Category: News

EPA proposes climate rule incentives despite court hold

The Obama administration is moving ahead with an incentive program for its contentious climate change rule, despite the Supreme Court’s action halting the regulation.

Under the program, known as the Clean Energy Incentive Program, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would give states compliance credits for renewable energy and efficiency projects that are undertaken earlier than the Clean Power Plan would require them.

It’s meant to be a carrot to the stick of the Clean Power Plan and to try to get some significant deployment of renewables and efficiency projects before the regulation kicks in in 2022.
“Taking these steps will help cut carbon pollution by encouraging investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, which will help give our kids and grandkids a healthier and safer future,” Janet McCabe, head of the EPA’s air pollution office, said in a Thursday statement.

The basic details of the incentive program were outlined when the climate rule was made final last August, but Thursday’s announcement formally proposes more details about it.

The climate rule itself, which seeks a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon emissions, is under a judicial stay from the Supreme Court’s February 2016 order.

Read the full story. (The Hill)

Study suggests consumers value energy efficiency over luxury

The recently released annual Energy Pulse study from Shelton Group suggests that consumers in the market for a new home prioritize energy-efficient features over luxury items.

Eighty-five percent said they’d pay more for an Energy Star-certified home, and their preferences for individual features bore that out: more people wanted Energy Star appliances in their new homes (52%) than wanted a pool (42%), a state-of-the-art sound system (40%), or a home theater room (29%).

Read the full story. (Builder)

Energy Dept invests more than $10M in efficient lighting research and development

WASHINGTON — Building on the new commitments to the Global Lighting Challenge announced last week during the Clean Energy Ministerial, the Energy Department is announcing funding for nine research and development projects that will support solid-state lighting (SSL) core technology research, product development, and manufacturing research and development. The projects will help accelerate the development of high-quality light-emitting diode (LED) and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) lighting products that can significantly reduce energy costs for American families and businesses by using less electricity than products currently in use and ensure that the U.S. remains globally competitive.

“Solid-state lighting research and development has contributed to more than $2.8 billion in U.S. energy cost savings over the past 15 years, and further improvements in the technology will increase those savings even more in the years to come,” said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. “By 2030, solid-state lighting could reduce national lighting electricity use by nearly half—which would equate to the total energy consumed by 24 million American homes today and could save American families and businesses $26 billion annually.”

Read the full story. (DOE)

How Nest’s shakeup could alter its approach to energy management

Late last week, Nest co-founder, design guru and alleged tyrant CEO Tony Fadell announced his departure, amidst a very long-running public airing of his conflicts with former employees, including the founder of webcam acquisition Dropcam.

Besides the personal and personnel problems, Fadell has reportedly been chafing under financial restrictions from Nest’s newly reorganized parent company, Alphabet (aka Google), which apparently wants its $3.2 billion acquisition to start making more money, or stop spending as much.

What does this all mean for Nest’s future in energy efficiency and distributed energy?

That will depend, first, on whether Nest’s new management can create a connected home business strategy that can break open a still-tiny market; and second, whether new CEO Marwan Fawaz decides that energy deserves more attention than Nest has generally given it to date.

Read the full story. (Greentech Media)

A suburban experiments aims for free energy

FONTANA, Calif. — At first glance, Anthony and Vanessa Genau’s home in a subdivision beneath the San Gabriel Mountains here is like any other gracious new suburban dwelling, with an open-plan living space, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.

But, along with 19 other cream, taupe and rust stucco houses that cradle the landscaped playgrounds here, it is actually something else: a large-scale testing ground for an energy system of the very near future.

With a combination of rooftop solar panels, smart thermostats, advanced water heaters and other high-efficiency features, the homes are all built with a similar goal: to make at least as much energy as they use over a year.

It’s a concept known as zero net energy, and the cluster of homes here represents one of the nation’s largest experiments to see if zero net energy can be put into wider use.

Read the full story. (New York Times)

Your utility wants to sell you more than just electricity

‘They don’t want to be a commodity provider any longer’

Utilities have operated more or less the same since the electrification of American cities began more than a century ago. Americans run their lights and appliances, the utility company sends a bill for the electricity consumed and customers send in a check.

