an era when customers are technologically savvy, price conscious, and environmentally aware, more families are pursuing opportunities that will cut electricity bills and carbon emissions. Options once considered fringe, like installing rooftop solar panels and driving electric cars, are now becoming so mainstream that utilities everywhere are seeing their bottom lines crunched and even fear for their survival. The electricity sector needs a new formula that can account for these changes, while still providing reliable, safe, and affordable electricity for all.

As a result of increased energy efficiency and heavier reliance on local, distributed energy resources, it’s clear our country is moving toward a reality in which less electricity will come from centralized, fossil fuel power plants. At the same time, customers want utilities to continue providing basic electricity services while allowing them to benefit from new energy-efficient solutions and clean technologies in order to waste less electricity and generate our own power.

How will this be possible? A key first step is moving away from the existing regulatory paradigm, which rewards utilities for investing in more power stations and equipment, to a model that rewards utilities for the performance we seek today. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Tagged | 9 Responses, comments now closed

Household Electricity Data May be a Click Away for Illinois Residents

Source: Alex Rumford

Source: Alex Rumford

Energy data collected via smart meters could lead to services that improve people’s lives and cut harmful carbon pollution. This is true if customers have easy access to the energy data they need to control their own energy use and reduce their electricity bills – which isn’t always the case.

When the Illinois General Assembly passed the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act in 2011, local utilities ComEd and Ameren touted their many benefits, including greater control over peak energy load, electric grid resiliency, and cost savings resulting from the energy conservation efforts of their electricity customers. Now that smart meter deployments are well underway, utilities need to enable the many benefits of smart meters by empowering customers with easy access to their own energy data.

To facilitate this endeavor, EDF and Citizens Utility Board (CUB) joined forces to develop the Open Data Access Framework, a first-of-its-kind proposal, which the groups presented to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) on Friday, August 15th. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Illinois, Smart Grid| 1 Response, comments now closed

Demand Response at the Core of Energy Savings for Large Office Building in Chicago

By: Karan Gupta, EDF Climate Corps Fellow at Jones Lang Lasalle

Climate Corps Fellow KaranGupta

EDF Climate Corps fellow, Karan Gupta, in front of the Building Automation System at 77 West Wacker, Chicago, IL.

Demand response – an energy saving tool that encourages customers to shift their electricity use to times of day when there is less demand on the power grid or when more renewable energy is abundant – has been at the core of my work this summer as an Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps fellow. My host company, Jones Lang Lasalle, is the property manager for 77 West Wacker Drive, a 50-story office building in downtown Chicago. Here, I am focusing on maximizing the benefits of demand response, which have already been implemented through multiple technologies.

Currently, 77 West Wacker is enrolled in the PJM demand response capacity market through a demand response service provider. As discussed in my previous post, there are standby payments for demand response commitments, meaning that the building is paid for simply making itself available to reduce energy demand when called upon to do so. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, EDF Climate Corps, Electricity Pricing, Illinois, Smart Grid| 1 Response, comments now closed

Corporate Buyers Demonstrate Demand for Renewables. Now it’s Time for the Market to Catch Up.

EDF Climate Corps fellow

Colin Krenitsky, 2014 EDF Climate Corps fellow for the Denver Housing Authority.

Last month, twelve major corporations announced a combined goal of buying 8.4 million megawatt hours of renewable energy each year, and called for market changes to make these large-scale purchases possible. Their commitment shows that demand for renewables has reached the big time.

We’re proud that eight of the twelve are EDF Climate Corps host organizations: Bloomberg, Facebook, General Motors, Hewlett Packard, Proctor & Gamble, REI, Sprint and Walmart. The coalition, brought together by the World Wildlife Fund and World Resources Institute, is demanding enough renewable energy to power 800,000 homes a year. And while it's great to see these big names in the headlines, they're not alone in calling for clean energy: 60 percent of the largest U.S. businesses have set public goals to increase their use of renewables, cut carbon pollution or both. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, EDF Climate Corps, Energy Financing, General, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models| Comments closed

EPA’s State-by-State Carbon Limits Indicate Smart Policy, Not Arbitrary Rulemaking

EDF_FB_renewableEnergy_solar (1)In June, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced – for the first time ever – standards to limit carbon emissions from U.S. power plants, known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Currently power plants emit 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions, but under the proposed Clean Power Plan, the U.S. power sector will cut carbon pollution by 30 percent below 2005 levels.

Since this announcement, the usual suspects have attacked the CPP, calling its proposed state-by-state reduction standards arbitrary. Their claims couldn’t be further from reality. When EPA asked states for feedback on how to best craft this standard, states asked for two things: individual standards and flexibility. And that’s what they got. Anyone familiar with the proposed standards will know they are based on a consistent and objective methodology that takes into account each state’s unique energy portfolio and emissions, as well as built with maximum flexibility in mind.

At first glance, the climate-change-denying crowd dismissed the standards as arbitrary, because the limits vary from state to state. For example, Washington needs to reduce its emissions rate by 72 percent by 2030, while Kentucky only needs to cut its emissions rate by 18 percent over the same period. Texas lies somewhere in the middle with a 39 percent reduction required. So what gives? Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy| Tagged | Comments closed

5 Undeniable Truths about the Clean Power Plan

JDo you get a sense of déjà vu when you hear the fossil fuel industry arguments against the Environmental Protection Agency’s new climate change plan? You’re not imagining things – we’ve heard these many, many times before.

