Selected category: Smart Grid

Learn for Yourself about the Power of a Connected Home + Event Invitation

It wasn't long after my husband connected our first smart home device, a Nest Learning Thermostat, that I noticed a change.

Each time he walked by this new gadget, he would stop and do a little dance. He was interacting with this new friend, and it was a purely emotional response. He even insisted we repaint our wall to better showcase the Nest Thermostat, though he never suggested that for our artwork. Not only was our home connected, but now our hearts were in it.

This was no ordinary smart device. The Nest Thermostat gave us a sense of power, control, and freedom. And it said “hi” to us with its shining light as we approached. The best thing was the money we were saving by lowering our electricity bill, because we could now make sense of how we were using our air conditioning. This also helped reduce our carbon footprint. Read More »

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In Austin, Clean Energy Innovators Are Helping to Alleviate Energy Poverty

Source: Gridmates

Source: Gridmates

At Environmental Defense Fund, we advocate for policymakers, utilities, and other decision makers to design programs and support policies that enable everyone to benefit from a clean energy future, especially low-income families who are disproportionately affected by pollution from power plants. Recently, in Texas, a new innovation caught our eye that brings this concept to life.

This post is an interview with Gridmates CEO George Koutitas, who is harnessing the Internet, crowdsourcing, and generosity to bring light and warmth into homes that otherwise wouldn’t have power. 

What is energy poverty? In the U.S. and Texas, how many live without electricity or struggle to pay for their electricity bill each month?

In the U.S., approximately 48 million people are at or below the poverty line and may be suffering from energy poverty, meaning they cannot afford to pay for electricity and other utilities. In Texas, more than 4.6 million people are living in energy poverty. These are low-income families and, in some occasions, they owe a $5,000 accumulated debt to utilities. This debt often leads to energy service disconnections, leaving families without heat and power. Thankfully, in 2014, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provided energy assistance to roughly 6.9 million households nationwide, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Read More »

Also posted in Solar| Tagged | Comments are closed

Military Experts in Texas Call for Plan of Action on Climate Change

By: Marita Mirzatuny and Kate Zerrenner

National Guard responding to flood emergencies.  Source:  flickr/DVIDSHUB

National Guard responding to flood emergencies.
Source: flickr/DVIDSHUB

When the U.S. military calls climate change a “threat multiplier” and “a serious threat to national security,” it makes anyone stand up and pay attention. From direct land impacts and food and water shortages, to the displacement of millions of people, climate change is not taken lightly by our armed forces.

Earlier this week, two military experts, Lt. Gen. Ken Eickmann (USAF, Ret.) and British Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti (Royal Navy, Ret.), testified at a Texas House International Trade & Intergovernmental Affairs Committee Hearing and later at an event hosted by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law and the British Consulate-General University at University of Texas' LBJ School. As a senior research fellow at the University of Texas at Austin's Energy Institute and Former UK Foreign Secretary Special Representative for Climate Change, Eickmann and Morisetti, respectively, bring a level of trust and confidence to this issue, disarming the politics, if just for a moment, and replacing it with pragmatic duty.

Eickmann and Morisetti’s message was loud and clear: We need to diversify our energy options and shift more toward a clean energy economy. The potential for Texas is boundless. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, Climate Change, Legislation| Tagged | Comments are closed

What the Water Sector Could Learn from the Electric Side

Source: Flickr/Hammer365

Source: Flickr/Hammer365

Each year, the nation wastes an estimated two trillion gallons, or about 14 to 18 percent, of its treated water through leaks alone. That’s a lot of water – enough to fill over three million Olympic-size swimming pools.

We know smart water meters are a critical component to better understanding our water use, but smart meters are only one part of the equation. What we really need is a smart water system.

A more intelligent system could not only help water providers and people better understand their use and how to adjust their behavior accordingly, but it could make the entire treatment and delivery of water more efficient. Plus, system-wide data could make daily water use and associated cost accessible – not an end-of-the-month billing surprise – enabling residents to make more informed decisions and utilities to waste less water.

Energy and water are connected, but they may need different solutions

The energy sector has learned a lot about the smart grid, and put a great deal of its research into practice. And, compared to the water sector, the electricity sector is pretty far along with its smart meter roll-out and understanding of all the information points across the system. For instance, in Texas, more than 3.5 million smart water meters have been installed, compared with approximately 17 million electric smart meters. But, while much of the smart electric grid findings are valuable in relation to the water sector, there are clear differences.  Read More »

Also posted in Energy-Water Nexus, Pecan Street, Utilities| Tagged | Comments are closed

What Do the ERCOT Reports Really Say about Texas' Cleantech Market?

Electric power linesThe Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages 90 percent of Texas’ electric grid, has been busy. In the last two months of 2014, the agency released two very lengthy reports examining the future of a lower-polluting power grid in light of upcoming EPA clean air protections, in particular the Clean Power Plan. As the media described it, the reports did not provide the rosiest of outlooks for costs to Texans or electric reliability. But I think they are looking at the reports the wrong way.

The electric grid is changing. Innovative technologies – many of which are created right here in Texas – are lowering electricity bills and increasing energy independence. They are disrupting the way we produce and use electricity and they are changing the way ERCOT looks at grid reliability – albeit not in these two reports.

Cleantech entrepreneurs are at the helm of deciding Texas’ (and, let’s face it, America’s) energy future. And there are quite a few market opportunities outlined in the reports, if you look closely. Here are a few hidden in the report, plus other trends to keep an eye on: Read More »

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, Energy Efficiency, Environmental Protection Agency, ERCOT, Renewable Energy, Utilities, Wind| Tagged | Comments are closed

Energy Management Can Empower Everyone Regardless of Income Level

Source: Verizon

Source: Verizon

The holidays are upon us. As we prepare to gather with our friends and family, eat too much, and lounge around watching football, many people use this time to reflect on what they are grateful for. Being able to pay one’s electricity bill probably doesn’t make most people’s list, but for many Americans, it might.

The average household spends $1,945 annually on electricity, and homes with the lowest 20 percent of income spent nearly six percent of their income on energy bills. For many households, the cost of energy remains unaffordable. To put it in perspective, compared to middle- or upper-class homes, low-income households spend about twice the percentage of their income on energy. Yet, as Greentech Media points out, “many [energy management] solutions are tailored to the biggest homes, those awash in thousands of square feet of central air with a pool pump. Other solutions are tailored for middle-class homes, such as aggressive rebates for more efficient appliances. Many apartment-dwellers, however, do not own their major appliances."

The future of smart home, energy-saving technologies is often more focused on affluent, early-adopters who benefit from innovative ways to save energy because they can afford the newest gadgets. Thankfully, these people are using their buying power to lead the way, as more demand will bring prices down for everyone. While it is important for all of us to conserve and better manage energy use, low-income individuals have the most to gain. Yet the technologies that can enable savings are often out of financial reach. Read More »

Also posted in Energy Efficiency, Pecan Street| Tagged , | Comments are closed
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    Christina WolfeChristina Wolfe
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