Energy Exchange

On World Water Day, Why Talk About Energy?

Source: UN Water

Source: UN Water

The theme of this year’s World Water Day on March 22nd is the “energy-water nexus,” and the timing couldn't be better. According to the United Nations (who first established World Water Day in 1993):

  • 780 million people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water.
  • 1.3 billion people worldwide lack access to electricity.
  • 90 percent of the power generation in the world comes from water-intensive fossil fuels.
  • As countries progress and develop, there is an increased risk of conflict between power generators, other water users, and environmental concerns.
  • By 2035, global water withdrawals for energy are predicted to increase by 20 percent, and water consumption for energy is expected to increase by 85 percent.

For the past year, I’ve been trying to bring awareness to the connection between energy and water in Texas, but this issue is much bigger than a single state. Energy and water are both basic components of life and economic progress, and they are also inextricably linked. Energy is used to secure, deliver, treat, and distribute water, while water is used (and often degraded) to develop, process and deliver energy. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus, Utility Business Models | Tagged | 2 Responses, comments now closed

White House Meeting on Climate Change Resilience Shows National Commitment

Source: The White House

Source: The White House

Today, the White House is hosting an event highlighting its commitment to boosting resilience among communities most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. EDF commends the White House for taking steps to make climate change preparedness and resilience a national priority, especially since this has mostly been a regional issue dealt with in areas affected by severe weather events, such as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

At the event, federal agencies, businesses, researchers, and academia, among others will discuss plans to use data-driven technologies and leverage freely available government data to develop products and services that will help the country better prepare for the effects of climate change. The event will showcase insights gathered from scientific data as well as cutting-edge technologies built by American innovators that are essential to better understanding and managing the risks posed by climate change. Read More »

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

PACE Financing for California’s Clean Energy Future, Part 1: Expanding the Residential Market

Scott_Hofmeister-287x377-228x300When it comes to protecting the environment and fighting climate change, California has always been a first mover.

Now the state is boldly acting to unleash a new market that saves energy, cuts pollution, and drastically increases clean energy investment for California’s residents.

Last week, California approved a $10 million reserve that will revive the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program for residential customers.

PACE allows customers to take advantage of energy saving upgrades to their home with no money down. Customers simply use a portion of their savings to pay off the investment over time through their property tax bill. Financing can be entirely provided by private lenders at no cost to taxpayers. Read More »

Posted in California, Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, On-bill repayment, Renewable Energy | Tagged | 2 Responses, comments now closed

‘Utilities 2.0’: The Future May Be Sooner Than We Think

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Last month, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel called “Utilities 2.0: The Role of Distributed Generation and Demand Response in Evolving Utility Business Models.” The topic may sound esoteric, but to the more than sixty people in attendance, and at least fifty more watching online, the event, which was sponsored by clean energy networking group Agrion, offered insight into how these options will in a not-too-distant future revolutionize the way all of us consume electricity.

The energy industry is abuzz with talk of how distributed generation, which enables consumers to draw power from on-site sources, such as rooftop solar, and demand response, which rewards customers who use less electricity during times of peak demand, are transforming the electric utility industry. A once-in-a-generation paradigm shift is already in motion, and exactly how it will play out is anyone’s guess. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Dynamic Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models | 2 Responses, comments now closed

CPUC Singing the Right Tune on SONGS, But Southern California Still Needs to Harmonize to Achieve a Clean Energy Future

rp_Navarro_Lauren-228x300.jpgLast week, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) finalized an important decision for Southern California’s energy supply following the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). The plan emphasizes increased reliance on clean energy in this part of the state – an important step towards a fully realized low-carbon future.

The decision authorized San Diego Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison to procure at least 550 megawatts (MW) of ‘preferred resources,’ which include renewable energy, demand response (a tool that’s used by utilities to reward people who use less electricity during times of “critical,” peak electricity demand), energy efficiency, at least 50 MW of energy storage, and up to 1,000 MW of these resources altogether.

