Monthly Archives: September 2012

San Diego’s New “Smart Energy Community”

This commentary was originally posted on the EDF California Dream 2.0 Blog.

San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E) and Sudberry Properties have announced plans to incorporate breakthrough smart grid technology in the construction of Civita, the new master-planned development in Mission Valley, California. With a focus on sustainability and energy-efficiency, the “smart energy community“ will be home to vehicle charging stations, solar and fuel cell electricity, battery storage and energy management tools for residents.

“The Civita project is consistent with what we are trying to achieve here in San Diego,” said Mayor Jerry Sanders. “By integrating solar power, clean transportation and energy efficiency into the very foundations of our homes and businesses, we can help preserve the environment while strengthening our community overall.”

With plans to build nearly 5,000 homes and around a million square feet of office properties, apartment living, public parks, and a civic center over a once 230 acre gravel quarry, Civita could become one of the first communities in the nation to be “fully upgraded with smart grid technology and stand at the forefront of the broader transformation of the electric grid the community.” Civita aims to surpass current California energy efficiency standards by at least 15 percent by using energy star appliances, highly efficient residential lighting and onsite power sources, and by allowing some buildings and areas within community to operate independently of the grid.

Posted in California, Grid Modernization / Tagged | Read 2 Responses

Leveraging Data To Move Markets

Recently, I blogged here about the fact that significant improvements in the efficiency of existing buildings – a critical and potentially cost-effective part of our carbon reduction strategy – are not easy to achieve, and described how doubts about the likely success of energy upgrade projects are a barrier to “scaling up” efficiency in buildings.  I also touched on EDF’s efforts to change that.

Today I’m happy to report further on some of the progress being made toward a future in which energy efficiency (EE) project originators and funders will have greater reason to expect success in energy upgrades involving existing buildings.

Last week, EDF partnered with Bloomberg New Energy Finance to host ‘Leveraging Data to Move Markets,’ a half-day discussion among government, real estate, Wall Street, real estate entrepreneurs and NGOs, with participation from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the White House Center for Environmental Quality (CEQ).  The discussion focused on DOE and EDF efforts to address key data and standardization requirements to meet the needs of private capital markets to facilitate comprehensive energy efficiency projects.

It was clear based on the conversation throughout the day that investors and other market players are looking for accurate, reliable, and transparent forecasts of savings from EE projects and related loans in order to manage risk associated with investing.  The lack of standards for data and for the various practices that make up the lifecycle of an EE retrofit are not only affecting the ability to rely on the savings being delivered, but also impeding the origination of projects and creating significant transaction costs to all players. 

As Jonathan Powers described at the opening of the meeting, the White House’s CEQ is keenly interested in stimulating discussions among private market actors and parties in possession of data, with an eye toward how data sets can be leveraged to achieve purposes above and beyond the capabilities of the entity that collected it in the first place.  The DOE is actively engaged in creating data sets with the potential to change the landscape in which energy efficiency projections are made.

Ron Herbst of Deutsche Bank observed during the day’s opening panel that “Data informs where you should hunt for opportunity.”  He also noted that auditable energy performance data would be a substantial step forward, and emphasized the power of transparency to correct malfunctioning markets.  Jeff Pitkin, of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA, a New York State authority with a mandate to run energy efficiency programs), seconded the need for transparency. Mr. Pitkin noted that the ability to ground projections in something that is “seen as a credible process,” and transparency with respect to the distinct track records of different market actors, would be powerful levers for building better programs and making prospective projects more attractive to property owners.  Angela Ferrante of Energi, an insurance company seeking to underwrite performance risk in energy upgrade projects, similarly stressed that the variability among project proposals is itself a real barrier to efficient underwriting. Read More »

Posted in Investor Confidence Project, On-bill repayment / Tagged | Read 1 Response

Commercial On-Bill Repayment Program In California Expected To Be Announced On October 2

This commentary was originally posted on the EDF California Dream 2.0 Blog.

Next week, the California investor-owned utilities – Sempra, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric – will be hosting a workshop to announce their proposals for energy efficiency financing programs as mandated by the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) in their May decision. The proposals are being developed by Harcourt, Brown and Carey (“HBC”) and are expected to include an On-Bill Repayment (OBR) program for commercial and other non-residential properties.

As I’ve mentioned before, OBR programs allow property owners to finance energy efficiency and/or renewable energy projects with third-party banks or other investors. Property owners repay their loan via their utility bill and that obligation stays linked to the meter upon a sale of the property.

Based on conversations with HBC and other stakeholders, EDF is optimistic that the program will be the first on-bill program in the country that funds energy efficiency retrofit projects entirely with private capital at no cost to ratepayers or taxpayers. The program will be flexible enough to accommodate a wide variety of property types, retrofit measures, financing structures and customer acquisition models.

