Energy Exchange

Selected tag(s): Electric Grid

New Sustainable FERC Website Charts Progress to Clean, Low-Carbon Energy

Elizabeth Stein Photo2The Sustainable FERC Project, a coalition of environmental and clean energy organizations, launched its new website today:  The site will inform the public and policymakers about the coalition’s efforts to increase the amount of clean, low-carbon energy powering the nation’s electric grid, which focus on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the regional entities regulated by FERC.

FERC is a federal agency whose activities include regulation of transmission and wholesale sales of electricity in interstate commerce.  Working on behalf of its coalition partners, the Sustainable FERC Project develops and advocates for federal policies and regional implementation and practices that will give rise to a cleaner, more efficient energy system. The coalition’s top priorities include removing the barriers to getting clean energy on the transmission grid, maximizing the use of energy efficiency in planning and facilitating a transition to a cleaner energy future.

Source - Windpower Engineering Development

Source – Windpower Engineering Development

EDF’s work as a member of the Sustainable FERC Project coalition complements our own Smart Power Initiative, which is working, primarily through state-level advocacy, to change the trajectory of the U.S. electricity system to help avoid dangerous climate change through smart power policies and clean energy investments.  The Smart Power Initiative focuses on ensuring that the right state policies are in place to allow for better integration of clean energy resources into the power grid.

Optimizing the environmental performance of the U.S. electric grid – which is sometimes called the “largest machine on the planet” – requires environmentally-sound policies and practices at all levels to drive system planning and operation.  The new website ( will feature issue analysis, coalition comments filed with FERC and regional grid organizations and links to blogs written by representatives from the coalition.  It should become a go-to site for those wanting to deepen their understanding of environmentally-important smart grid developments in the federally-regulated portions of the U.S. electric system.

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Technology for energy-smart homes is here. Why aren’t more people using it?

This commentary originally appeared on EDF’s Voices blog.

Source: Department of Energy Solar Decathlon/Flickr

These days, the future is often in the news. It’s not uncommon to come upon articles about cars that drive themselves, vacation trips to space, and automated smart houses a la the Jetsons.

I don’t know much about space tourism or self-driving cars, but I do know that smart homes and the associated technologies are already allowing for the possibility of environmental benefits and economic savings that are nothing short of futuristic.

Our utility grid is the largest machine in world. Unfortunately, however, this machine exacts human and environmental costs all the way down the line — from extraction to combustion. But we’re at the beginning of an energy revolution in home energy management systems that may make consumers key players in solving these problems.

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U.S. Electric Grid Under Cyber-Attack

John FinniganIf Ben Franklin lived today, he might say that nothing is certain but death, taxes and cyber-attacks.  Cyber-attacks occur when individuals or groups hack into another group’s computer information systems to steal, alter or damage key infrastructure.  Our nation’s electric grid is under constant attack according to a survey of electric utilities by U.S. House Representatives Henry Waxman and (now) Senator Edward Markey.  The grid was the greatest engineering achievement of the 20th Century, but cybersecurity was equally unknown to those grid engineers as it was to Ben Franklin.  We need to do more to protect our energy infrastructure.

The U.S. has finally called out China for repeated and pervasive cyber-attacks.  Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm, released an alarming report in February 2013 regarding the ongoing cyber-attacks by the Chinese army.  James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, described cyber-attacks as a soft war already underway and a dire global threat in his April 2013 World Threat Assessment to the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.  In May of this year, for the first time, the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on the Chinese military openly accused China’s military of repeated cyber-attacks on the U.S. government and defense contractors.

Cyber-attacks are underway not only by China, but also by Iran, Russia, Al-Queda, organized crime, industrial spies, ex-utility employees and rogue hackers.  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security investigated over 200 serious cyber-attacks against critical infrastructure during the first half of 2013.  The electric grid was targeted in over half of these attacks.  At the recent Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, Cyrill Brunschwiler of Compass Security explained how the smart grid’s wireless network can be easily exploited to steal electricity and to cause massive blackouts.  Though innovation and new clean energy technologies are key to modernizing our antiquated energy system, the electric grid is more vulnerable to cyber-attacks with increased use of smartphones, tablets, mobile apps and electric vehicles to connect with our home electronic devices.  A July 2012 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) outlines the various threats to the electric grid.

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Big-Box Retailers Turn To Solar, How Can Electric Utilities Adapt?

Source: Costco

The electric utility industry faces the risk of declining revenues as more customers install solar panels on their homes and businesses.  Solar power currently supplies 2% of the country’s electricity needs, and is projected to grow to 16% by 2020. In 2013, solar panel prices for commercial installations fell 15.6%, from $4.64/watt to $3.92/watt.  To protect their revenues, some utilities are raising electricity costs for solar panel owners – but with mixed results.  Credit ratings agencies are also expressing concern.  Is there real cause for alarm or are these companies crying wolf?  Judging by one customer segment – big-box retailers – the threat is real.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) ranks U.S. companies based on their solar energy capacity, and the top five companies on the list are big-box retailers:

  • Walmart tops SEIA’s list with 65,000 kW of solar power, which is enough to supply the annual energy needs of over 10,000 homes.  They recently installed ten new solar rooftop systems in Maryland, totaling more than 13,000 panels.  Walmart is the largest retailer in the U.S. and in the world by revenue, with 4,423 U.S. stores and over 10,000 stores worldwide. Walmart and EDF have been working together since 2004 to reduce the Walmart’s environmental footprint.  With more than 200 solar installations across the country, Walmart plans to have 1,000 solar installations by 2020.  Walmart’s goal is to eventually supply 100% of its energy needs with renewable energy.
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