That’s a major step forward, as utilities across the country traditionally rely on large fossil fuel plants to meet regional demand. Read More »

Posted in California, Clean Energy, Demand Response, Dynamic Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Smart Grid | 6 Responses, comments now closed

Minnesota Advances First Statewide Plan to Fairly Value Rooftop Solar

rp_iStock_Solar_Installer-300x270.jpg

Most people do not typically associate Minnesota with abundant sunshine, but after a landmark decision by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) yesterday the sun is definitely shining on this snow-swept state. The PUC established the first statewide program to fairly value investments in rooftop solar electricity generation. I listened to a portion of the public meeting and oral arguments, which lasted several hours and demonstrated much thoughtful work. Through a refreshingly civil display of democracy and Midwestern hard work, state officials, utilities, and the solar and environmental community were able to hash out a method for valuing solar resources that are key to a clean energy future.

Yesterday’s decision dealt with the ongoing debate over how much solar power is worth to a utility, its ratepayers, society, and the environment. The PUC did not establish a set price for a statewide solar tariff, but rather the method to be followed when utilities calculate how much to pay for electricity generated by rooftop solar systems. Minnesota utilities will now have the option to file tariffs using this method instead of net metering, the more common but controversial and less scalable cousin of the “value-of-solar” (VOS) tariff.

Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Financing, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models | Tagged , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Latest EPA Greenhouse Gas Inventory May Not Reflect Full Scope of Oil and Gas Emissions

david-lyon-287x377The Environmental Protection Agency recently released its draft inventory of annual U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Reporting 2012 data, the inventory estimates methane emissions coming from natural gas and petroleum systems at around 7.6 million metric tons – that’s enough natural gas to provide energy to over 7 million homes annually. This new estimate when compared with last year’s report, which estimates emissions for the 2011 calendar year, shows overall methane emissions from natural gas and petroleum systems are 1.2 percent lower. Although this seems like good news, the new data is no cause for complacency, as it’s important to understand the cause of the changes which requires closer examination.

The draft inventory introduces some new methodological changes that reduce estimated emissions from previous years. The primary change was driven by the way EPA estimates emissions from gas well completions and workovers, the steps that follow hydraulic fracturing and clear liquids and sand from the well before production begins. Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, Climate, General, Methane, Natural Gas | 1 Response, comments now closed

Illinois Shows Clean Energy Leadership by Fast-Tracking the Smart Grid

SmartMeterIn a victory for Illinois residents and the environment, Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEdtoday formally proposed to the Illinois Commerce Commission an accelerated timetable for completing its deployment of four million smart meters. ComEd began installing smart meters last fall as part of the Energy Infrastructure and Modernization Act of 2011. With this proposal, the Illinois utility will complete its meter installation almost five years earlier than planned.

Modern, smart electricity meters are a key component of the smart grid. These devices help eliminate huge waste in the energy system, reduce overall and peak energy demand, and spur the adoption of clean, low-carbon energy resources, including wind and solar power. By enabling two-way, real-time communication, smart meters give every day energy users, small businesses, manufacturers, and farmers (and the electricity providers that serve them) the information they need to control their own energy use and reduce their electricity costs. Read More »

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

Will Texas Step Up to the Plate on Energy Efficiency and Carbon Pollution Standards?

Coal-Plant-225x3001A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about energy efficiency and the Clean Air Act section 111(d) provisions in anticipation of the SPEER Second Annual Summit, a gathering of top energy efficiency industry leaders from Texas and Oklahoma. At the Summit, I co-led a session on Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) push to regulate power plant emissions. Session attendees agreed that Texas would be an unlikely leader in developing innovative ways to comply with carbon pollution standards for existing power plants.

This is a missed opportunity on Texas’ part, as states will get the first crack at drafting plans to comply with new federal standards. This is an important opportunity because individual states are in the best position to craft frameworks that enable maximum flexibility and are appropriately tailored to local circumstances. So, this begs the question: is there an alternative, more constructive path that is most beneficial to Texas? Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Efficiency, Texas | Tagged , | Comments closed

New Database from Pecan Street, WikiEnergy, Promises to Reveal Important Energy Insights

Source: Trace3

Source: Trace3

As our society moves deeper into the realms of big data, at times it can seem overwhelming that our actions can generate millions of data points. Therefore, what we do with that data becomes crucial in the new energy landscape, as big data promises to improve our lives by unlocking innovation.

By 2015, 340 million smart meters will be supplying data to utilities worldwide, reading and reporting energy from 15-minute to 1-second intervals. For a medium-sized utility, with a half-million meters, that adds up to 52 billion data points a year. Utilities are not necessarily equipped to interpret this information, and insights can be lost.

Enter the newest arm of Pecan Street, Inc: WikiEnergy. Read More »

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