Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge now: To make every day Earth Day.



  • Weekend Video: It Is Not A Dream, It Is A Vision
  • Weekend Video: Taking A Solar Road To The Future
  • Weekend Video: What Battery Energy Storage Will Do





  • --------------------------


    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is an occasional contributor to NewEnergyNews


    Some of Anne's contributions:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns


    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart



    Your intrepid reporter


      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.


    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

  • ---------------
  • Tuesday, February 09, 2016


    Coal Computing: How Companies Misunderstand Their Dirty Data Centers

    Ory Zik and Avi Shapiro, February 2016 (Lux Research)

    Despite their sophistication about data in other contexts, leading IT and computing giants in the U.S. use crude and outdated information to calculate the carbon footprint of their data centers, missing the real picture of their emissions by about 25%. Data centers comprise the fastest growing energy buying sector, and the companies that run them have the most advanced data analytics tools at their disposal, as well as high-minded public commitments to sustainability. They should lead rather than lag, by using more accurate data to report on their emissions – and to inform the actions they take to reduce them.

    Executive Summary

    Each year, the data centers that power social media, streaming video, cloud computing, and connected devices use 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity – enough to power New York City twice over – and their consumption is still growing rapidly. While companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple profess sustainability goals and take measures to improve their energy profile, today they rely on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID) to estimate their emissions. However, eGRID divides the U.S. electricity grid into just 24 broad regions, and is updated only infrequently – the most recent information available is from 2012. Our analysis, using modern statistical tools now becoming available, shows that companies are miscalculating their emissions by about 25% on average.

    The new Lux Grid Network Analysis (GNA) divides the grid into 134 regions, instead of just 24, providing more granular insight, and makes use of U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data that is updated monthly, as opposed to three-year-old annual data. Applying the Lux GNA to U.S.-based data centers shows where operators are coming up short in their sustainability reporting:

    • Google misses the mark in four of out of its seven data centers. Google uses eGRID to estimate its electricity emissions, but the Lux GNA model shows that four of Google's seven major U.S. data centers rely significantly more on coal than data reported by eGRID imply. As a result, Google's emissions are likely larger than estimated by 42,000 MT CO2e per year – the equivalent of 8,500 additional SUVs on the road.

    • Amazon estimates are off in over 20 centers. Amazon is less transparent than Google about how it calculates its emissions, but the Virginia electricity grid to which 23 of about 40 global Amazon cloud services data centers are connected uses about 43% electricity from coal based on the Lux GNA – not 35% as reported using eGRID. As a result, Amazon's data centers are putting out 85,000 MT CO2e per year more than inferred using eGRID – some 5,000 households' worth of emissions.

    There is a stark contrast between the sophistication used by IT companies for monetized activities and their environmental impact analysis. While the former is done with location-based, real-time accuracy, the latter is disappointingly simplistic, based on coarse geographical estimations and with data three years out of date. As emissions become more critical to the planet, to regulators, and to the bottom line, it's time for companies to make a more rigorous reckoning of their usage and take action accordingly.

    Data Centers are Big Energy Users – But the Impact Is Poorly Understood

    As social media, streaming video, cloud computing, and ever-more-connected devices become a bigger part of our lives, the massive data centers that technology titans like Google, Amazon, and Facebook use to process and store the data are becoming a bigger part of our power grid. The 1,520 data centers in the U.S. consume 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, and the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) projects they're on track to reach 140 billion kilowatt-hours by 2020. Data centers use enough electricity annually to power all the households in New York City for two years, and they pay more than $10 billion for electricity each year, accounting for about 2.5% of total electricity revenues.

    Data centers' thirst for power also makes them a major contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for about 70 million metric tons of CO2 per year. As global worries about climate change and the resulting policy response – from President Obama's Clean Power Plan to the climate change accords brokered at COP21 – become increasingly serious, players like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and more tout the efforts they're taking to make their data centers more sustainable. However, in a striking irony, the most data-savvy companies in the world are relying on surprisingly crude data about their energy sources in making these vital decisions about the climate impact of their activities.

