Tag Archives: Smart Grid Technology

Opinion: An uncertain path to a cleaner future – Zero carbon electricity legislation in New York and California

By Thomas R. Brill & Steven C. Russo (Greenberg Traurig), Utility Dive

Last month, New York passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which calls for a carbon free electricity market by 2040. With passage of this law, New York became the sixth state to pass legislation calling for a carbon free electricity market. Just one year earlier, California passed similar legislation, SB100, adopting a state policy to achieve a zero-carbon electricity market by 2045.

These goals will have to be pursued notwithstanding the fact demand for electricity is projected to increase as other sectors pursue beneficial electrification to comply with ambitious emission reduction goals they face. Whether these goals can be achieved, and at what cost, will depend on technology advancements and how these laws are interpreted and implemented by regulators.

New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act requires 70% of electricity consumed in New York be generated by renewable resources by 2030 and the state must be carbon free by 2040. California’s SB100 requires 60% of electricity come from renewable resources by 2030 and adopts a state policy of a 100% zero carbon electricity by 2045.

The New York legislation explicitly conditions meeting these extraordinarily ambitious renewable energy mandates on maintaining reliability and affordability. This leads to obvious questions: Can a zero-carbon electricity market be achieved in a manner that maintains reliability and affordability, and if so, how? What flexibility exists under these laws to ensure these emission reduction goals can be achieved even if new technologies or significant price declines fail to materialize?

Read full article from Utility Dive

Energy Storage: Power Revolution

By Peter Fairley, Nature

It is 2025 and another sweltering summer’s day in California. Millions of solar panels are soaking up the Sun’s rays to power the air-conditioning systems that keep homes and offices throughout the state cool. The devices are working efficiently thanks to an intelligent conversation taking place between the appliances and the electrical grid. As clouds drift across the Sun, casting shadows, the air conditioners deftly increase or decrease their output in sync with the varying flow of solar energy. In areas where the demand for electricity looks as though it will overload the power-transmission lines, home air-conditioning units take it in turns to go offline for an hour. In other areas, where solar power threatens to exceed demand, hot-water heaters are turned on to absorb the extra energy.

This imagined future power grid demonstrates the same degree of flexibility that energy-storage advocates predict will occur with the widespread implementation of batteries, but there is no electrochemistry involved — software manipulates energy-consuming equipment so that most electricity is used when it is most abundant, cheap or green.

The concept is called ‘demand dispatch’, because it would activate and deactivate power demand — much as grid operators dynamically dispatch electricity generated by power plants today. In the future, power grids will probably use both the ‘virtual storage’ created by demand dispatch and the true energy storage from batteries. But demand dispatch could be the bigger player of the two, with smart use of existing appliances offering a smaller environmental footprint and slimmer price tag than batteries.

Read full article in Nature

How Solar, Batteries and Time-of-Use Pricing Can Add Up to Value

By Jeff St. John, Greentech Media

There’s definitely a value to storing solar energy in batteries, and then discharging that energy to meet grid and customer needs. Measuring that value — and finding a way to share it between battery-equipped solar customers and their utilities — is a trickier matter.

Out in Sacramento, Calif., a long-running solar-storage pilot project has been testing out this interplay. The city’s utility, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), has been working with startup Sunverge to align the operation of 34 battery-backed, PV-equipped homes with its needs to shave peak demand in late summer afternoons, when air-conditioning loads put stress on the grid.

SMUD is using critical peak pricing as its lever. Since 2012, the utility has been running an experiment with residential rate plans that charge extra-high prices during “critical peak period” days, in exchange for extra-low prices at other times. Some customers were offered the option of signing up for the plan — and others were automatically enrolled.

Read full article from Greentech Media

Battery-stored electricity could reduce power use and save money, report says

By Ivan Penn, The Los Angeles Times

Utilities would save consumers money and help support the electric grid if the companies tapped unused power stored in existing home and business batteries, according to a report released Thursday by the Rocky Mountain Institute.

The report, titled “The Economics of Battery Energy Storage,” states that most batteries already in use serve only as backup power when other electricity isn’t available. Instead, the electricity in the batteries could help reduce congestion over power lines as utilities work to send power from various plants during high demand. The battery-stored electricity also could immediately provide support to the grid in an emergency. And for customers, the batteries could help them better manage their electricity use and reduce their costs. Consumers could tap the stored power during times when electricity costs are high rather than buying from the grid, reducing their electric bills beyond the use of solar panels alone.

In particular, California already is seeking to employ more energy storage along with increasing use of renewable sources such as solar and wind to help reduce pollution, said Jesse Morris and Garrett Fitzgerald, the authors of the report. The mandates from state regulators largely target the utilities, but Morris and Fitzgerald said the existing storage in homes and businesses creates another opportunity for the state, the utilities and consumers.

Read full article in the Los Angeles Times

Renewable Energy’s Potential May Be Understated

By Gabriel Kahn, The Wall Street Journal

In February 2013, California energy officials sat down with power-industry executives to figure out how to avert an approaching calamity: The rapid rollout of wind and solar electricity was stressing the state’s grid. The more renewable energy California added, the more its power supply could be whipsawed by a cloudy day or a windy storm. Some at the meeting warned that problems, such as rolling brownouts, could start to show up later that year.

Those same worries were being echoed across the county as state authorities struggled to load aging electricity grids with ever-greater amounts of renewable power. At the time, renewable energy accounted for about 14% of California’s electricity output. Today, California often gets as much as 30% of its power from renewables; there are periods of the day when production can soar to 40%. California legislators just approved a plan that would require half of all power to come from renewables by 2030. Still, the tipping point the power industry feared hasn’t materialized.

The experience of California and other states with high concentrations of solar and wind is challenging long-held assumptions about the limits of renewable energy. As the boundary of what is considered possible expands, so does the momentum around investment in new technology and resources. Plenty of risks still remain. But the fact that the grid has been able to handle more renewables than previously thought is driving massive changes through the industry. One of the places it is being felt most acutely is among utilities.

Read full article in the Wall Street Journal