Energy News

How Green Mountain Power Makes Grid Defection Work for Them

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — Why would a utility company encourage its customers to produce their own power with the ability to completely disconnect from the grid? The fact that one New England power company is doing just that, and doing well as a result, is a testament to just how convoluted the electricity game has become, now that rooftop solar has literally turned everything upside down.

For starters, it’s not your average utility. Vermont’s Green Mountain Power (GMP) was founded in 1997 with the mission to “use the power of consumer choice to change the way power is made.” They are “committed to sustainability every step of the way,” and offer only products with an environmental benefit and … a zero-carbon footprint.”

Green Mountain Power, the first energy utility to become a certified B-Corp, is a wholly owned subsidiary of GazMetro, a publicly traded Canadian corporation. Earlier this year, GMP was named one of Fast Company’s ten most innovative companies in the energy sector.

On their website’s home page, they advertise Tesla’s Powerwall battery.

The idea of encouraging customers to put solar on their rooftops and install Tesla Powerwall batteries, so that they can run independently, was the brainchild of Mary Powell, who became CEO in 2008. Powell was recently named one of the 25 most influential women of the Mid-Market by CEO Connection, based on her ability to influence innovation and change. She recognized that by allowing customers to produce their own power during peak daytime hours, when the sun is shining, the utility could reduce the amount of external power that they purchase from the regional transmission system, at the time when it is most expensive. The utility also has the ability to draw power from the network of residential batteries when needed. This give-and-take system, in which provider and customers essentially work together to ensure that demand is met, also saves the utility the expense of investing in large scale energy storage.

NRG Sustainability Commitments Stronger Than Ever

Guest blog by Bruno Sarda, NRG

I proudly joined NRG exactly one year ago as the new head of sustainability, knowing I was joining the power sector at a time of rapid transformation. It’s an exciting time of technology and business model innovation, but it’s also a time of uncertainty. The surest thing we know about the future of power is that it won’t look like the past.

Britain Joins the Green Wave in Swearing Off Combustion Engines

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — A surprising announcement has come out of London—to ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel-fueled cars and vans, beginning in the year 2040. The plan was announced in response to concerns about public health as the result of air pollution. Ministers claim that air pollution is the number one public health risk with costs in recent years reaching $3.5 billion annually .

The announcement is similar to the one made by France on July 6,  but different in that, while the French ban was primarily intended to address climate change, with public health as a secondary benefit, the British ban is being framed more in terms of public health. The French announcement came just one day after Volvo announced that it would stop producing gasoline or diesel cars beginning in 2019. But while Volvo plans to continue making hybrid cars, along with all-electrics, the UK ban includes hybrids as well, as does the French plan. India has proposed a similar ban.

While the ban might seem like a drastic measure, many analysts, like Stanford economist Tony Seba, whose recent report predicts the collapse of  internal combustion engine and the oil industry, said that “Banning sales of diesel and gasoline vehicles by 2040 is a bit like banning sales of horses for road transportation by 2040: there won’t be any to ban.”

Likewise, many in England felt the move would not produce results quickly enough. Some had lobbied for vehicles to be charged a fee in order to enter "clean air zones," but ministers have been reluctant to add new taxes and fees.

Can the Power Grid Handle the Increased Demand from Electric Cars?

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — There’s an old saying, “be careful what you wish for, you might get it.” True enough, it cautions us to look beyond near-term results. There are those like Adam Vaughn, writing in the Guardian, now saying exactly that about electric cars. Certainly, Vaughn and others are not wrong. Big increases in EV utilization will tax our current electric supply. In his case, he’s quoting National Grid saying that EV growth in the UK could exceed the capacity of the Hinckley Point C nuclear power station by 2030.  The idea that the 3.2GW plant, which is still under construction, could fall short of meeting demand that soon, is certainly a disturbing one.

When the plans for the plant were being drawn up, no one anticipated that the number of electric vehicles could possibly grow from 90,000 today, to nine million in 2030, a one-hundredfold increase. According to National Grid, these vehicles could add as much as 8 GW of additional demand, if they are not charged smartly.

What they mean by charging smartly is the idea that demand and supply can be tightly coordinated. You could get some inkling of this by imaging a conductor leading an orchestra, signaling  each instrument when it’s time to come in. The art, if one were to call it that, is known as demand management. Demand management, according to EIA is, “designed to encourage consumers to modify their level and pattern of electricity usage.”

Generally, this is achieved either by technology or with pricing incentives.

The incentives are by far the simplest. Most industrial and commercial ratepayers, have sophisticated power meters that measure both consumption and demand.  This allows utilities to charge more for electricity during periods of high demand.  This encourages these large customers to minimizes their demand during high peak periods. They can use renewables, onsite storage, or other methods like thermal storage to shift things like their cooling loads from noontime till evening. However, demand pricing is generally not used for residential customers.

New Senate Energy Bill is Mostly a Fossil Fuel Giveaway

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — In the midst of all the distraction over Russia and the Healthcare bill, the Senate has introduced a new energy bill. Called the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017. S. 1460, it’s a bipartisan bill that was introduced by Senators Murkowski (R-AK) and Cantwell (D-WA). Could the timing be a matter of trying to slip something through unnoticed?

It’s Companies, Not Countries That Are Contributing Most to Climate Change

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — If you’ve ever flown across an ocean and looked out the window from 39,000 feet, it’s easy to think about how incredibly vast this planet is, and wonder how one species among thousands could possibly change the meteorological course of something this big. Then, you think about how there is almost no place remotely close to civilization that you can’t get to in two days or less, thanks almost entirely to fossil fuels. Then you think of the hundreds, if not thousands of other airplanes in the air at this same moment, and the millions of cars and trucks on the roads every single moment as they have been for a century or more.

We’re taking this flight of fancy to prepare you for another fact that’s going to be difficult to believe. If you think the intensity of six or seven billion humans generating enough air pollution to irreversibly change the climate is a bit hard to swallow, you’ll need a glass of water to go with this one.

According to the Carbon Disclosure Project’s Carbon Majors Report, the world’s top 100 fossil fuel companies are responsible for 71% of all the emissions produced by humans on Planet Earth.

The numbers come from the Carbon Disclosure Project’s database, which began collecting data, primarily at the country level in 1988, when the UN IPCC was first created in recognition of the potential severity of the problem.

How Unchecked Climate Change Will Impact the US Economy

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — The biggest obstacle standing in the way of prioritized, coordinated, effective action against cataclysmic climate instability over the coming years and decades is the US Republican party. These individuals and their ideological followers stand in defiance of reason, science and a global consensus on the need for urgent action in the name of protecting the fortunes of their patrons.

Could a Clean Tax Cut Succeed Where Carbon Taxes Have Failed?

 

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — To say that the Trump’s administration’s disconnect from reality when it comes to climate change has created tensions both at home and abroad would be a vast understatement. Even fellow Republicans are uncomfortable with the extreme position taken by the president, one that totally defies well-established science. A number have openly broken from Trump in response to his decision to withdraw from the historic Paris agreement, including the governors of Massachusetts and Vermont,  who have joined the US Climate Alliance. Twelve states plus Puerto Rico, representing over 100 million Americans and one-third of the US GDP, have now formally joined the alliance, with ten other states expressing support. Altogether, those states represent 40% of the total US greenhouse gas emissions and one-third of US GDP.

Supporters of the withdrawal, are not questioning the science—in fact, they are not even talking about it. They are focused entirely on what they say the costs of compliance will be, with no mention of the cost of non-compliance. So how do we move forward on the policy front, with a bottom line-first, nothing-else-matters approach that only looks at one side of the balance sheet? Most attention has been focused on efforts to circumvent the president’s position which, as noted above, is substantial. But can anything be done at the Federal policy level?

It’s well known that after Trump is finished attempting to dismantle the health care system, his next target will be tax reform. Could there be an opening there?

A new proposal, born of conservative roots, called “clean tax cuts,” (CTC) just might have a chance. The proposal is the brain child of the Grace Richardson Fund, which seeks, “to spearhead new free market policy solutions to critical issues stuck in partisan gridlock.”

The key points to the proposal, which are spelled out here, are essentially a return of Reagan-style, supply-side tax cuts, only applied selectively to “all clean solutions.” The rationale behind it being, “if you want something more, tax it less.” The plan, which is described as “all carrot, no stick,” could be seen as a carbon tax turned on its head. Instead of punishing carbon usage, it rewards movement away from carbon. They claim it unites the interests of left and right: “ecology + tax cuts = clean capitalism.”

Record Green Energy Levels Not an Existential Threat to UK Utilities

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — The future is now, or at least it was on Sunday, June 11th in the UK. That’s because on that day, a combination of bright sunshine and blustery winds, along with nuclear generation, managed to provide a full 70% of the electricity being consumed that day. Even more significant, the energy mix produced the required kW-hours of energy while emitting less than 100 grams of CO2 for each one. That’s good enough to meet the ambitious target for the year 2030, whcih pretty well proves it can be done.

The UK has also seen other impressive milestones in the past few months, including a day where solar exceeded nuclear, and one day entirely without burning coal.

Of course, this signifies a big change, and big changes often have winners and losers. In Germany, for example, which took a bold leap into clean energy, there were serious financial impacts to traditional utility providers. Does a similar fate await utilities in the UK? After all, the UK has taken off the gloves, when it comes to renewables, with substantial investments in offshore wind as well as solar, and appears to be closing in on Germany in terms of generation capacity.

There is no doubt that the presence of solar and wind on the grid reduces prices and lowers demand. With variable pricing in place, we have seen moments when electricity prices have gone negative, meaning that power plants have actually had to pay people to use their electricity. This might be great for end users, but it can’t be good for the power plant operators. This has indeed been the German experience.

Revolve Media Hosts 5th Edition of Visualizing Energy and The Energy Transition Leaders Forum

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — Revolve Media is holding its 5th annual public information campaign/exhibition, “Visualizing Energy” and The Energy Transition Leaders Forum, on June 22 in Brussels, as the media event of EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) June 19-23.  

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