    To be sure, the challenge isn't easy. Power generation is one of the most complex sectors of the economy, and in the U.S. there are nearly 20,000 power plants and 360,000 miles of transmission lines. What's more, once the electricity is put on to the grid, it can no longer effectively be traced back to its original source. However, the data source companies use today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID) is not designed for the challenge of tackling this complex system. The eGRID construct dates to the 1990s and divides the U.S. electricity grid into just 20 broad subregions in the continental U.S. (24 total including Alaska and Hawaii). It also ignores electricity transfers with Canada and Mexico, and is updated only infrequently – the latest version of eGRID uses data from 2012. This white paper describes the new Lux Grid Network Analysis (GNA) model from Lux Research that allows companies to assess their energy usage and carbon footprint with much more granular and up-to-date information – and make better decisions about their environmental impact as a result. This GNA model is a part of Lux's comprehensive Resource Intelligence for System Knowledge (RISK) platform for analyzing resource usage.

    Why Should Energy Buyers Care?

    The question of eGRID's limitations might seem a bit academic, but the consequences are very real. The broad regions in eGRID obscure significant differences between the power sources and emissions levels for different sites within those regions. Meanwhile, the utility sector is currently undergoing huge changes, as both largescale renewable installations and distributed generation from rooftop solar gain traction, meaning that outdated information is also likely to be misleading. For data center energy buyers and operators, unreliable data matters for:

    • Sustainability. Theoretically, the most environmentally friendly solution is going totally "off grid" with renewable power. However, most renewable energy solutions are intermittent, and data centers depend on reliable power. Being connected to the grid and its volatile mix of energy sources means that companies need to have a good understanding of what they're buying in order to control the sustainability of their operations.

    • Policymaking. In the U.S. and around the world, public officials from the national to local levels are trying to make better energy decisions that promote the goals of public health, fighting climate change, and ensuring security and reliability of energy supply. Having a clear view of where the power is coming from – in particular for some of the largest users like data centers – is critical for choosing policies that will have the biggest impact on those goals.

    • Business decisions. The shifting energy mix and consequent changes in the utilities business model lead to fluctuating contract prices and multiple distributed generation choices. In many markets, buyers can choose from a range of electricity providers, too, allowing customers to negotiate supply with local utilities as well as distributed generation vendors. However, doing so without accurate information leaves companies vulnerable to making costly decisions about energy sources.

    Better Data and Analytics Provide an Actionable Solution

    To give energy users a more realistic view of their electricity sources and emissions than is available from eGRID, our team of scientists analyzed the U.S. grid empirically using network modeling (see Figure 1). We first identified the smallest entities that we could obtain data for, the Power Control Areas (PCAs), which allowed us to divide the contiguous U.S. and grid-connected regions of Canada and Mexico into 134 regions (compared to the 20 eGRID sub-regions that are used today). The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has opened up PCA information, aimed at allowing power stakeholders (energy buyers, utilities, distributed generation vendors, financial analysts, and policymakers) to better understand production and demand.

    However, the EIA data alone does not allow users to know the electricity mix that they consume – users can know the mix of electricity produced in any given state, but this does not tell them the mix of electricity that they actually consume, since areas also import and export electricity. We used a spatiotemporal network topology to analyze the entire grid as a dynamic, equilibrium-based supply chain, using the PCAs' monthly generation data and estimating the true consumption mix using annual inter-PCA exchange data.

    Overall, this new Lux GNA information allows a more than 80-fold increase in granularity compared to current solutions, by moving from 20 eGRID sub-regions to 134 PCAs, and monthly instead of annual data.

    Our analysis was recently published in Environmental Science and Technology, where interested readers can find more detail on the methodology. In this white paper, we applied this new tool to the energy use of data centers to determine where the real picture differs from the conventional wisdom today.

