Since 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 The current, outdated energy system is not up to the challenges of the present day and a changing climate.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
This commentary originally appeared on EDF's California Dream 2.0 blog.
As the 8th largest economy in the world, California remains a global leader in clean tech investment, innovation and adoption of landmark climate and energy policies. What defines our success? Our ability to try things first, set the bar high, and get policies right.
California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is a perfect example of that bold, pioneering spirit. Passed in 2011, the RPS required that 33% of electricity come from renewables by 2020 – a lofty benchmark, even by California’s standards. Along with self-generation and solar rooftop programs, California is successfully adding solar, wind, and other distributed generation to its resource portfolio.
In fact, renewables are successfully becoming a large part of daytime energy production, the California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO) – the organization in charge of balancing the statewide grid – is concerned over how to make up for that energy when the sun goes down while evening energy demand spikes. The question is: How can the CAISO reliably integrate renewables?
The CAISO is currently figuring out how to address this need for “flexible” power and will have a draft decision out on October 2nd. Just like people prefer to take routes they know well when they drive, the CAISO is most comfortable with what they know: familiar fossil fuels. Using clean resources and demand response instead is new territory for them that will require careful orienteering.
Like the tide washing upon the shore, new technologies are gradually eroding electric utility revenues. These new products enable consumers to use cleaner energy and use it more efficiently. Electric utilities worry this trend will ravage their industry just as wireless technology convulsed the telecommunications industry. The utility industry urges its members to stem the tide by, among other things, increasing consumers’ net metering costs.
Net metering makes small-scale renewable energy, such as rooftop solar panels, more affordable by crediting the “distributed generation” owners for the excess energy they produce. The electric meter measures how much electricity flows back to the grid from the distributed generation unit. A corresponding credit is applied to the consumer’s monthly energy bill. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires public utilities to offer net metering to all consumers upon request.
Why the new focus on net metering? The cost for rooftop solar panels has fallen 80% since 2008, including 20% in 2012 alone. Installed rooftop solar energy has increased by 900% between 2000 and 2011. As consumers install more rooftop solar panels and net meter them, utility revenues will decrease. Read More
Back in March, I wrote about the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC’s) state-by-state attack on renewable energy. The attacks contribute to ALEC’s growing reputation as a “shadowy right-wing front group,” funded by the likes of Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy, the largest private-sector coal company in the world. ALEC’s legislative efforts were aided by the Heartland Institute, a “free-market think tank” and notorious climate change denier.
ALEC has a clear motive: to serve the interests of dirty fossil fuel power plants and block progress towards greater use of clean, homegrown energy.
I’m happy to announce that ALEC and the Heartland Institute’s efforts to roll-back individual state’s renewable energy goals decisively failed in legislatures spanning from West Virginia to Kansas. In total, 26 bills designed to remove renewable energy standards (RPS) for eight states were denied, according to a report from Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy.
Now, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin will continue on the path towards a clean energy future. Even better, some states increased their energy guidelines, namely Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland and Minnesota.
This news comes as a resounding victory for the climate, consumers, and Americans who care to see the U.S. progress into the global $ 2 billion clean energy economy. Read More