Energy Exchange

U.S. Lags on Energy Efficiency, but Creative Communications can Help

This post was co-written by Catherine Ittner, Communications Intern, and Catherine Nisson, Clean Energy Research Intern.

Source: energyhog.org

Source: energyhog.org

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recently released the second edition of its International Energy Efficiency Scorecard, ranking the energy efficiency efforts of the world’s 16 largest economies. The report assigns each country a score based on three primary sectors responsible for energy use: buildings, transportation, and industry. So where did the land of the free fall on the index? Disappointingly, the U.S. ranks number 13, ahead of only Russia, Brazil, and Mexico. The international champion for the second time this summer: Germany.

ACEEE concedes the demand for energy has been declining in the U.S. since 2007, and progress is most likely due to increasingly energy-efficient appliances and buildings, as well as the local and state policies that encourage their use. But, clearly, there is significant room for improvement and much of that may lie in behavioral changes and everyday tweaks people can make to conserve energy.

With recent energy efficiency initiatives going nowhere on Capitol Hill, another means of encouraging the efficient use of energy without legislation is to take the message straight to the people. Cue creative communications campaigns that can play a role in bumping the U.S. closer to the top of the International Energy Efficiency Scorecard. Read More »

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EPA’s Clean Power Plan: Texas’ Last Stand or Last Hope?

Source: North Texas Renewable Energy Group

Source: North Texas Renewable Energy Group

August has been an eventful month here in Texas. And, no, I’m not referring to news about Governor Rick Perry, rather some of his appointees. The Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC), Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Railroad Commissioners (RRC) Barry Smitherman and Christy Craddick, and State Representative Jason Isaac held a joint session to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new Clean Power Plan (CPP).

The CPP will limit – for the first time ever – carbon emissions for existing power plants. Texas, the number one polluter in the country, needs to cut 195 billion pounds of carbon in the next 18 years, according to a Texas Tribune analysis. However, EPA suggests Texas could easily meet its goal through a combination of actions: making coal plants more efficient, using more natural gas plants, increasing the use of renewable resources, and expanding energy efficiency.

Texas has a choice: either roll up some sleeves and double down on the state’s clean energy leadership, creating jobs and wealth, or continue to play petty politics to buy the fossil fuel industry more time. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Clean Power Plan, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Texas| Comments closed

Utility 2.0: NY’s New Business Model Should Properly Value the Costs and Benefits of Distributed Energy Resources

Source: AtisSun

Source: AtisSun

As we’ve mentioned before, New York is changing how it evaluates and compensates electric utilities. One goal of this change is increased consumer engagement, which makes customers allies in the development of a more reliable, resilient, and ‘smart’ electric grid.

Many customers have begun taking advantage of new energy technologies and their falling prices by turning to community microgrids, installing on-site distributed generation, like rooftop solar, or investing in more efficient appliances, among other actions. Advances in telecommunications and information systems have also created new opportunities for energy services we could not have imagined just a few years ago. For example, innovative tools like demand response allow third parties or utilities to turn off pre-approved appliances – like swimming pool pumps and air conditioners – remotely when the power grid is stressed and needs a quick reduction in energy demand. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Tagged | Comments closed

Pollute less, employ more…

jobsaheadBy: Sean Wright, EDF senior analyst, natural gas program, and James Frank, EDF graduate intern

Cleaner air, more American jobs: that’s a potential reality for the U.S. if it acts to curb emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas emitted from oil and gas systems around the country. It’s a significant opportunity, and it’s one California Congresswoman Linda Sánchez encountered first-hand when she toured a Cerritos manufacturing plant last week.

“I am convinced that we can reduce the risks from climate change with American-made products and create more jobs in California while we’re doing it,” the Congresswoman said during her visit.

The energy industry likes to argue that methane controls are expensive, unnecessary, and bad for business, but more and more evidence is surfacing that’s not the case. In actuality, limiting methane emissions from oil and gas operations represents a significant economic opportunity. The manufacturing plant, which produces sealing technologies that help control methane leaks, employs 44 people in California’s 38th district. As a subsidiary of the larger US energy services company John Crane, it is poised to grow even larger if the need for more methane mitigation technologies increases. Read More »

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The Solution to Accurate Energy Data May Be Closer Than We Think

By: Karan Gupta, student at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment

karan guptaAs Lord Kelvin famously said, "If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it." Here at 77 West Wacker, despite extensive metering relative to comparable buildings, we have found a lack of visibility into energy consumption data is one of the greatest barriers to implementing energy conservation measures (ECMs).