The workshop will be open to the public and held from 9:00am-5:00pm on Tuesday, October 2nd in the Auditorium at the California Public Utilities Commission (505 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA).

Posted in California, Energy Efficiency, On-bill repayment / Tagged | Comments are closed

Pecan Street To Be Recognized At GridWeek 2012

Next week, thousands will descend on Washington DC for GridWeek, the “only international conference focused on smart grid.” Now in its 6th year, GridWeek “attracts the complete diversity of global electric-industry stakeholders to explore Smart Grid’s impact on the economy, utility infrastructure, consumers and the environment.”

The theme for this year is centered on deriving value for all stakeholders from an increased complexity, as “grid-modernization and smart grid efforts provide the energy industry with more information, a broader system view, and more efficiency and control.” Three key elements will be explored: stakeholder value, managing complexity and smart energy policy. EDF Economist Jamie Fine will be speaking on the “New Revenue Streams for Utilities” and “Smart Grid’s Role in New Air Quality Requirements” panel discussions at GridWeek.

At the center of all of these themes is Austin’s own Pecan Street Inc. (Pecan Street). Which is why it is no surprise that it is being recognized by the GridWeek Advisory Board for “significant achievements in “Extracting Smart Grid Value” — for all stakeholders, including utilities, consumers and society at large.” Also recognized are the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) and Green Button, a “voluntary effort and the result of a White House call to action: ‘provide electricity customers with easy access to their energy usage data in a consumer-friendly and computer-friendly format via a “Green Button” on electric utilities’ website.’”  Read More »

Posted in Grid Modernization, Washington, DC / Comments are closed

EDF Energy Innovation Series Feature #12: Community-Owned Utility – CPS Energy

Throughout 2012, EDF’s Energy Innovation Series will highlight around 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.

Find more information on this featured innovation here.

Want to build CPS Energy’s new massive solar project in San Antonio?  Pack your bags.  You may have to move to the Alamo city and hire a few hundred local employees.

With more than $2.3 billion in annual revenue and $10 billion in total assets, CPS Energy (CPS) is the largest municipally-owned electric and gas utility in the country, providing service to almost 750,000 customers in and around San Antonio, Texas.

CPS’s strategic goals and decisions are among the most progressive in the country.  It is shooting for 20 percent renewable energy generation capacity by 2020 and has plans to mothball one of its 1970s-era coal plants in 2018, 15 years earlier than expected. But beyond carbon reduction targets and renewable energy commitments, CPS is using a very old-fashioned tool to spur energy innovation deep in the heart of Texas.

The tool? LEVERAGE. With a $2 billion annual operating budget and the highest credit rating in the industry, CPS has dollars to spend on innovative technologies, and the company is leveraging its renewable energy and clean technology dollars to bolster local job growth, protect the environment and help its customers use energy more wisely. CPS calls it the “New Energy Economy.”

“We have the opportunity to leverage our buying power to benefit our community, by requiring our partners to add more value to San Antonio,” said Doyle Beneby, President & CEO of CPS Energy. “That value comes in the form of jobs for our community by establishing headquarters and adding manufacturing. It also comes in the form of investment in San Antonio’s educational institutions.” Read More »

Posted in Energy Innovation, Texas, Utility Business Models / Read 1 Response

New York’s Decision To Take Time For A Public Health Review Of Hydraulic Fracturing Is A Wise Move

Last week’s announcement that New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NY DEC) has asked New York State Department of Health (NY DOH) to undertake a review of the work NY DEC has done to date on regulating high volume hydraulic fracturing is welcome news.  Citizens across New York have raised legitimate questions about whether NY DEC is doing all that it can do to develop regulations that protect public health.  Review by a qualified panel of public health experts, under the auspices of NY DOH, is a necessary step to answer these legitimate concerns.  Getting the rules right in New York is critically important, so we believe that taking the time for a public health review is a wise move.

Of course, it is critically important that this review be done well.  The experts convened by NY DOH should be qualified, independent public health professionals.  The scope of their review should be broad and the work that they do should be thorough.  Science, not politics, should guide their work.  Above all, NY DEC should stand ready to act on any recommendations that come from this review.  EDF looks at this an opportunity to make NY DEC’s good work to date better, and we hope NY DEC sees it that way too.

EDF believes that New York’s regulatory regime should include the development of a public health baseline across the communities where shale gas development would be likely to occur, coupled with a rigorous, on-going effort by NY DOH to track key public health metrics against this baseline over time.  We believe this step is necessary to assure that regulations are working to protect public health, and provide the data necessary to fix them if they are not. 

No community should have to sacrifice public health or the quality of their environment for the sake of energy production.  Nor should artificial deadlines cut short efforts to get the regulations right.  New York Department of Environmental Conservation deserves praise for taking this necessary step.

Posted in Natural Gas, New York / Tagged | Read 1 Response