Source: Paul Cross, https://flic.kr/p/7AU7PK
Like many relationships, the one between utilities and their customers can be complicated. Sure, they’ve been together for decades, but no longer are customers satisfied with a distant, disengaged power company selling them more and more megawatts.
As the utility business model evolves into one based on diverse energy services, utilities must find ways to prioritize and improve their customer relationships if they hope to thrive in the new energy economy.
What do customers really want?
It doesn’t take years of market research to discover that utility customers enjoy saving money. But just as important as a low price for power – if not more so – is a genuine feeling of power. Just ask Dr. Philip Lewis of global energy think-tank VassaETT, who has researched the subject for years. His findings show that customers want to be in control of their energy behavior. They want market transparency and predictable rewards for their choices. The bottom line, says Lewis, is that customers want to feel like equals with their electricity suppliers, not captives. Read More
Source: Nick Cross/Gurit
By: Karin Rives, EDF Editorial Manager
The United States is expected to spend some $2 trillion over the next two decades upgrading its aging power grid. That spells opportunity for a nation that has always chosen innovation over business as usual.
In a recent op-ed piece in Power Magazine, Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp describes how the United States is now laying the groundwork for a clean energy economy through policies and market forces that are beginning to work in tandem to accelerate change.
The landmark Clean Power Plan that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed in June places the first-ever limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, giving states the incentive to shift to cleaner energy sources and the freedom to design their own paths to compliance. Read More
Everyone agrees that burning off as much as a third of the natural gas produced in North Dakota is a terrible waste of an important natural resource. The flaring problem arises out of the fact that energy companies are primarily drilling for oil in North Dakota. A lot of natural gas comes out of those very same wells, though; and since the infrastructure isn’t in place to take that gas to market, companies end up flaring gas as a “waste” byproduct of oil production.
This isn’t a problem that can be fixed overnight. Building the gathering systems, processing capacity and transmission pipelines to get this gas to market requires major planning and investment. But we also have to recognize that in a capital-constrained world, the incentive is for companies to put their next dollar toward the next oil well – not toward lower-return (but still lucrative) investments in gas infrastructure. If a company’s bottom line was all that mattered, that might be fine. But we have other issues at play here.
Flaring natural gas undermines national energy security, has negative impacts on the region’s air quality, results in unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and represents millions of dollars of lost revenue for the state, local governments, schools and mineral estate owners. In fact, in 2012 alone, flaring resulted in the waste of around $1 billion in fuel – or enough gas to heat more than a million homes.
By: Sean Wright, Senior Analyst, Corporate Partnerships
Source: Ash Waechter
Environmental concerns about methane emissions continue to grow as more people understand the negative climate implications of this incredibly potent greenhouse gas. Now the financial community is taking note of not only the environmental risks but the impact of methane emissions on the oil and gas industry’s bottom line. Methane leaks not only pollute the atmosphere, but every thousand cubic feet lost represents actual dollars being leaked into thin air—bad business any way you look at it.
Last week the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)—a collaborative effort aimed at improving corporate performance on environmental, social and government issues—released their provisional accounting standards for the non-renewable resources sector, which includes oil and gas production.
These accounting standards guide companies on how to measure and disclose environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks that impact a company’s financial performance. Their work highlights the growing demand amongst investors and stakeholders for companies to report information beyond mere financial metrics in order to provide a more holistic view of a company’s position.
Source: CEB Blogs, executiveboard.com
Last month, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) announced it would seek rehearing of a recent US Court of Appeals decision, which changes how demand response providers are compensated in wholesale energy markets. The court’s decision was a setback for demand response, a clean energy resource used by utilities and electric grid operators that pays people to conserve energy during periods of peak or high demand.
Demand response balances stress on the electric grid by reducing demand for electricity, rather than increasing supply. This makes our grid more efficient, reduces harmful air emissions from fossil fuel plants, and keeps electricity prices lower. The court decision is significant because it invalidates FERC Order 745. This Order required that demand response be fairly valued in the wholesale energy market, allowing it to compete on a level playing field with more traditional electricity resources, like coal and natural gas. Read More
Workers install solar panels on a home in Austin's Mueller neighborhood, a project of Pecan Street Inc.
As I stroll through the Mueller neighborhood in Austin, TX, I see parks, fountains, two-door garage homes – absolutely nothing out of the ordinary – just your average suburban neighborhood. But I know better.