    Case Study 1: Google Underestimates Its Dependence on Coal

    Google claims that including offsets, its net carbon footprint is zero, based on its tabulation of emission from its various energy sources, including electricity purchased from the grid. According to Google Green, “For US locations (excluding those associated with green power purchase agreements), our grid renewables data are from the EPA’s eGRID.” Leaving aside the contentious issue of how well renewable energy credits (RECs) and other offsets do indeed offset emission, we looked to see what the improved Lux GNA tells us about Google's data center energy usage.

    We found that eGRID significantly underestimates the amount of coal in the electricity consumed at four out of seven of Google’s U.S. data centers (see Figure 2). While our analysis does find that Google is using somewhat less coal than it estimates at three other sites, overall its emissions are likely significantly higher than it has projected. Using average values for the emissions from various types of generation and typical data center electricity usage, we estimate that the excess of actual emissions over Google's estimates from its seven data centers over the course of a year amounts to 42,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) – the equivalent of putting 8,500 additional SUVs on the road.

    Case Study 2: Amazon’s 23 Virginia Data Centers Use More Coal than Expected

    Amazon is less transparent than Google about fuel consumption at data centers and how it's calculated. However, the Lux GNA reveals Amazon would likely miscalculate its carbon footprint where it relies on grid power, particularly in Virginia (see Figure 3). While the percentage grid coal usage in Virginia is only 8% higher using the Lux GNA than eGRID, 23 of Amazon's 28 U.S. data centers (a majority of its data centers worldwide) are in Virginia, making for a significant miscalculation of the amount of coal used. Again, we can estimate that the difference in emissions from the more accurate Lux GNA over eGRID amounts to 85,000 MT of CO2e – equal to the emissions from around 5,000 households.

    The U.S. Energy Market Is in Transition, Making Accurate Information Critical

    The tech giants that operate data centers have all agreed that minimizing their carbon footprint is an important business objective, but, ironically, they haven't yet found a solid, data-driven way to do so. Making decisions about energy use based on accurate and up-to-date information is especially important given the changing U.S. electricity landscape. Investments in renewable energy and transmission are growing exponentially, while low prices are helping natural gas continue to displace coal, changing the composition of grid generation. Most importantly, the EPA's Clean Power Plan, and other changes coming globally as nations work to reduce greenhouse gas emission in line with their commitments made at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), will help provide more incentive for energy users to find cleaner ways to produce their power.

    On-site distributed generation, large-scale off-site renewable energy power purchase agreements (PPAs) for utility-scale wind and solar, efficiency improvements, investment in offsets, and other solutions will all be options for data centers and other energy users. The right prioritization of what to do where begins with better analytics – with the tools now available, it's time for data centers to bring to their energy decisions the same data-driven rigor they use in the rest of their business…


    PENTAGON TO PRIORITIZE CLIMATE CHANGE Pentagon orders commanders to prioritize climate change in all military actions

    Rowan Scarborough, February 7, 2016 (Washington Times)

    “The Pentagon is ordering the top brass to incorporate climate change into virtually everything they do…[A directive orders the U.S. Armed Forces to] show ‘resilience’ and beat back the threat based on “actionable science”…It says the military will not [otherwise] be able to maintain effectiveness…[It orders] a wide array of ‘climate change boards, councils and working groups’ to infuse climate change into ‘programs, plans and policies’…[It orders that climate change] be integrated in…Weapons buying and testing…Training…Defense intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance…Defense education and training…Combatant commander joint training with allies…[and] Joint Chiefs of Staff collaboration [with allies and partners]…” click here for more

    LIES ABOUT SANDERS WIND PLAN CORRECTED Bernie Sanders' Wind Energy Plan Falsely Attacked By Big Oil Ally, With Help From The Wall Street Journal

    Andrew Seifter, February 8, 2016 (Media Matters for America)

    “A dirty energy advocate with Big Oil ties is falsely smearing Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' wind energy plan …[A February 7 Wall Street Journal op-ed attack on Sanders’ New Energy plans by Manhattan Institute senior fellow Robert Bryce did not disclose that the Manhattan Institute has received at least $800,000 from ExxonMobil and millions more from foundations run by the oil billionaire Koch brothers. Unsurprisingly, given his track record, Bryce's criticism of Sanders is badly at odds with the facts…Citing anti-wind proposals in the Vermont state legislature and a few scattered examples of local opposition to specific wind energy projects, Bryce declared…[Vermont’s ‘backlash’ against wind energy is among the strongest in the country but] despite the presence of a vocal minority who oppose large-scale wind projects, support for wind energy development is actually very strong in the Green Mountain State

    “…[An April 2014 poll showed 71 percent of Vermonters support building wind turbines along the state's ridgelines, while only 23 percent oppose wind energy development…These findings are in line with other polls…Bryce's entire attack against Sanders is premised on deceptively cherry-picking several isolated incidents of local opposition…” click here for more

    DOE UPS SPENDING ON SUNSHOT U.S. DOE announces USD 21 million to lower solar energy deployment barriers

    February 8, 2016, (U.S. Department of Energy)

    “…[DOE will provide $21 million] in new funding to lower solar energy deployment barriers and expand access to solar energy to all Americans…[$13 million will] help states take advantage of falling solar prices and maximize the benefits of solar electricity through…technical and analytical support in the development and implementation of solar energy deployment plans…[$8 million more will go to funding of] innovation and technology adoption patterns in order to increase understanding of [soft costs and other] solar deployment barriers…These investments support the broader goals of the SunShot Initiative…” click here for more

    Monday, February 08, 2016


    A Pathway to the Distributed Grid; Evaluating the economics of distributed energy resources and outlining a pathway to capturing their potential value

    Ryan Hanley, February 2016 (SolarCity)

    Executive Summary

    Designing the electric grid for the twenty-first century is one of today’s most important and exciting societal challenges. Regulators, legislators, utilities, and private industry are evaluating ways to both modernize the aging grid and decarbonize our electricity supply, while also enabling customer choice, increasing resiliency and reliability, and improving public safety, all at an affordable cost.

    However, modernizing an aging grid will require significant investments over and above those seen in any recent period – potentially exceeding $1.5 trillion in the U.S. between 2010-2030.1 Given the large sums of ratepayer funds at stake and the long-term impact of today’s decisions, it is imperative that such investment is deployed wisely, cost-effectively, and in ways that leverage the best technology and take advantage of customers’ desire to manage their own energy.

    In this report, we explore the capability of distributed energy resources (DERs) to maximize ratepayer benefits while modernizing the grid. First, we quantify the net societal benefits from proactively leveraging DERs deployed in the next five years, which we calculate to be worth over $1.4 billion a year in California alone by 2020. Then, we apply this methodology to the most recently available Investor Owned Utility (IOU) General Rate Case (GRC) filing – Pacific Gas and Electric’s 2017 GRC – in order to evaluate whether DERs can cost effectively replace real world planned distribution capacity projects. Finally, we evaluate the impediments to capturing these benefits in practice, and chart a path to achieving these benefits by improving the prevailing utility regulatory and planning models. These structural impediments undermine the deployment of optimal solutions and pose economic risk to consumers, who ultimately bear the burden of an expensive and inflexible grid.

    Distributed Energy Resources Offer a Better Alternative

    This report presents an economic analysis of building and operating a twenty-first century power grid – a grid that harnesses the full potential of distributed energy resources such as rooftop solar with smart inverters, energy storage, energy efficiency, and smart energy homes and buildings with controllable loads. We find that an electric grid leveraging DERs offers an economically better alternative to the centralized grid design of today.

    DERs bring greater total economic benefits at lower cost, enable more affordability and consumer choice, and improve flexibility in grid planning and operations, all while facilitating the de-carbonization of our electricity supply.