The EPA recently held public hearings around the country to solicit comments on its new proposal to put reasonable, nationwide limits on climate pollution from power plants.

The plan is moderate, flexible, and paves the way for considerable economic gains, but the substance hardly mattered for some die-hard opponents. The fossil fuel industry allies trotted out the same talking points about the supposed costs of action and American indifference to clean air policies that they always do.

Tellingly, industry lobbyists and their friends in Congress couldn’t even be bothered to wait and see what the rule said before blasting it with wildly inaccurate claims about the cost of implementation. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Renewable Energy| Tagged , | Comments closed

Blown Away by Wind Power in Denmark, a Model for Clean Energy

The view when you fly into Copenhagen, Denmark.

The view when you fly into Copenhagen, Denmark.

By: Sam Parry, director of online membership and activism

I look out the window of the crowded Scandinavian Airlines plane – bleary-eyed after a sleepless, 8-hour flight – as it makes its final approach to the Copenhagen airport one recent morning.

The first thing I see are the wind turbines that hug the coast, spinning steadily like white jewels against the blue water. For a moment I wonder if I’m hallucinating.

What are wind turbines doing so close to civilization and adjacent to Denmark’s main airport?

Back in the United States, I have to travel far beyond my Washington suburb to spot any signs of wind energy. In Denmark, it’s ever-present.

You can’t drive more than a few kilometers on the country’s flat roads without seeing a turbine. They are fully integrated into society and part of the landscape everywhere.

And that’s not by accident. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Renewable Energy| Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

Can I Do This Again Next Year Please? My Fellowship at Fort Bragg

fortbragg

By: Farris Galyon, Climate Corps Fellow

I do not want to brag, but the U.S. Army engagement at Fort Bragg is the best in EDF Climate Corps. I apologize for the bombastic tone of this statement; however, when I consider the opportunities afforded to me during my time here, it is hard for me to imagine a comparable experience anywhere else. I base my assertion on three particular characteristics of this engagement: 1) the unlimited learning opportunity, 2) the opportunity to add value in multiple areas and 3) the opportunity to meet high profile and multi-talented individuals.

Unlimited Learning Opportunity

Upon my arrival to the energy office at Fort Bragg, I met a team of nine individuals comprised of several engineers with 25-40 years of experience, a former employee of a private utilities company and a dual master’s degree holder currently pursuing her M.S. in global energy management. Suffice it to say, I was the least experienced person in the room. It did not take long for me to realize that my ability to identify efficiency/conservation opportunities they had not already considered was limited. My first response to this reality was to be disconcerted; how would I fulfill my obligation to EDF and the Army without possessing any experiential or academic advantage over this exceptional team? Fortunately for me, this fact would prove beneficial to me rather than detrimental. While the overview offered during EDF Climate Corps training was informative, my full immersion into this work environment proved to be downright educational. Thanks to the energy team’s expertise, I was presented with superb demonstrations on evaluating energy project viability. It was this team’s willingness and ability to teach that presented me with my chance to add value. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency| Comments closed

To Opt-In or Opt-Out: What Works For Time-Variant Pricing

Source: Johannes Rössel, wikimedia commons

Source: Johannes Rössel, wikimedia commons

It would be logical to assume that we make decisions based on our needs, desires, and values regardless of how the choice is presented. For instance, we wouldn’t expect the choice to become an organ donor to depend on whether you must check a box to accept or decline donation. But we would be wrong: our decisions depend a great deal on how the choice is presented.

Choice architecture gets to the heart of the debate on whether it’s preferable to offer people the opportunity to opt-in or to opt-out, and this question has become crucial to the discussion about time-variant electricity pricing throughout the country.

Opt-out vs opt-in time-variant pricing

Currently, most electricity customers pay for electricity at a single flat rate (i.e., one price per kWh consumed). Such pricing is simple but doesn’t reflect actual system costs, which are higher during times of the day when overall energy demand peaks. Time-variant pricing instead allows utilities to charge more for electricity during periods of peak demand, and less during periods of lower demand. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Smart Grid| 3 Responses, comments now closed

Moving On, but Continuing the Work

Source: Chuck Abbe

Source: Chuck Abbe

Four years ago, I joined Environmental Defense Fund to work on climate policy as I believe that the issue is one of the most critical challenges of our era. I felt that my background working on Wall Street could be put to good use in crafting finance policies that help fight climate change. I chose EDF because they are the environmental organization that best understands how to use market mechanisms to deliver environmental solutions.

Tomorrow will be my last day at EDF, but I am not leaving because of any disappointment with the organization or any decline in my commitment on climate issues. At this point in time, new market mechanisms to finance clean energy are in place. The biggest contribution I can make is to switch to the private sector and demonstrate how well these mechanisms can deliver job-creating private investment.

Over the past several years, On-Bill Repayment (“OBR”) and Property Assessed Clean Energy (“PACE”) programs have been developed that are expected to allow for significantly increased investment in energy efficiency and solar generation projects.  State of the art PACE programs are up and running in California for commercial and residential properties, and in Connecticut and Ohio for commercial properties. Texas and New Jersey are expected to also launch programs in coming months. Later this year, Hawaii is expected to start the country’s first open-source OBR program that EDF helped design. Read More »

Posted in California, Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Financing, Investor Confidence Project, On-bill repayment, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models| Tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed