Selected tags: Energy Efficiency

Governor Cuomo Announces $40 Million in Post-Sandy Microgrid Competition

Rory Christian PhotoSince Superstorm Sandy stranded thousands without power across the state of New York in 2012, it has become clear that infrastructure upgrades are a necessity for the state. The current, outdated energy system is not up to the challenges of the present day and a changing climate. A year after Sandy, New York has a plan. Last week during his State of the State Address, Governor Cuomo announced the allocation of $40 million to the new Community Grids NYPrize Competition, a program which promises to help New York achieve a more sustainable, resilient energy future.

The competition, aimed at jump-starting at least ten “independent, community-based electric distributions systems” across the state by the end of 2014, is a highlight of a larger $17 billion plan to prepare for future storms like Sandy. Upon full implementation, the NYPrize Competition Community Grids are expected to support approximately 40,000 New York residents.

A “community microgrid” is a new type of energy system that leverages decentralized, local, clean power sources such as solar and wind that are able to operate independently of the centralized electric system. Microgrids are small-scale distribution systems that link multiple distributed energy resources (DERs) into a network that can generate, store and control its own power. Microgrids can operate in tandem with the main power grid during normal conditions, but can disconnect and function as an independent “island” of stable power if the main grid fails. The use of microgrids greatly reduces the number of outages and allows more people to keep their lights on during (and in the wake of) extreme weather events.  Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, New York, Smart Grid| Also tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed

80% Electricity from Renewables? It’s Possible, but Policy Prevents It

Paul Stinson

This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.

If renewable energy is a good thing, then a lot of renewable energy is a very good thing, right? Not exactly, according to recent articles in the L.A. Times and Forbes about challenges posed by the growth of renewables.  But, as we’ve pointed out, the issue here is not too much renewable energy, but rather a vulnerable U.S. electric grid built for the last century.

It’s essential to remember the bigger picture in order to arrive at the truth of the matter: If we are to avoid catastrophic climate change, renewable energy is a vital part of the solution.  And while an unprecedented abundance of renewable power may raise complex questions about how to integrate these resources, it also underscores the need – and vast opportunity – for critical energy infrastructure improvements.  Our response as a nation should not be to shrink from the challenges of renewables, but rather to keep working toward a smarter, more resilient energy system to meet the needs of the 21st century and beyond.  Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid| Also tagged | Comments closed

Don’t Miss Three Important, Upcoming Webinars from EDF’s Investor Confidence Project

By: Matt Golden, Senior Energy Finance Consultant, Environmental Defense Fund

 

Nearly 40% of U.S. energy is consumed by both residential and commercial buildings, which emit more than a third of our country’s greenhouse gases. Realizing all of the available cost-effective energy efficiency savings would require roughly $279 billion of investment, resulting in more than $1 trillion in energy savings over ten years.

Environmental Defense Fund’s Investor Confidence Project (ICP) opens up energy efficiency to investment markets by laying the foundation necessary to enable organizations to tap into this vast potential. This means turning energy efficiency upgrades in the commercial building sector into an asset that can be bought and traded, much like stocks and bonds.  By developing a straightforward set of protocols that define a clear road-map for upgrades, ICP creates an investment-quality asset class whose risks and returns are transparent. Ultimately, large-scale adoption of the ICP framework will reduce transaction costs and engineering overhead, while increasing the reliability and consistency of savings.

ICP will be hosting a series of webinars targeted at specific stakeholders in the energy efficiency sector, and strongly encourage individuals and organizations interested in the future of the energy efficiency industry to attend.  With the assistance and feedback of industry leaders, investors and programs, ICP has developed a range of Energy Performance Protocols tailored to market needs and project types that will reduce transaction costs, manage performance risk and increase deal flow.  Our webinar schedule this fall will focus on how these protocols can create value for individual projects, organizations and the energy efficiency industry as a whole.

Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Investor Confidence Project| Also tagged , , | Comments closed

A New Day For Energy Efficiency In North Carolina

The North Carolina Utilities Commission issued an important ruling this week that reaffirms the importance of energy efficiency as the fastest and cheapest way to reduce pollution from fossil fuels, protect the health of our families and promote our economy.

The ruling approved a new “shared savings" program that allows Duke Energy to make favorable returns on energy efficiency investments, but only if the company saves their customers money in the process.  The shared savings model is the most common financial tool in the United States to encourage electric utilities to make energy efficiency investments.

The new program will motivate the utility to implement energy efficiency measures as broadly and cost-effectively as possible.  Duke’s investments, in turn, can help ensure a robust market for providers of energy efficiency goods and services.

The shared savings model also provides an additional financial incentive for Duke to achieve the voluntary energy savings it agreed to when the company merged with Progress Energy in 2012.  The merger agreement included a minimum 1% per year energy savings starting in 2014 and 7% cumulative energy savings over five years (from 2014-2018).  If the company achieves certain energy efficiency targets, it will receive a financial incentive.

Notably, the ruling requires Duke Energy to convene a stakeholder discussion on the feasibility of commercial and industrial on-bill repayment and combined heat and power programs, which will enable the commercial sector to achieve high levels of energy efficiency performance.

The commission's decision replaces Duke's avoided cost energy efficiency program, known as “Save-a-Watt.”  That program, which expires at the end of 2013, was successful in motivating Duke to make investments in energy efficiency.  In fact, the company exceeded its energy savings targets.  The downside: Save-a-Watt was overly complex for energy regulators and stakeholders.  In contrast, the new shared savings program is simple, transparent and will continue to expand Duke Energy’s energy efficiency investments.

EDF is pleased to see that the ruling incorporates all of the major elements of an agreement that we helped secure in August with Duke Energy, the Commission Public Staff, North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association and environmental colleagues.  We look forward to watching Duke Energy achieve its full energy efficiency potential.

Posted in Energy Efficiency, General, North Carolina, On-bill repayment| Also tagged , , | Comments closed

Setting the PACE on Clean Energy Finance

This commentary originally appeared on EDF's California Dream 2.0 blog.

I spend most of my time working to establish On-Bill Repayment programs that allow property owners to use their utility bill to repay loans for cost-saving energy efficiency or renewable energy upgrades.  Many of my colleagues work on a similar program known as Property Assessed Clean Energy (“PACE”), which uses the property tax bill for repayment.  Since both utility and property tax bills are usually paid, both PACE and OBR are expected to lower the cost and increase the availability of financing for clean energy projects.

Last week, I was invited to attend a meeting of the leading PACE program administrators, property owners and other market participants in the country — and was pleasantly surprised to learn how much progress is being made.

Connecticut launched their program in January and is expected to close $20 million of PACE transactions for commercial properties by year end.  The Toledo, Ohio area expects to have executed $18 million of commercial transactions by the end of 2013.  Sonoma County, with a population of less than 500,000, has already completed $64 million of financings for residential and commercial properties.  In late 2012, CaliforniaFIRST launched a PACE program for commercial properties that has already received 130 applications.

Read More »

Posted in California, Energy Efficiency, On-bill repayment| Also tagged , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

A State Race To Save Energy

Earlier this year, the Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy unveiled a plan to double nationwide energy productivity by 2030.  It’s an ambitious move to greatly increase our nation’s use of energy efficiency, which represents a huge – and largely untapped – opportunity.  Reducing wasted energy through efficiency cuts harmful pollution and saves people money on their energy bills.  After all, the cheapest, cleanest, most reliable electricity is the electricity we don’t have to use.

Source: Church Times

Similarly, the State Energy Race to the Top Initiative (Initiative) is an incentive for states to make voluntary progress to increase their energy productivity. The U.S. Senate is moving forward to make this idea a reality.  Originally introduced as a bill in June, the Initiative has now been filed as a potential amendment, sponsored by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Jon Tester (D-MT), to the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill.  If passed, the Initiative will stimulate energy innovation in both the public and private sectors, and allow states to tailor energy saving policies to their particular needs.

Administered by the Department of Energy (DOE), the Initiative will be broken into two phases.  In the first phase, following the submission of state proposals through their energy office, DOE selects 25 states to receive funding (a combined $60 million) to move their energy productivity concepts forward.  Although states have complete independence in developing and implementing their own clean energy strategies, the DOE will provide technical assistance upon request.  Eighteen months later, in the second phase, the 25 states will be asked to submit progress reports to DOE.  Based on their projects’ success, DOE will then select up to six states to receive a share of $122 million to continue their energy saving efforts.

Read More »

Posted in California, Energy Efficiency, General, Smart Grid, Texas| Also tagged , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Texas Boasts Most Modern Power Grid In The Country

In an effort to gauge where America’s power grid stands, Washington D.C.-based group GridWise Alliance evaluated grid modernization in 41 states and the District of Columbia.  Texas and California tied for first place—standing far above the next runner up.

So what makes Texas’ grid so special?