    To evaluate the potential benefits, we build on existing industry methodologies to quantify the net societal benefits of DERs. Specifically, we borrow the Net Societal Costs/Benefits framework from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)2, incorporating commonly recognized benefit and cost categories, while also proposing methodologies for several hard-toquantify benefit categories that are often excluded from traditional analyses. Next, we incorporate costs related to the deployment and utilization of DERs, including integration costs at the bulk system and distribution levels, DER equipment costs, and utility program management costs. Using this structure, we quantify Net Societal Benefits of more than $1.4 billion a year by 2020 for California alone from DER assets deployed in the 2016-2020 timeframe, as depicted in the previous figure.

    In addition to evaluating net societal benefits at the system level, we consider the benefits of DER solutions for specific distribution projects in order to evaluate whether DERs can actually defer or replace planned utility investments in practice. Specifically, we apply the relevant set of cost and benefit categories to the actual distribution investment plans from California’s most recently available GRC filing, which is PG&E’s 2017 General Rate Case Phase I filing. This real world case study assesses a commonly voiced critique of utilizing DERs in place of traditional utility infrastructure investments: that not all avoided cost categories are applicable for every distribution project, or that DERs only provide a subset of their potential benefits in any specific project. Therefore, we consider only a subset of utility-applicable avoided cost categories when assessing the set of distribution infrastructure projects in PG&E’s 2017 GRC filing; we also utilize PG&E’s own avoided cost values rather than our own assumptions. Even using PG&E’s conservative assumptions on this subset of benefits, we quantify a net benefit for DER solutions used to replace the distribution capacity investments in PG&E’s 2017 GRC

    Utility Regulatory Incentives Must Change in Order to Capture DER Benefits

    While our analysis shows net societal benefits from DERs, both at the societal and distribution project levels, under the prevailing utility regulatory model DER benefits cannot be fully captured. Instead, utilities have a fundamental financial incentive of “build more to profit more”, which conflicts with the public interest of building and maintaining an affordable grid. Under today’s regulatory paradigm, utilities see a negative financial impact from utilizing resources for distribution services that they do not own – which includes the vast majority of distributed energy resources – even if those assets would deliver higher benefits at lower cost to ratepayers. This financial incentive model is a vestige of how utilities have always been regulated, a model originally constructed to encourage the expansion of electricity access. However, in this age of customers managing their energy via DERs, this regulatory model is outdated. This report offers a pathway to removing this structural obstacle, calling for a regulatory model that neutralizes the conflict of interest that utilities face. While separating the role of grid planning and sourcing from the role of grid asset owner – such as through the creation of an independent distribution system operator (IDSO) – would achieve this objective, some states may choose not to implement an IDSO model at this time. In these instances, this paper proposes the creation of a new utility sourcing model, which we call Infrastructureas-a-Service, that allows utility shareholders to derive income, or a rate of return, from competitively sourced third-party services. This updated model would help reduce the financial disincentive that currently biases utility decision-making against DERs, encouraging utilities to deploy grid investments that maximize ratepayer benefits regardless of their ownership.

    Grid Planning Must be Modernized in Order to Capture DER Benefits

    A second structural impediment to realizing DER benefits is the current grid planning approach, which biases grid design toward traditional infrastructure rather than distributed alternatives, even if distributed solutions better meet grid needs. Combined with the “build more to profit more” financial incentive challenge, current grid planning can encourage ‘goldplating’, or overinvestment, in grid infrastructure. Furthermore, outdated planning approaches rely on static assumptions about DER capabilities and focus primarily on mitigating potential integration challenges rather than proactively harnessing these flexible assets. This report offers a pathway to modernizing grid planning, calling for the utilization of an Integrated Distribution Planning approach that encourages incorporating DERs into every aspect of planning, rather than merely accommodating DER interconnection. Additionally, transparency into grid needs and planned investments is fundamental to realizing benefits. As such, this report recommends a data transparency approach that invites broad stakeholder engagement and increases industry competition in providing grid solutions.

