Energy Exchange

The Cheapest Way to Cut Climate Pollution? Energy Efficiency

This blog post was co-authored by Kate Zerrenner, an EDF project manager and expert on energy efficiency and climate change.

On June 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made a historic announcement that will change how we make, move and use electricity for generations to come.

For the first time in history, the government proposed limits on the amount of carbon pollution American fossil-fueled power plants are allowed to spew into the atmosphere.

There are two clear winners to comply with the plan while maintaining commitment to electric reliability and affordability: energy efficiency and demand response.

We’re already seeing pushback from some of our nation’s big polluter states, such as West Virginia and Texas. But the truth is that while the proposed limits on carbon are strong, they’re also flexible.

In fact, the EPA has laid out a whole menu of options in its Clean Power Plan – from power plant upgrades, to switching from coal to natural gas, and adopting more renewable energy resources. States can choose from these and other strategies as they develop their own plans to meet the new standards.

That said, there are two clear winners on the EPA’s menu that offer low-cost options for states that seek to comply with the plan while maintaining their commitment to electric reliability and affordability: energy efficiency and demand response. Read More »

Posted in California, Clean Energy, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

Is Residential Solar on the Rise in Texas?

iStock_Solar_InstallerLast week, I wrote about the continued success of Texas’ wind energy industry, but the growth in solar is also impressive. Nationally, solar energy accounted for 74 percent of all new electric generation in the first quarter of 2014. Plus, residential solar installations surpassed commercial projects for the first time in history earlier this year. This is significant, proving that more homeowners are making the switch and investing in a cleaner energy supply.

According to the Center for American Progress, “more than 60 percent of solar installations are occurring in zip codes with median incomes ranging from $40,000 to $90,000." This is an important revelation as the price of solar comes down quickly, projected to be cost-competitive with fossil fuels by 2020, more homes can and will add solar panels. In fact, experts expect more than half of all American homebuilders to offer rooftop solar as an option in new single-family homes by 2016. That’s a significant uptick from just 12 percent in 2013.

These findings make clear that people are taking their energy use into their own hands, highlighting the power of people in the new energy landscape, where customer-centric demand-side resources – rooftop solar, energy efficiency, demand response (which compensates electricity customers for conserving energy), electric vehicles, and energy storage- will play a key role. I discussed this trend in a radio interview with Voice of Russia a few weeks ago in a segment entitled Whole Home Automation: Promising for Consumers and Climate. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Texas | Tagged , | Comments closed

Women in Power: These Women Won't Let the Clean Energy Revolution Pass their City By

WIPThis is the third 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.’  

For many communities across the country that remain overburdened with pollution, the promise of clean energy and livable cities is far from fulfilled. From Los Angeles to Atlanta, people aspire to live in clean, vibrant environments where their children can grow up healthy and safe.

Women often play a unique role in grassroots organizing, and they gain followers by connecting people’s aspiration for a more thriving community with the vision for a low-carbon, sustainable economy.

I recently met two such activists who possess the passion, charisma, and savvy needed to make sure that their communities are not left out of the clean energy revolution. They work tirelessly to bring the benefits and opportunities of this rapidly growing economy to the places where they live. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy | Tagged , | Comments closed

Clean Energy Finance 101

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Collections.

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Collections.

As innovative energy products and services come to market, so do new mechanisms to fund them. And existing funding options become more popular. This has resulted in a boom of finance jargon, especially regarding energy efficiency and renewable generation. Though many of the finance terms used in clean energy finance are similar to those used in traditional finance, it’s easy to get lost. We hope this glossary will help those in clean energy navigate the new and growing world of clean energy finance.

Asset Class: A grouping of similar types of investments that behave similarly in the marketplace and are subject to the same laws and regulations. Broad examples of asset classes include:

  1. Equities (also known as stocks) – assets that represent ownership of part of a company.
  2. Bonds – assets that guarantee a fixed payment stream.

Bonds are often further categorized based on structure or source of the payments. Examples of these subclasses include municipal, corporate and mortgage bonds. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Dynamic Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, On-bill repayment, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid | 2 Responses, comments now closed

In NJ Settlement, EDF Fights to Strengthen the State’s Energy Infrastructure

By Jukka Isokoski  via Wikimedia Commons

By Jukka Isokoski via Wikimedia Commons

The recent Energy Strong settlement between New Jersey regulators and Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G), the state’s largest utility, should help reinforce vulnerable energy infrastructure ahead of future severe storms. Last month, the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) agreed that customers could fund $1.2 billion in PSE&G improvements to New Jersey’s electric grid to make it more resilient and efficient. As a participant in the case, EDF was encouraged that PSE&G agreed to necessary changes to its grid to protect against more extreme weather events.