Under the surface of this community lives the most “connected” network of energy customers in the country. Mueller is the launching site for Pecan Street Inc.’s living smart-grid research project and, according to a recent issue of Time Magazine, America’s Smartest City.
The Time article features homeowners who generate and make money on their solar panels, while enjoying access to minute-by-minute energy use data. It shows their sense of stewardship and empowerment.
The story does a good job summarizing the mission of Pecan Street, of which Environmental Defense Fund is a founding member and environmental partner. But the author misses one important point when he writes: “The rest of America may never realize Mueller’s vision for the future.”
The truth is, we have cause for a lot more optimism than that. We believe that the Mueller model is scalable and EDF is working hard to make sure the rest of the country can also enjoy the benefits of a smarter, cleaner home. Read More
Source: National Retail Federation Flickr
Each month, the Energy Exchange rounds up a list of top clean energy conferences around the country. Our list includes conferences at which experts from the EDF Clean Energy Program will be speaking, plus additional events that we think our readers may benefit from marking on their calendars.
Top clean energy conferences featuring EDF experts in July:
July 1: Alliance to Save Energy Congressional Briefing, Washington, DC
Speaker: Elgie Holstein, Senior Director for Strategic Planning
- This summer the Alliance to Save Energy will be bringing Energy 2030 to Capitol Hill, hosting a series of congressional briefings focused on the three pillars of Energy 2030 – invest, modernize, and educate. The briefings will invite elected officials and their staff to speak with Alliance Associates and Energy 2030 supporters about innovative financing mechanisms (June), high-performance buildings (July) and benchmarking, rating & disclosure (August). Read More
Resiliency+ is a new blog series, which highlights the ways in which different clean energy resources and technologies can play an important part in increasing energy resiliency in New Jersey and around the country. Check back every two weeks, or sign up to receive Energy Exchange blog posts via email.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) describes demand response as “changes in electric usage by end-use customers from their normal consumption patterns in response to changes in the price of electricity over time, or to incentive payments designed to induce lower electricity use at times of high wholesale market prices or when system reliability is jeopardized.”
There is quite a bit to unpack in that definition, but put simply, demand response is little more than a way of financially motivating customers to reduce their energy use when electricity is particularly scarce and expensive or when the wires are overburdened (check out EDF’s other blog posts and resources that go into more detail). The end result is a more efficient electric grid which is less overbuilt and less dependent on inefficient fossil-fuel plants that are often uneconomic to operate and highly polluting, but may be called upon when all else fails. Read More
Courtesy RF, iStock
This week, during a special hearing by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, legislators gathered a cross-section of industry, policy, and environmental leaders to testify about the economic impacts of increased natural gas development. I was one of the witnesses, on behalf of Environmental Defense Fund, arguing that natural gas can only be a net winner for the economy if government acts fast to limit the impacts of new hydrocarbon development on air, water, and the global climate.
There is no question that unconventional gas development is lowering energy costs, creating new jobs, and supporting more domestic manufacturing. But it also poses real and substantial risks to public health and the environment – as well as a growing threat to the industry’s social license to operate. Continued expansion of U.S. gas development must be balanced with a strong commitment to protect against these impacts.
The congressional committee of both senators and representatives exhibited sharply differing perspectives on expanding natural gas regulation. The core question before all levels of government is whether the appropriate steps are being taken to implement and enforce the regulations necessary to minimize the risks. The answer: not yet.
The significant growth that we have seen in the past year in green/climate bond issuances – $11.4 billion in 2013 and an estimated $40 billion in 2014 – strongly suggests a threshold market acknowledgement of the enormous potential in these instruments. Growth in the market and a rapid increase in the volume of climate/green bonds strongly suggest that we are approaching a broad yet fundamental market acceptance of this new asset class. If so, it is important that we begin to shift gears and move from proving the model to creating the market infrastructure that incorporates meaningful standards to support a wider and more liquid market for climate/green bonds.
Green bonds and climate bonds are issued to pay for environmental projects. These are often issued by large institutions, such as World Bank, Bank of America, and Toyota that invest in both environmental and non-environmental projects. However, the proceeds from these bonds are invested exclusively in environmental projects. Many, but not all green bonds are climate-focused. Climate bonds, however, are totally linked to assets that encourage a rapid transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient economy. Read More