California’s three major utilities – Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) – have proposed plans to move Californians to electricity prices that vary with the time of day. Time-of-use pricing, or TOU, is critical to aligning our energy use with times when clean, cheap electricity powered by sunshine and wind is already available. TOU works because electricity is cheap when it can be powered by renewable resources and more expensive during times of peak (high) energy demand. As with any shopping, knowing prices empowers people to choose wisely to save money.
New research from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab estimates TOU rates could collectively save customers up to $700 million annually by 2025 by getting the most out of our solar and wind resources. They find that absent TOU rates, we will waste up to 12 percent of existing renewable generation capacity, and solutions like TOU can reduce this waste by six-fold. We at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) estimate that if this clean electricity were instead provided by natural gas power plants, it would generate 8 million additional tons of greenhouse gas pollution each year. Burning gas when we could instead rely on clean energy would dramatically impede the 11 million tons per year of greenhouse gases we need to eliminate from our economy to reach California’s 2050 environmental goals.
The three big utilities are half-way through “opt-in” pilot programs that test these new rates. They’ve just submitted plans to the California Public Utilities Commission to test automatically switching some people to TOU in 2018, leading up to a complete roll out in 2019. TOU rates will work for most customers right away, reducing their bills and providing new opportunities to save money. Further, people can always opt out of the program. Read More
“What happened to oil in the late 1970s?” was a question assigned to me in elementary school to discuss with family over the Christmas holiday break. At the time, this question seemed innocent enough, and I didn’t know how my family would react about what I soon learned to be two oil embargos. Turns out when I brought it up one night, extended family members held a broad spectrum of views on the issue, and the question led to one of the most heated dinner arguments I can recall – until this year, at least. This holiday, family discussions focused on the presidential election. Fierce conversation ensued on standout topics. But, to my dismay, energy and the environment were just an afterthought.
While it is clear that these topics did not play a decisive role in the election, 2017 will nevertheless bring a new set of challenges for energy and environmental policy and elevate the conversation to a higher level. Progress we’ve made in the past few years, including environmental protections and the continuity of agencies that support them, are at risk of being undercut by the new administration, and policies that will protect future generations are at peril. At the federal level, the fight to stop climate change looks bleak.
As Environmental Defense Fund recently noted in California, Illinois, Maryland, and Ohio, clear and deliberate leadership at the state and local levels will become even more important to advance clean energy goals. Fortunately, New York’s history of advancing favorable environmental policies have resulted in valuable lessons that can be adapted and implemented in other states to increase economic development, create jobs, decrease pollution, and improve the quality of life of people throughout the country. Read More
Market forces and technology are increasingly making old, dirty power plants uneconomic, which creates an opportunity for clean energy progress and cleaner air. However, outdated rules and entrenched interests can complicate the path to a healthier energy economy, as evidenced by a new settlement in Ohio.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) recently approved an American Electric Power (AEP) settlement that contains both promising and discouraging components.
The PUCO decision forces AEP to reconsider its ownership of power-generating plants. Realizing old coal-fired units can no longer compete against newer natural-gas and renewable facilities in deregulated markets, AEP suggests it faces two options, one being to ask Ohio legislators to overturn the state’s deregulation law, allowing AEP to return to the less-risky days of guaranteed profits on any of its power plants.
However, a recent study by Ohio State University and Cleveland State University found that the competition enabled by deregulation allowed Ohio customers, businesses, and industries to save $15 billion on electricity over the past four years and is expected to save the same amount by 2020. If the state were to return to a regulated system, Ohioans could miss out on those billions of savings. Read More
Oil and gas methane emissions in Pennsylvania. Image source: Environmental Protection Agency
Recently the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) took an important first step to implement new requirements aimed at reducing methane emissions from new oil and gas operations.
Methane is the main component of natural gas – 51% of Pennsylvania households depend on it to fuel their homes. The more methane is wasted, the less there is to deliver to the PA communities that depend on it. Read More
By Jon Goldstein and Peter Zalzal
The legal fight to defend the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) recent efforts to prevent oil and gas companies from wasting methane on public and tribal owned land continued yesterday.
EDF and a coalition of local, regional, tribal and national allies filed a brief opposing efforts by industry organizations and a handful states to block BLM’s protections before they even come into effect. Read More
The need to plan for and design a more efficient, cleaner, and resilient electricity grid has never been greater. Our aging grid is ill-prepared to keep pace with rapid technological advances and an increasingly distributed, dynamic energy system. A greater number of customers are producing electricity themselves, demanding expanded energy choice and a more interactive relationship with their utilities. In the meantime, an increased number of severe storms in recent years keep pressing the need for resilience. In order to meet these challenges, we need to look beyond traditional planning solutions for how we make, use, and distribute electricity.
This year has seen a flurry of activity on grid modernization in states across the U.S. As 2016 comes to a close, the spotlight is on Maryland as it joins the ranks of states investigating how to transform our electric system. Read More