PSE&G, which had originally asked for $2.6 billion in storm-related hardening funds, submitted its Energy Strong proposal to regulators in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which knocked out electricity for a third of homes and businesses in the state for weeks.

The BPU denied EDF and other environmental organizations full intervener status, preventing us from mounting a full case that would have included expert witnesses on proven climate science and the increased likelihood of future superstorms, the pressing need to take aggressive action to make our existing electric and gas distribution grids more resilient, and the need to transition to a smarter, more decentralized energy system.  Although our status in the case was limited by the BPU’s decision, we managed to argue for and win some positives for the environment: Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Methane, Natural Gas, Smart Grid | 1 Response, comments now closed

Texas Wind Energy Continues to Blow Us Away

Source: katsrcool/Flickr

Source: katsrcool/Flickr

We have a lot to celebrate this Global Wind Day (June 15). Across the nation, wind energy accounted for almost one-third of new power capacity over the past five years and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) estimates that wind energy has the potential to double over the next few years.

Nowhere is the growth in wind energy more evident than in Texas, the nation’s top wind producing state. Texas' wind energy generation grew by 13% in 2013 and more than 60% of all wind projects under construction in the first part of the year were in Texas.

This success has been aided by the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), a modest tax credit for new facilities good for ten years after the wind farm’s start date. Like those received by the oil, gas, and nuclear industries, tax incentives help ignite growth in the market. EDF has strongly advocated for this incentive over the past few years.

Unfortunately, the breaks that oil and gas have received over the last 100 years are often (conveniently) ignored by those wanting to maintain the status quo, making the PTC a point of debate among politicians. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, General, Renewable Energy | Comments closed

Power Plant Rule a Tipping Point for Clean Energy Economy

powerplantruleFor those of us (and all of you) who’ve been urging the government to implement meaningful climate policy, the release yesterday of a plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants has been a long time coming. But it finally came.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon pollution rule for existing fossil-fueled power plants – also known as the Clean Power Plan – are a huge win for our climate.

We also think it could go down in history as the tipping point in our nation’s transition to a clean energy economy. Here’s why:

Old, dirty power plants will be retired

The nation’s fleet of coal-fired power plants is the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world. Placing carbon regulations on this source of electricity for the first time in history will transform our energy system. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models | Comments closed

EPA Hands Over the Keys with Clean Power Plan, California Already on Cruise Control

epaEPA’s Clean Power Plan, proposed today, is a roadmap for cutting dangerous pollution from power plants, and as with any map, there are many roads to follow. For this journey, states are in the driver’s seat and can steer themselves in the direction most beneficial to their people and to the state’s economy, as long as they show EPA they are staying on the map and ultimately reaching the final destination.

As usual, California got off to a head start, explored the territory, blazed a lot of new trails, and left a number of clues on how states can transition to a lower carbon future, and California’s successes are one proven, potential model for other states to follow. The state’s legacy of clean energy and energy efficiency progress is a big reason the White House and EPA could roll out the most significant national climate change action in U.S. history. Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, California, Cap and Trade, Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy | Comments closed

Clean Energy Conferences Roundup: June 2014

Source: National Retail Federation Flickr

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 June:

June 16-20: New York Energy Week, New York City, NY

Speaker: Rory Christian, Director, New York Clean Energy

  • New York Energy Week was founded by Energy Solutions Forum (ESF), an energy policy research and data company based in the New York City Accelerator for a Clean and Resilient Economy incubator, an anchor of New York’s energy startup community. New York Energy Week is an integral part of ESF’s founding mission to support investment and collaboration among the diverse sectors of the energy industry. The ongoing industry initiative culminates in a week of industry-generated events, all around New York City. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Conference Roundup | 1 Response, comments now closed

Connecticut’s Green Bank Gives Commercial PACE a $24 Million Boost

CEFIALast week, Connecticut’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (“CEFIA”), the state’s Green Bank, announced the sale of $24 million in loans for clean energy retrofits of commercial properties. The loans were originated through the state’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, which allows property owners to access 100 percent up-front financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements on their buildings.  Repayment is attached to a lien on the property tax bill, making PACE loans very attractive assets for investors.

According to Jessica Bailey, Director of PACE for CEFIA, “Connecticut’s PACE program is able to provide financing for commercial property owners to implement money saving clean energy projects. Without PACE, most of these property owners might not have access to attractive financing and these projects would not be completed.” Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Investor Confidence Project, On-bill repayment, Renewable Energy | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed