Category: News

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)

Facebook, Microsoft Help Form Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance

There is no shortage of non-governmental organizations dedicated to the cause of increasing the use of renewable energy among businesses.

Four of the most notable ones — Business for Social Responsibility, Rocky Mountain Institute, World Resources Institute, and World Wildlife Fund — have collaborated informally for months. Now, they’re formalizing their cooperation through a “coalition” called the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, an organization that aims to inspire the addition of another 60 gigawatts of clean energy available to corporate buyers in the United States by 2025.

That’s double the amount of solar and wind power available on the grid at the end of 2014, said Letha Tawney, director of utility innovation at WRI, during a press briefing to announce the initiative.

Read the full story. (

New DOE accelerators target combined heat and power, low-income clean energy

Continuing its focus on building efficiency, the U.S. Department of Energy is launching three new accelerator programs focused on boosting energy resiliency in communities, including one that will focus on sustainable combined heat and power projects.
In another accelerator focused on low-income communities, local and national partners will work to expand installation of energy efficiency and distributed renewables, ultimately looking to lower utility bills.
The new accelerator programs are a part of DOE’s Better Buildings Challenge, which since 2011 has resulted in more than $1.3 billion in energy cost savings.

Read the full story. (Utility Dive)

Clean Power Plan To Get Unanticipated En Banc Review

Monday, acting on its own initiative, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit announced that it would hear challenges to the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan sitting en banc. As per the court’s order, the challenges will be heard by the full court in September. A three-judge panel had been scheduled to hear arguments June 2.

The court’s decision appears to be sua sponte (on the court’s own initiative), as there is no record of any party to the case asking the court to hear the case en banc in the first instance. This has been done before, as with U.S. v. Microsoft in 2001. In that case, the court’s decision to go en banc could be explained by the fact that only seven judges could participate in the case, which could have made it difficult for the court to rehear the case en banc after a three-judge opinion. It’s possible that similar considerations were at play here, but the numbers don’t quite add up. Two D.C. Circuit judges (Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and Cornelia Pillard) did not participate in the decision to go en banc, but that still leaves nine judges — with plenty to vote for an en banc review of a wayward three-judge panel ruling.

Read the full story. (Washington Post)

Richmond DMV Cuts Energy Bills By A Third

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has saved more than $300,000 a year on its energy bills since it upgraded its Broad Street headquarters through a contract that leaders there initially thought was too good to be true.

“It sounded to me like a lottery scam email,” DMV Deputy Commissioner David Mitchell said Wednesday of the contract that essentially uses the energy savings to pay for the upgrades. “It was, in fact, a way for us to do things we’d never been able to afford to do.”

Mitchell was among a group that led dignitaries and elected officials on a tour of the building’s upgraded skeleton, from the heating and air system to the windows and elevators. Trane, the contractor that performed the work, guaranteed the DMV would see at least $284,000 in annual savings. And if the agency didn’t, Trane would owe the DMV the difference.

Read the full story. (Richmond Times Dispatch)

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