Monthly Archives: May 2012

When Utilities Embrace The Smart Grid, Customers And The Environment Win

By: Scott Robinson, EDF Energy Intern and Energy & Earth Resources Fellow at The University of Texas at Austin, Jackson School of Geosciences

Source: Greentech Media

Earlier this month, Greentech Media released their “Top Ten Utility Smart Grid Deployments in North America.”  These are utilities that deserve recognition—while most experts agree that bringing the transformative power of information technology to the grid is critical to achieving a clean, low-carbon economy,  being an early adopter means carrying a certain amount of risk.  A utility’s willingness to take on this risk demonstrates a long-term commitment to its customers.  EDF is championing well-designed smart grids as the path to abundant, cheaper and cleaner energy.  Because utilities will be responsible for building and operating this new “energy internet,” our push for smart grid innovation has led to productive partnerships with several of Greentech Media’s top ten.

In Austin, Texas, we are working with Austin Energy and the University of Texas, among others, to develop the Pecan Street smart grid demonstration project in the Mueller community: a real neighborhood and living laboratory that will allow researchers to better understand what smart grid will look like on the ground, as well as how individual technologies—from smart appliances to residential solar PV to electric vehicles—will interact to enable greater reliance on renewable and community-based resources.  For consumers, this means real-time insight into how they’re using energy and its true cost: understanding its source and emissions to help them make decisions that save money and shrink their environmental footprint.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, EDF is working with Duke Energy and others on the Envision Charlotte project to increase energy management in big downtown buildings, improve local air quality and reduce water consumption and waste in a concentrated urban area. We are helping to implement the use of smart grid technologies with the ultimate goal of reducing energy consumption by 20 percent in 60 high-rises over five years: through better information for building occupants about their energy use and tools enabling them to act on that insight.  Also, during the summer of 2011, two EDF Climate Corps fellows reviewed three buildings in Mecklenburg County (where Charlotte is located) and found energy efficiency measures that could save the county more than $500,000 in just five years.

In California, EDF has worked on multiple cutting-edge projects, including working directly with San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) – the nation’s most intelligent utility  – and developing a “scorecard ” to evaluate the Smart Grid Deployment Plans of California’s three largest investor-owned utilities’ – SDG&E, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) for their overall direction in meeting environmental and savings goals.  We will continue to drive the benefits from the smart grid for Californian’s utility bills, health and environment. 

To maximize environmental returns on these multi-billion dollar investments in grid modernization, it is critical that utilities develop holistic plans and build open platforms that give customers access to new energy saving technologies and “apps” and enable scale integration of renewables and electric vehicles.  Done right, the smart grid will drive the clean energy revolution we need—helping utilities reliably deliver power, securing our energy independence, increasing our ability to compete in the global clean energy market, growing our economy and empowering consumers—all while protecting our air, water, and health.  EDF is committed to finding ways that allow utilities and consumers to reap the benefits of their investment in the future.

Our partnerships with utilities have led to a greater understanding of the smart grid as an emerging solution to today’s environmental and electricity problems.  We look forward to continuing our work with these energy pioneers and expanding our partnerships to help other utilities get their projects off the ground.

Posted in Grid Modernization / Read 2 Responses

Energy Innovation Series Feature #5: Data Analytics From GridGlo

Throughout 2012, EDF’s Energy Innovation Series will highlight more than 20 innovations across a broad range of energy categories, including smart grid and renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency financing, and progressive utilities, to name a few. This series will demonstrate that cost-effective, clean energy solutions are available now and imperative to lowering our dependence on fossil fuels.
GridGlo uses “data fusion” to analyze and predict energy consumption behavior.  Find more information on this featured innovation here. 

The smart grid industry is more than a foundation for solar energy and electric vehicles. It is also a treasure trove of information that requires a much more sophisticated way to capture, analyze and use the billions of bytes of information that a modernized grid and its many components will generate.

Add to that the massive amounts of weather, social, emissions and other kinds of data already being collected and you can see that a smarter grid is going offer lots of job opportunities to data geeks and software engineers.

Media and analysts predict that the smart grid information sector will be a multi-billion dollar market and companies are already jockeying for big data market leadership, from established IT giants like IBM and energy hardware companies like Landys+Gyr, to tech-driven start-ups like Florida-based GridGlo.

GridGlo works with utilities to integrate energy usage and behavioral data using its unique software platform to identify, score and predict energy consumption behavior. One of its products, Energy People Meter™ (EPM), provides a real-time digital fingerprint of energy behavior patterns and creates score that helps utilities (and consumers) save energy and money.

“Utilities have spent billions upgrading their metering infrastructure,” said GridGlo’s founder and CEO Isaias Sudit. “But those systems are now generating a lot of data and the utilities need help figuring out how to use it effectively. Our software allows them to save money on the infrastructure side, while providing new and exciting services to their customers.”

Utilities have long used data as a forensic tool to help pinpoint problems that happened in the past, such as blackouts. The real opportunity and challenge, according to Sudit, is moving from using energy data to tell us what has happened, to using it to tell us what is happening right now – and eventually, helping us predict what will happen in the future.

That kind of predictive analysis requires merging energy data with other data sets, like weather, lifestyle trends or demographics – a process GridGlo calls “data fusion.” For example, utilities could use known demographics of likely electric vehicle buyers to better plan where infrastructure improvements are needed – before the grid is overstressed. Or national or regional demographic shifts could help utilities or regulators better plan transmission construction.

“Ultimately, all of this has to show value to the customer,” Sudit said. Eventually, he thinks data fusion will be used by third party service providers and app makers, much like mobile, location and social data is used to power some of today’s most popular products.

“But our most urgent need is to show how utilities can use this information to provide value directly to customers,” he said. “If we can do that, the secondary markets will follow.”


Posted in Energy Innovation, General / Comments are closed

The Missing Link: Energy Efficiency Data And The Capital Markets

EDF And Bloomberg New Energy Finance Host A Successful Conference

Last week, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (“BNEF”) hosted 150 property owners, energy efficiency project developers, ESCOs, banks, institutional investors and other thought leaders to discuss how improved datasets could spur the market for energy efficiency (EE) investment.  Dan Doctoroff, Bloomberg’s CEO, kicked off the morning by discussing the company’s plans to provide this data and how similar efforts have spurred financial innovation in the past.

Three types of energy efficiency data were the basis of most of the conversation:

Project Performance Data – Accurately forecasting the energy savings from a retrofit project remains an elusive goal due to wide variance in benchmarking and forecasting standards.  Chris Lohmann of the Department of Energy discussed a large database that he is developing that will attempt to provide comparisons to historical projects.  Elizabeth Stein of EDF discussed a project that she is leading to develop a standardized methodology for estimating savings and pointed out that robust standards for comparing projects will substantially enhance the value of an EE project performance database.

Benchmarking Data – New York, San Francisco and other cities have taken steps to benchmark energy usage for commercial tenants.  Riggs Kubiak of Honest Buildings discussed how his company is publishing this data on the web and believes it will allow prospective tenants to compare properties and spur landlords to invest in EE projects.

EE Loan Performance Data – While several EE loan programs have shown strong repayment performance to date, the rating agencies will need a far longer history in order to provide the best terms for securitizations.  On-Bill Repayment (OBR) may be able to benefit from the long history of utility bill payments to create a data stream for the rating agencies.

EDF looks forward to working with Bloomberg and other market participants on each of these initiatives.

Posted in Energy Efficiency, General, New York, On-bill repayment / Comments are closed

Ohio Energy Bill Falls Short Of Governor’s Vision For Chemical Disclosure

Ohio Governor John Kasich showed real leadership earlier this month when he introduced energy bill with the most comprehensive rules in the country for chemical disclosure during oil and gas operations. The Governor’s bill would have required disclosure of not only the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing – as a number of other states have done – but also the full range of chemicals used throughout the lifecycle of a well. Hydraulic fracturing gets all the attention, but the Governor and his team understand that dangerous chemicals are also used in drilling, producing, servicing and shutting down wells. The entire process should be transparent from beginning to end — “from spud to plug,” as it’s called.

This was smart policy when the Governor proposed it. And it’s smart policy today. Unfortunately, the energy bill passed yesterday by the Ohio General Assembly fails to fully deliver on that vision. In the face of intense industry opposition, lawmakers eliminated many of the reporting requirements contained in the original bill. EDF is disappointed the final bill does not live up to what Governor Kasich proposed, but we give the Governor credit for putting the idea forward and expanding the terms of the debate – both in Ohio and nationally.

To be fair, even in its scaled-back version, the Ohio disclosure policy breaks new ground. It requires disclosure of the chemicals used in stimulating a well. This includes not just hydraulic fracturing but also other kinds of stimulation techniques – something most states have missed in their disclosure rules.

Additionally, companies will be required to disclose the chemicals used in a well until the surface casing is set in place. As we testified in the Ohio House, this still leaves the public in the dark about a lot of dangerous chemicals that are used to drill and operate a well. But again, it’s a step forward compared to what other states have done.

We’re disappointed, though, by changes the House made to the trade secret provisions in the bill. In the original version, companies would have been required to report trade secret information to the Department of Natural Resources. This would have ensured that the agency had quick access to chemical information it might need to respond to a spill, initiate an investigation or respond to a complaint.  Under industry pressure, the Assembly caved on that language, and companies will now be allowed to withhold trade secret information from the regulators. 

The bill establishes an unqualified right for certain land owners to challenge trade secret claims in court. So, there’s at least a mechanism in place to police the system and make sure companies aren’t hiding behind bogus trade secret claims. But it would have been far better to have trade secrets turned over to the state – not only in cases where this information is needed to protect public health and safety, but also because it would have given anyone, not just the land owners, a right to challenge trade secrets under the Ohio Public Records Act.

This is a big bill. It addresses a wide range of issues – not just oil and gas – and includes far too much to cover here. It has some good provisions, such as new requirements for companies to report where they’re getting their water from and how much they’re using, and requirements for companies to test the baseline water quality in nearby water wells before they start drilling. The bill also has some really bad provisions – like an egregious one that strips citizens of the right to appeal permits issued to oil and gas operators.

The passage of the energy bill is not the end of the process: the agency rules implementing this bill will be written in the months ahead, and EDF will be working to make sure they are as strong as possible. And we’ll be working on other rules to reduce the risks oil and gas operations pose to communities and the environment.

This includes improving Ohio’s rules for air pollution from oil and gas operations. It means making sure we have tough standards in place to manage the huge waste streams these operations produce. It means putting smart planning in place to preserve landscapes and protect the fabric of local communities. And sooner rather than later, it’s going to mean coming back to the General Assembly and fixing what didn’t get done right the first time.

Posted in Natural Gas / Read 2 Responses

EDF Climate Corps Blog Posts Have Moved

For those of you who’ve scoured EDF’s blogs for news from EDF Climate Corps, life is about to get much easier. From here on out, you’ll find all posts and updates from EDF Climate Corps fellows, host organizations and staff on the EDF Climate Corps blog, which launched Tuesday.

For those of you unfamiliar with EDF Climate Corps, it’s EDF’s innovative fellowship program that places specially trained MBA and MPA students in companies, cities and universities to build the business case for energy efficiency. This year’s class of 98 fellows starts this week with an intensive energy efficiency training underway in Charlotte, NC before they’re set loose to sleuth out energy savings at 88 leading companies, cities and universities across the nation.

Visit us here for news from the frontlines of energy efficiency. This summer we’ll also feature several ongoing series, such as a weekly report on themes in organizational change we see bubbling up from the collective experience of our fellows.

If you want to stay in the loop, don’t forget to sign up for email alerts in the left-hand menu. If you’re signed up for EDF Climate Corps alerts from the EDF Business Blog or the EDF Energy Exchange, you should sign up again at our new location to continue receiving them.

Posted in EDF Climate Corps / Comments are closed

EDF Climate Corps Blog Posts Are Moving! Subscribe Now To Continue Receiving Them

The flag’s about to drop on EDF’s 2012 Climate Corps season, which kicks off Tuesday, May 22. We’re ramping up for the largest class of fellows EDF Climate Corps has ever seen, and we want to make sure you don’t miss a minute of the action. That’s why Climate Corps is launching its own blog platform – the EDF Climate Corps blog. From this day forward, you’ll find all of your favorite updates from EDF Climate Corps fellows, hosts and staff on this new online platform. Sign up here to ensure you get the latest from the EDF Climate Corps blog directly in your inbox.

The blog will feature several ongoing series, including regular updates from the 2012 EDF Climate Corps fellows on the energy efficiency frontlines, a weekly trends piece on themes bubbling up from the collective experience of those fellows, and real-time insights from representatives at the companies, cities and universities in our network.

If you’ve enjoyed the EDF Climate Corps posts from the EDF Business blog and the EDF Energy Exchange, don’t miss out.

Sign up here to continue experiencing EDF Climate Corps.

Posted in EDF Climate Corps / Comments are closed