FirstEnergy, the giant Ohio-based company that owns power plants and transmission lines in several midwestern and northeastern states, is ready to raise electricity prices for its customers. This is in part because three of its oldest coal-fired power plants are set to close, but also because of a few bad business bets.
Though finally shuttered this week, the three plant closures were announced in January 2012 so FirstEnergy could take advantage of a power auction planned by PJM Interconnection, the power grid operator in the Mid-Atlantic region. That auction determines the most efficient power plants to serve this region for the next three years.
By taking these old and dirty units out of the auction, FirstEnergy was able to push up prices for its other power plants.
At the time, environmentalists argued FirstEnergy should account for the efficiency gains that would result from state-mandated programs. Lower demand for electricity caused by efficiency improvements would have reduced the auction price for power. Although such energy efficiency is typically “bid” into PJM auctions in the same way coal or nuclear energy is, FirstEnergy refused. Read More
With time-variant pricing, people can choose to run their dishwashers at times of day when electricity is less expensive.
New York cemented its reputation as a national leader in energy policy last year when it announced plans to revamp the way utilities are regulated in order to establish a 21st-century energy system. But the state is still trailing in one crucial area: More than 99% of its homes have antiquated meters that tell utilities nothing more than how much electricity customers use each month. To achieve its ambitious goal of an energy revolution, the state should embrace a technology—advanced meters—that empowers New Yorkers to cut their energy use during times of the day when it matters most.
A key component of the smart grid, advanced meters provide detailed electricity-use data throughout the day. This information reduces inefficiencies in the energy system and leads to quicker detection of power outages. Such improvements reduce the costs of operating the power grid, resulting in lower electricity prices.
Advanced meters, also known as two-way-communicating Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), or "smart meters" (which can both send and receive information such as electricity prices and energy usage), enable pricing that incentivizes customers to use electricity when it is cheaper and cut back when it is expensive. This time-variant pricing reduces congestion on the power grid, ultimately lowering costs for everybody. But, without advanced meters measuring electricity use in short time intervals, it's impossible for utilities to bill on a time-variant basis. Read More
Source: via Wikimedia Commons
Microgrids are getting a lot of attention. Yet how they’re developed could dramatically alter today’s electricity system.
At the most obvious level, microgrids could disrupt today’s utilities and their regulated-monopoly business model, because they challenge the centralized paradigm. In a nutshell, microgrids are localized power grids that have the ability to disconnect from the main, centralized grid to operate independently when the main power grid experiences disturbances. This significantly boosts grid resilience. For almost a century, large centralized power plants have generated electricity and delivered that energy over high-voltage transmission lines to customers. But with microgrids, all that could change.
Less obviously, microgrids challenge the basic assumption that the power grid must be controlled by a monopoly electric utility. Multiple microgrids on the south side of Chicago, for example, could be owned by different entities (not just a utility or even a platform provider, which would provide an exchange between customers and distributed energy generators) with contract arrangements among them controlling the sharing of power. Put another way, microgrids open the distribution system to some level of competition and, thereby, engage entrepreneurs and advance innovation. Read More
How does 15 percent measure up?
If you’re talking about a baseball batting average, 15 percent puts you on the first fast and joyless train to Mudville. If you’re talking about return on savings with today’s interest rates, 15 percent has you laughing all the way to the bank.
If, however, you’re talking about America’s share of a $1.3 trillion global clean energy market, as Advanced Energy Economy recently reported, that 15-percent figure, while not too shabby, merits further consideration about how we got here – and where we should be heading.
Advanced energy market grew a whopping 14%
Sure, the “advanced energy market” is a broad term, but that’s because it’s a broad market.
There is enough solar energy potential in Texas to power the world twice over. Yet currently we rank 10th in the nation (behind New Jersey) with 330 megawatts (MW), which is enough to power about 57,000 homes. Texas is a state of almost nine million households. That's a lot of rooftops, and when you add the number of commercial and industrial rooftops, parking lots, and garages, we are talking about a significant amount of surface area.
Meanwhile, the cost of solar panels has dropped 80 percent since 2008 and prices for rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems have declined markedly in recent years, dropping 29 percent from 2010 to 2013. Moreover, jobs in the solar industry are booming –SolarCity is hiring significantly more people than leading tech companies like Twitter.
So, what will it take to energize rooftop solar growth in Texas? Well, a recent announcement from one of Texas' “frenemies” may be part of the solution. Read More
By: Tom Murray, Vice President, Corporate Partnerships Program
A company’s public statements matter – they can influence consumer choice, sway public policy decisions, and demonstrate leadership on important issues. But in terms of actual change, it’s where a company puts its money that really matters. This week, Bank of America (BoA) spoke with both its voice and wallet: At its shareholder meeting last week, the bank announced a new coal policy that continues the company's commitment to reducing its exposure to coal extraction companies and accelerating the transition from a high-carbon to a low-carbon economy.
According to BoA, its portfolio has grown to favor renewable energy over coal by a ratio of more than three-to-one. That’s an important step forward toward a clean, low-carbon energy future. And, it’s one that builds on moves by other institutions, like the recent news from Goldman Sachs about how the company is looking to divest some of its mining interests and Citi’s recent 10-year, $100-billion commitment toward investments in areas like energy efficiency, renewable energy, green affordable housing, and climate change resiliency projects. Read More