    Key Takeaways

    1. Distributed energy resources offer net economic benefits to society worth more than $1.4 billion per year in California alone by 2020, including benefits related to voltage and power quality, conservation voltage reduction, grid reliability and resiliency, equipment life extension, and reduced energy prices.

    2. To realize these benefits, the utility regulatory incentive model must change to take advantage of customer choices to manage their own energy. Utility incentives should promote best-fit, least-cost investment decisions regardless of service supplier – eliminating the current bias toward utility-owned investments.

    3. Utility planning approaches must also be modernized to capture these benefits. Utilization of an integrated distribution planning framework will unlock the economic promise of distributed energy resources, while widely sharing utility grid data in standard data formats will invite broader stakeholder engagement and competition.

    Recommendations and Next Steps

    Our ultimate goal is to help provide concrete evidence and recommendations needed by regulators, legislatures, utilities, DER providers, and industry stakeholders to transition to a cleaner, more affordable and resilient grid. While the exact nature of how our recommendations should be implemented will vary from state to state, we see the following as promising steps forward for all industry stakeholders in modernizing our grid:

    1. Future regulatory proceedings and policy venues related to capturing the benefits of DERs should incorporate the expanded benefit and cost categories identified in this paper.

    2. Regulators should look for near-term opportunities to modernize the utility incentive model, either for all utility earnings or at a minimum for demonstration projects, to eliminate the bias toward utility-owned investments.

    3. Regulators should require utilities to modernize their planning processes to integrate and leverage distributed energy resources, utilizing an integrated distribution planning process identified in this paper.

    4. Regulators should require utilities to categorize all planned distribution investments in terms of the underlying grid need. Utilities should make data available electronically to industry, ideally in a machine readable format.

    Call for Input

    We offer this paper as an effort to support the utilization of grid modernization investments to maximize ratepayer benefits. The cost/benefit analysis we develop here is an effort meant to expand the industry’s ability to quantify the holistic contribution that DERs offer to the grid and its customers, extending the familiar cost/benefit framework beyond PV-only analyses and into full smart inverter and DER portfolios. Building upon this analysis, we identify needed changes to utility incentives, planning, and data sharing approaches in order to realize DERs’ potential. Furthermore, we recognize that important regulatory proceedings – such as the CPUC Distribution Resource Plans (DRP) and CPUC Integrated Distributed Energy Resources (IDER) – will play an important role in giving stakeholders the tools to calculate the value of DERs.

    No single report could adequately address all the issues – engineering, economic, regulatory – that naturally arise during such a transformative time in the industry. By compiling the major issues in one place, we attempt to advance the discussion and suggest that this paper includes a “table of contents” of critical topics for regulators and industry stakeholders to consider when evaluating the full potential of distributed energy resources.

    There are many details of this paper that can be refined, including utilizing more complete data sets to inform the cost/benefit analysis. We welcome ongoing dialogues with utilities and industry stakeholders to improve the assumptions or calculations within, including sharing data and revising methodologies to arrive at more representative figures. In fact, most of the authors of this paper are former utility engineers, economists, technologists, and policy analysts, and would value the opportunity to collaborate. We welcome a constructive dialogue, and can be reached at


    CLIMATE CHANGE IN WATER COLORS Painting Climate Change

    Peter Sinclair, February 4, 2016 (Climate Denial Crock of the Week)

    "…Climate data is usually seen in pixels, spreadsheets, and maps. But watercolor paintings? Not so much. That’s what makes a growing series of paintings by Maine-based artist Jill Pelto so striking. They combine haunting imagery from the natural world with hard data showing the impact climate change is having…The message can be subtle, with the global average temperature graph tucked in a painting that shows wildfires raging…But the point is clear. Data — and the way humans are influencing that data by emitting greenhouse gases — is an essential part of the landscape and the changes that are happening…

    “…[B]y embedding that message within paintings, the works become a Trojan horse for science to reach a public that doesn’t necessarily think about data points and models…The global average temperature, sea-level rise, disappearing Arctic sea ice, and other major climate indicators have made an appearance in Pelto’s artwork. But local climate stories are also something she wants to explore more since they can make pieces even more emotionally resonant…Pelto said she’d like to collaborate with any other scientists looking to have their data become art. And eventually her own research could inform her art once she begins an earth science Master’s this fall at the University of Maine…” click here for more

    THE REAL ECONOMICS OF NEW ENERGY Is Renewable Energy Economically Viable?

