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An Evolving Context for Customer Programs

Building Technologies Office’s Connected Role in a Clean, Abundant, Resilient, & Economic Energy Future

Presented by Robin Roy at DOE’s the Building Technologies Office 2018 Peer Review — in which independent experts assessed the progress and contributions of BTO’s active research, development, validation and systems integration projects toward BTO’s mission and goals. These assessments will be used to enhance the management of existing efforts, gauge the effectiveness of projects, and design future programs.
BTO Peer Review Connected Session

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Beneficial Electrification and Water Heating

Advanced Water Heating Options for Decarbonization

Grid Interactive Water Heaters

Accounting for Renewable Electricity Saved by Efficiency

How much does it matter if energy efficiency programs like ENERGY STAR or appliance energy standards save electricity generated by renewable resources like wind and solar, rather than from fossil fuel power plants? Certainly from the perspective of reducing carbon pollution, there’s a strong case that saving renewable electricity is not as valuable as saving energy generated from burning fossil fuels. As the role of renewable electricity in the nation’s electricity supply grows, this question will become increasingly important to think through.

Recognizing this, the US Department of Energy (DOE) took a great step forward to update its thinking and approach, with a report released in October. NRDC joined with the American Public Power Association, Edison Electric Institute, and the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association to request that DOE rethink these issues and also joined in commenting on DOE’s initial thoughts earlier this year. DOE’s efforts were further aided by thoughtful input from the natural gas industry, which also has great interest in getting the accounting right. The overall result at DOE shows that constructive, collaborative efforts can deliver real progress.

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Filling the Policy Gap for Community-Located Energy Storage

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) hosted a well-attended Capitol Hill briefing this week on the Community Storage Initiative, aimed at making tomorrow’s electricity grid cleaner and cheaper. I had the pleasure of participating, representing both NRDC and the Community Storage Initiative (CSI), where I serve on the advisory council.

Energy storage holds enormous prospect for a more flexible, cleaner and cheaper electricity grid (see, e.g., this report released for a White House Summit on Scaling Renewable Energy and Storage with Smart Markets” in June, and my previous blogs here and here). Energy storage makes it possible to take advantage of solar energy even when the sun isn’t shining and wind power when the wind isn’t blowing. And if more is generated during periods when energy service needs are low, these emissions-free sources have to be curtailed from coming into the electric system.

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White House Summit on Scaling Renewable Energy and Storage

Electric utilities and technology developers at the cutting edge of renewable energy generation and energy storage met at a White House-hosted “Summit on Scaling Renewable Energy and Storage with Smart Markets” this week to exchange ideas and explore how to rapidly scale these technologies to make tomorrow’s electricity grid cleaner and cheaper. I had the pleasure of participating, representing both NRDC and the Community Storage Initiative, where I serve on the advisory council.

More and more utilities, equipment manufacturers, and others are working to develop energy storage using equipment already located in households and businesses that also can help make the electricity grid cleaner and cheaper, as summarized in a report the White House released as background for the summit. (Storage makes it possible to take advantage of solar energy even when the sun isn’t shining and wind power when the wind isn’t blowing. And if more is generated during periods when energy service needs are low, these emissions-free sources have to be curtailed from coming into the electric system.)

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“Community Storage” for Cleaner, Lower-Cost Electricity

More and more utilities, equipment manufacturers, and others are working to develop energy storage in households and businesses that can help make the electricity grid cleaner and cheaper. And many of these are eager to share their experiences and insights, as shown by the enthusiastic response to the “Community Storage Initiative,” which has already attracted a great group of founding supporters as announced today. More on that, below.

Energy storage can make the electricity system more flexible and ready to use renewable generation that has variable output, like wind and solar. Storage with advanced communication and controls can even offer the prospect of providing the grid with ‘ancillary services’ like frequency regulation and load following, reducing the need for power plants to quickly ramp up and down as total energy consumption changes during the day. The idea behind community storage is to coordinate the dispatch and optimization of premises-based energy storage resources, often on the customer’s side of the energy meter, to achieve electric system wide benefit.

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Advanced Electric Water Heaters Could Save Money and Cut Pollution

The humble water heater used to heat water for bathing and washing dishes in America’s homes also may be a promising new tool for cutting residential utility bills, promoting clean energy, and strengthening the reliability of the power grid – something we’ve suggested before (see here and here). An analysis released today bears this out and gives a glimpse into just how large of an untapped resources they might be: advanced water heaters can cut costs by perhaps $50 to nearly $200 annually, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by perhaps 30 percent to 50 percent under favorable circumstances.

How is this possible? First, electric water heaters can be thought of as pre-installed batteries that are sitting idle in 50 million U.S. homes. If they were grid-interactive–e.g., with the local utility or grid operator having real-time communications and control capability–the water in the tanks could be heated when the grid is cleaner and more economic, storing the hot water in the tank for when households need to use it. Second, all major manufacturers have now introduced advanced heat pump water heater technology that draws heat from the surrounding air to heat the water, and can cut energy use by some 50 percent and reduce carbon pollution.

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