Texas restructured its electricity market in 1999, introducing competition into the retail electric market.  The new competitive retail market gave most Texans a choice of electricity providers from dozens of companies, so these energy providers compete to offer the most advanced services.  For example, Texans can opt for 100% renewable electricity from Green Mountain Energy.

Additionally, in an effort to update Texas’ electric grid, the Public Utility Commission, Texas’ governing body for electricity, passed a resolution prompting “wires companies”(the firms that deliver energy from power plants to homes and businesses) to invest in millions of smart meters.  Smart meters can help eliminate huge waste in the energy system, reduce peak energy demand (rush hour on the electrical wires) and spur the adoption of clean, low-carbon energy resources, such as wind and solar power, by managing energy demand and generation more efficiently.

Read More »

Posted in Climate, Smart Grid, Texas| Also tagged , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Austin Energy + Nest: Empowering Texans To Take Control Over Their Own Energy Use And Electric Bills

Source: Nest

If you have been following our Texas Energy Crunch campaign over the last year, you know that demand response (DR) can play a pivotal role in meeting Texas’ energy needs without relying on dirty, inefficient fossil fuels that pollute our air and consume much-needed water.  Simply put, demand response rewards those who reduce electricity use during peak (high energy demand) times, resulting in more money in peoples’ pockets, a more stable and reliable electric grid and less harmful pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants.

That said, fully harnessing DR in Texas homes has been a bit of a challenge, despite the high electricity prices that result from the scorching summer temperatures.  To understand the issue, it’s important to look at the obstacles emerging technologies often face.  I highlight some of these obstacles in a recent EDF Voices blog and will be diving deeper in future posts.  Namely, the infrastructure to fully enable residential DR adoption isn’t in place, yet.

Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Texas| Also tagged , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Aloha for Clean Energy Finance: A Tale of Two States

This commentary originally appeared on EDF's California Dream 2.0 blog.

For over two years, EDF has been working to establish an On-Bill Repayment program in California that would allow property owners to finance energy efficiency or renewable generation projects and repay the obligation through their utility bill.  Since utility bills tend to get paid and the obligation could ‘run with the meter’, defaults are expected to be low, which will improve the availability and reduce the cost of financing.  In May 2012, the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) agreed with our position and ordered the large utilities in California to develop a program for commercial properties.  EDF estimates that this program could generate $5B of investment over 12 years, which is expected to support 36,000 jobs.

Unfortunately, we are still waiting for the nonresidential OBR pilot in California to be implemented and if the utilities get their way, we may be waiting for close to another full year.  The California utilities appear to be fearful of change, distributed generation, and the impact of reduced demand.  They have employed aggressive tactics with teams of lawyers arguing and re-arguing every potential issue, even after the issues have presumably been settled by the CPUC.

This stands in sharp contrast to what is happening in Hawaii.  On March 25, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (“HPUC”) ordered the primary Hawaii utility, Hawaiian Electric Company, (“HECO”) to establish an OBR program for residential and commercial customers.  I just returned from 3 days in Honolulu and it appears that they are working cooperatively to get the program running in the first quarter of 2014.  This timetable of 12 months from HPUC order to implementation is less than half of what we seem to need in California, despite the fact that the Hawaii program covers a much broader range of property types and relies on public as well as private sources of financing.

Read More »

Posted in California, Energy Efficiency, On-bill repayment| Also tagged , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Rural Communities Need Extra Support In Light Of Energy And Water Constraints

Source: Winning Communities

Around 20% of the US population lives in an area that is classified as “rural.” The US Census Bureau defines an urban area as a territory with a population of at least 50,000, or a cluster of 2,500 to 50,000 people. Rural is then defined as anything outside of that definition. Rural areas face particular challenges when it comes to energy and water use. For example, utilities are met with higher costs and often find it harder to implement new clean technologies to modernize their energy infrastructure because of the great distances between customers and an irregular patchwork of reliable resources. Besides, many system planners and thought leaders for innovative energy technologies live in urban or suburban areas and may find it harder to relate to the specific challenges of rural settings.

It’s likely that climate change will impact rural communities in different ways than it will urban areas, due to a number of factors including the types of common occupations, poverty levels and demography. Of particular concern is the “climate gap”, which refers to the lower economic and physical adaptability of rural communities.  It will vary based on region, but research indicates that rural communities in the Southeast and Southwest could face particularly dire circumstances due to changes in electricity prices and water scarcity.

Read More »

Posted in Climate, Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus, Utility Business Models| Also tagged , , , | Comments closed