The need for detailed energy consumption data

Ideally, building equipment and tenants should be sub-metered. It might be overkill to meter every individual piece of equipment, but if all supply fans, or all water pumps, or all chillers were grouped on a single meter, understanding building behavior would be greatly simplified. Tenants, on the other hand, are sub-metered. The issue is that building management and operations do not always have access to that data because tenant consent is required to view tenant usage data. Unfortunately, a consent form does not exist in our service area to allow that. The way tenants are currently billed assumes equal energy use on a square footage basis, and therefore, does nothing to promote energy efficiency. Knowing exactly how many kilowatt-hours are used by each tenant each month would allow building management to accurately bill those tenants, thereby incentivizing conservation on their part to reduce operating costs. As building managers around the country are charged with making their buildings more efficient, they will need the tools to do so. Read More »

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Upholding FERC Order 1000 Unlocks Efficiency and Spurs Clean Energy Solutions

Source: BranderGuard Flickr

Source: BranderGuard Flickr

Late last week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed an important Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Order, giving the agency a big win and aiding in the promise of a cleaner, smarter, and more efficient power grid.

By upholding FERC’s Order 1000, the court confirmed what many think is common sense: Because the power grid crosses state and utility boundaries, a coordinated planning approach to electricity transmission (that is, moving electricity from one place to another) is more efficient and cost effective than multiple entities planning in isolation.

Order 1000 opens the door for two big electrical grid improvements. First, the order helps spur a more efficient planning process, meaning less waste and better coordination in our energy system. Second, the order allows greater opportunity for clean energy resources like demand response, energy efficiency, and renewables. It does this, in large part, by ensuring that state policies like renewable portfolio standards are taken into account. Relying on more clean energy resources will improve air quality and the health of millions of Americans now harmed by dangerous air pollution while advancing our country’s energy independence and economic growth. Read More »

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

Women in Power: Managing California's Electric Grid Takes Nerves of Steel – and a Knack for Collaboration

WIPThis is the fourth in a series of posts about leading women in the power, environmental science, advocacy, policy, and business sectors. To see previous installments, please use the ‘Search’ field in the left sidebar to search for ‘Women in Power.’ 

Electricity touches nearly everything we do, but most of us never contemplate what happens behind the scenes to make sure those electrons make it to our homes and businesses.

In California – just beyond the outlets, thermostats, and light switches – are more than 40,000 miles of interconnected power lines, some 1,000 generation facilities with more than 55,000 megawatts of capacity, and some of clean energy’s most brilliant women in the control room.

Karen Edson is one of them and she’s helping reshape California’s electric grid at a critical time.

A new energy reality

A widespread drought and persistently high temperatures are taxing the state’s legacy energy system – from its hydropower to its intricate web of transmission lines. At the same time, record-levels of renewable generation are flowing into the grid. Read More »

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

EDF is Calling for More Demand Response in California and Why You Should Too

Source: North America Power Partners

Source: North America Power Partners

This week the California State Assembly will consider Senate Bill 1414 (Wolk). What’s so exciting about SB 1414? This bill will accelerate the use of demand response (DR), a voluntary and cost-friendly program that relies on people and technology, not power plants, to meet California’s rising electricity needs.

DR programs compensate people and businesses who volunteer to use less electricity when supplies on the power grid are tight and/or to shift energy use when cleaner, renewable resources are available. Every time a customer participates in lowering their energy use through demand response, they are rewarded with a credit on their electricity bill.

The implementation of demand response will help catalyze a much needed upgrade to our outdated grid, whose fundamental design hasn’t been updated since Thomas Edison invented it over a century ago. Demand response can empower participants to lower their electricity bills and carbon footprints, improve air quality, allow for more renewable electricity, and enhance electric grid reliability. In a tree of options for modernizing and cleaning up our energy system, demand response is a low-hanging-fruit. Read More »

Posted in California, Clean Energy, Demand Response, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid| Comments closed

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