Saving Energy and Money: Texas is on a Path to Greater Efficiency

By: Robert King, Southcentral Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource, Peter Sopher and John Hall, Environmental Defense Fund

Texas_welcome_sign Tim Patterson flickrThree of the top five fastest growing cities in the country are here in Texas, and explosive population growth puts a lot of pressure on our electric grid to keep up with demand. Fortunately, the state’s main grid operator, Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), has done a great job of keeping the lights on, and new building codes are ensuring less energy use in the thousands of new houses that are being constructed.

As more and more people flock to the Lone Star State, there is significant potential for energy efficiency to reduce pollution and energy bills for Texas families. But in a report released last October, ERCOT overestimated the cost of energy efficiency in Texas – by more than two times – and understated by about seven times the amount we are on track to achieve. ERCOT’s estimates do not acknowledge Texas’ reality: Energy efficiency, and other sources of clean energy, are already on the rise.  Read More »

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Energy Efficiency, Texas| Read 2 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 »

Posted in California, Grid Modernization, Utility Business Models| 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 »

Posted in FirstEnergy, Ohio, Utility Business Models| Comments are closed

Sacramento is Thinking Big on Methane and Natural Gas

Bill schoolhouse rockYear two of the California legislative cycle usually yields some bold policy ideas – and this year it looks like rethinking California’s relationship with methane and natural gas is on track to do just that.

Given the fresh memories of the major methane pollution event at Aliso Canyon, the 20-plus bills introduced on the topic this legislative session – vastly more than in past years – aren’t surprising in the least. Moreover, 2016 could have a monumental effect on the methane and natural gas picture in the state for years to come.

What is responsible for this sudden increase in efforts to change California’s relationship with methane and natural gas.

The science is clear

First, the science is clear, as methane, the primary component of natural gas, is responsible for about 25% of the manmade climate change we’re experiencing today. With temperature records being broken nearly daily (2015 was the hottest year on record, and February 2016 was the hottest month ever globally), the cat is out of the bag – it’s past time to focus on methane.

The legislative pump is primed

California started down the path of finding solutions to address methane emissions years ago with a series of bills and policy actions, and in many ways the 2016 bill package doubles down on that progress. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Read 3 Responses

San Antonio Leadership Puts People over Politics by Supporting Clean Power Plan

By: John Hall, Texas state director, clean energy, and Colin Leyden, senior manager, state regulatory & legislative affairs – natural gas

san antonio riverwalk pixabayWhen it comes to clean air and clean energy, Texas cities – and their encompassing counties – know what’s good for them.

San Antonio’s Bexar County Commissioners, for example, recently approved a resolution supporting the nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the Clean Power Plan.

Bexar County includes the City of San Antonio and adjoining areas. By endorsing the plan, the broader San Antonio community joins Texas’ largest cities Houston and Dallas, whose mayors are also supporting the sensible, cost-effective clean air measure. (In fact, Houston and Dallas filed an amicus brief together with a large coalition of cities to support the Clean Power Plan in court).

All of this comes in the face of staunch opposition from Texas state leaders, who have used taxpayers’ money to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over these safeguards. Meanwhile, Bexar County Judge Nelson W. Wolff and commissioners passed the resolution unanimously, meaning members from both sides of the aisle put politics aside and voted for healthier air for our communities and families. Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, Clean Power Plan, Texas| Read 2 Responses

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 »

Posted in New York, Solar Energy, Utility Business Models| Read 1 Response
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