But major changes in the energy industry—driven by everything from technological advances to environmental regulation—have uprooted the business model of electric utility companies across the globe. Customers can now create and store their own power thanks to solar panels and batteries, while government incentives encourage utility companies to help customers use less electricity—the very product utilities are selling.

Read the full story. (Time Magazine)

Energy efficiency lowers costs in recent PJM capacity auction

Energy efficiency provides many benefits to the electric utility system. One of these benefits is reducing the market price for electric generation. PJM Interconnection, the operator of the largest electric grid in the United States serving approximately 61 million people, wrapped up its most recent generation capacity auction last week. This auction determines the price paid to power plants three years in the future. The clearing price in last week’s auction was far below expectations and nearly 40% below last year’s clearing price. This is in large part due to new natural gas power plants and energy efficiency.

Approximately 1,515 MW of energy efficiency cleared the auction, the largest amount ever. In terms of total clean energy alternative resources to clear the auction, energy efficiency had the highest amount of capacity, substantially more than solar (335 MW) and wind (969 MW). The complete results can be found here.

The results of this capacity auction are great news for two reasons. First, the result highlights how system planners are utilizing energy efficiency as resource able to provide sustained and predictable energy and reserves. The fact that energy efficiency cleared a substantial amount of megawatts under new requirements called “capacity performance” underscores the confidence of system planners in energy efficiency to reliably meet system load.

Read the full story. (ACEEE)

Californians just saved $192 Million thanks to energy efficiency and rooftop solar

It’s true. Consumer investments in distributed energy resources can save all ratepayers money by avoiding expensive grid infrastructure upgrades.

Solar advocates have long been making this argument in regulatory proceedings around the country. Today, that vision is becoming a reality.

In late March, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) approved its 2015-2016 Transmission Plan, which calls for canceling 13 transmission projects planned in Pacific Gas & Electric territory. The low-voltage transmission projects were deemed no longer necessary in light of materially lower load forecast levels since the projects were approved several years ago.

At a recent CAISO board meeting, Eric Eisenman, PG&E’s director of ISO relations and FERC policy, expressed support for the project cancellations, California Energy Markets reports:

“The need for those is just not there anymore,” he said. “We really appreciate the reappraisal of those projects.” Load forecast has flattened in the service area from a combination of energy efficiency and rooftop solar, which eliminates the need for these upgrades, Eisenman said.
The result is $192 million in transmission cost savings for PG&E customers. The canceled projects include line improvements, transformer replacements and bus upgrades.

Read the full story. (Greentech Media)

Blacksburg tackles climate change

BLACKSBURG – The bicycle and electric car parked outside the Blacksburg Motor Co. town offices Wednesday hinted at what was going on inside.
Reducing the town’s carbon footprint is the goal of the new Blacksburg Climate Action Plan, a document that brings together years of work by town officials and residents. Wednesday’s session was the first of three planned meetings where people can read through the plan, make comments or suggest changes.

The next information meeting is Monday, another is scheduled for May 29, and comments can be sent to the town until June 30.

Town council is expected to vote on the plan in July.

Blacksburg officials have looked for years at what the town’s role should be in warding off the worst aspects of climate change.

Read the full story. (Roanoke Times)

This is how cities in the future will get their energy

In the global effort to fight climate change, cities have some of the greatest potential– and the greatest imperative — to make a difference. With an increasing global migration into the world’s urban areas, which are expected to support at least two-thirds of the total human population by 2050, experts have argued that cities have no choice but to transition toward low-carbon systems if they’re going to remain sustainable.

Energy will need to be a primary focus of that effort. From the expansion of renewable energy sources to the adoption of cutting-edge energy efficiency and storage technologies, cities have the opportunity to drastically reduce their carbon footprints.

This is the focus of a new paper, published Thursday in the journal Science, that discusses the ways cities can integrate renewable energy, as well as energy-saving technologies, into the urban landscape. This can be a challenge, given that cities — with their closely packed buildings and dense populations — don’t always lend themselves to traditional renewable techniques. It’s not exactly practical to fit an acres-long solar panel array in the middle of Shanghai, for instance, or to place a 200-foot-tall wind turbine in downtown New York City.

Read the full story. (Washington Post)

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