    Tom Lombardo, February 8, 2016 (Engineering)

    “…Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) is a commonly used metric to compare the costs of various energy generation technologies. Put simply, LCOE is the ratio of the total cost of the power source to the total energy output over its life, expressed in dollars per kWh. The total cost takes into account the initial capital investment, interest, operations & maintenance costs, and fuel expenses…[But it fails to consider environmental impacts, the reliability and availability of the energy source]……Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) shifted the discussion [about New Energy] from idealism to pragmatism in Estimating Renewable Energy Economic Potential in the United States: Methodology and Initial Results…The study showed that in all three scenarios, there are long-term economic benefits to adding renewable energy to the grid…for every region of the continental US, with different renewable sources favored in certain areas…” click here for more

    WHO SHOULD PAY FOR EV CHARGING? Who Should Pay For Electric Car Charging Infrastructure?

    Steve Hanley, February 6, 2016 (Gas2)

    “…San Diego Gas & Electric has a plan to install 3,500 Level 2 charging stations in its service area…[Many would go into] places that are traditionally under-served…[But the LA Times] criticizes the SDG&E approach, which will be paid for by a surcharge on the utility bills of all its utility customers…[asks if it is] fair that people who don’t have electric cars should be forced to pay for chargers for those who do…[The California Public Utilities Commission] approved the plan…partly because…[lower] atmospheric pollution doesn’t benefit only those driving a LEAF or a Tesla, it benefits everyone who breathes the cleaner air. But the Times worries that such plans give utility companies a monopoly in the electric car charging industry, something they say will be bad for competition in the future…Everyone agrees that a robust charging infrastructure is vital…[but not on] who should pay…No one has figured out yet how [a private sector player can] make money consistently from operating a charging network…” click here for more

    Saturday, February 06, 2016

    It Is Not A Dream, It Is A Vision

    The Tesla vision: “Humanity will advance with giant strides..” From Freise Brothers via Vimeo

    Taking A Solar Road To The Future

    France is building the road less traveled – but it could become a street paved with gold. From Colas Group via YouTube

    What Battery Energy Storage Will Do

    This will change everything – again. Affordable storage is what experts have said for decades is the “Holy Grail” of New Energy. From The Good Stuff via YouTube

    Friday, February 05, 2016

    Dream Catcher -- ripped from the headlines, torn from the heart

    Artistically, Dream Catcher, a new play at the Fountain Theater in Hollywood, is satisfying in every way. And it is much more.

    When Brian Tichnell’s Roy comes rushing onto Director Cameron Watson’s wide round stage to join Elizabeth Frances’ Opal on Jeffrey McLaughlin’s set of desert dirt and engaging skyblue backdrop, questions rush the audience into the multi-layered plot.

    The lighting by Luke Moyer captures a desert brightness that might seem flat if it didn’t suit so well the emerging action that goes round and round in a confusion of questions and not quickly explained tensions.

    Roy and Opal are young and excited with a lot on their minds and life racing through their blood. They are immediately recognizable members of today’s millennial generation, he in costume designer Terri A. Lewis’s Gap khakis, badly pressed dress shirt, and bland tie, she in Target jeans and a snug denim vest that doesn’t conceal her tatted shoulders and tramp stamp.

    Roy is an impassioned young engineer for Suntech, a utility-scale solar development company readying a Mojave Desert groundbreaking on a concentrating solar power project. The massive installation is backed by an $800-plus million federal loan guarantee.

