How solar PV could redraw the map for green energy and grid investment.
When Pacific Gas & Electric broke the news six weeks ago that it had signed a deal with Solaren Corp. to buy 200 MW of solar energy from satellites launched into geosynchronous orbit, the idea seemed almost laughable. Solaren’s plan is to catch unobstructed sunlight falling on arrays of photovoltaic solar panels deployed in the crystalline void of outer space, and then to convert the generated electricity into radio-frequency energy for transmission to Solaren’s ground-based receiving station outside Fresno. Welcome to the new renewable reality.
Engaging customers will require more than TOU pricing.
Imagine a setback thermostat programmed at the factory that the consumer couldn’t modify. Who would want this device? You could give the customer a big enough discount to get her to accept the device, but she would be happier and you could save about as much energy if the customer could decide on the temperature and time settings.
State GHG policies confront federal roadblocks.
So far, states have taken the lead in carbon-control strategies. These state actions, however, could lead to constitutional conflicts—as recent court battles demonstrate. Only the U.S. Congress can regulate interstate trade, so states must step carefully in controlling carbon leakage.
The real reasons behind the state’s energy savings.
In 2006, the California legislature and governor positioned energy conservation and efficiency as the cornerstone of the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act. The Act mandates a 2020 statewide limit on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels. Compliance will be nothing short of Herculean: California will have to reduce per capita energy usage in a manner that accommodates continued brisk population growth and protects the state’s economy from economic dislocations and recessionary pressures.
New geothermal approaches bring massive resources within reach.
Low-temperature closed-loop generators promise huge growth in geothermal power.
New rate structures prioritize conservation, but will customers buy it?
As saving energy becomes a policy priority, utility commissioners struggle to reconcile traditional revenue models with smart metering and smart pricing. Unlocking conservation potential will depend on transforming passive ratepayers into smart consumers. Fortnightly hosts a roundtable discussion with commissioners from six states.
As green mandates tighten, utilities scramble to comply.
Mandatory renewable portfolio standards are becoming the norm. But after low-hanging green fruits are harvested, renewable power might get scarce. Many utilities will struggle to meet RPS requirements until lawmakers create stable federal policies and a national market for green credits.
Is electricity price-elastic enough for rate designs to matter?
Contrary to conventional wisdom, electricity demand isn’t immune to price elasticity, and rate designs can encourage conservation. In particular, inclining block rates coupled with dynamic pricing can cut electric use by as much as 20 percent.
State and federal incentives push utilities to invest in grid intelligence.
State and federal incentives provide the carrot for utilities to invest in grid intelligence. But regulatory and technological incentives are not enough without customer participation. Smart-grid policies will succeed only by focusing on customer needs and benefits.
A comprehensive DR business case quantifies a full range of concurrent benefits.
The benefits of DR remain difficult to quantify. Building a comprehensive business case requires a shift in how policy makers think about DR in order to understand its real possibilities.