    Roy has been on this Mojave ground and away from his suburban Boston home for months, guiding project preparations, driven by his unwavering belief that this is a crucial effort in his generation’s heroic and vital fight to turn back climate change.

    Opal is a beautiful young native of the Mojave, an heir to its native peoples and an heir to the plight of its native peoples’ struggle with under-employment and dead-end opportunities.

    Their hot encounter at the Mojave’s Rusty Nail bar has swept them along in a testosterone-estrogen storm to the moment the play opens. He enters exuberant about the project’s imminent groundbreaking to her as yet unexplained moody mix of impatience and withdrawal.

    They play a strange game of anxiety and avoidance that stirs all kinds of passions in both of them until she finally reveals her secret: She has followed the guidance of a dream and discovered human bones, bones of her people, on the land where Suntech plans to build.

    If she reveals her find, the federal loan will be withdrawn and the project will be stopped, Roy tells her.

    But how can she turn her back on her ancestors? She asks him.

    So begins a journey for these young searchers that turns into more than just the ripped-from-the-headlines conflict of solar development versus sacred ground when it becomes clear their struggle is tearing at their hearts.

    It is environmentalists versus progress, the holiness of the past versus the desperation to salvage the future, the needs of the many and the needs of the few.

    It is still more. It is her need to trust her heart and live up to the traditions she so poorly inherited from her mother versus his need to know and to prove himself in business. It is her need to stand up for herself and his need to stand up for the earth. It is his pressing sexuality and her urgency to be loved.

    This list of some of the opposites their struggle eventually embraces is an injustice to Sachs’ writing and the acting talents and Frances and Tichnell because the tensions of these opposites are almost never abstract. As the actors passionately circle this piece of seemingly desolate and yet all too crowded empty desert space, themes cascade over the audience.

    The opposites come through an engineer’s plain-spoken scientific preaching about the urgency of climate change and his admissions about the strengths and weaknesses of his solar solution. They also come through the darker and yet simpler language and insights of a reservation girl raised on Native American myths of darkness and light.

    It is an easy and yet difficult play to watch, easy because it is unpretentious storytelling and difficult because the dualities threaten to overwhelm the audience just as the conflict threatens to ruin Roy and Opal.

    There will be no plot spoilers here. The play suggests simple power dynamics expressed through money or gender politics may resolve everyday dualities.

    But a more profound metaphysical desert of the spirit or the soul or the eternal earth may be what ultimately will have its way.

    Credits: Author: Stephen Sachs/Director: Cameron Watson/ Starring: Elizabeth Frances and Brian Tichnell/ Producers: Simon Levy and Deborah Lawlor

    Set design: Jeffrey McLaughlin/Lighting design: Luke Moyer/Costume design: Terri A. Lewis/Composer/Sound design: Peter Bayne/Prop Designer: Terri Roberts/Production stage manager: Emily Lehrer/Technical director: Scott Tuomey/Publicist: Lucy Pollak

    At the Fountain Theater/5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, CA. 90029/323-663-1525


    Gender sensitivity could aid climate change projects

    Jeremy Hartley, February 4. 2016 (SciDevNet)

    “Men and women living [in the undeveloped world] face different climate change impacts which, if overlooked, could further widen gender gaps in participatory development, says the preliminary findings of a continuing study…[from Practical Action Consulting East Africa in partnership with Institute of Development Studies, and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network. The findings] indicate that ignoring gender differences in climate change adaptation projects could widen gender gaps and hinder participatory development…[Men and women] have equal opportunities to participate in development projects that address the effects of climate change…[but] it is important to understand the different impacts of climate change that men and women face, and move beyond generalisations…[to enterprise-based approaches that] reduce gender disparity…” click here for more


    Offshore Wind Market Update; Global and Country-Level Market Analyses and Forecasts, Wind Turbine Vendor Market Shares, and Turbine Technology Trends

    1Q 2016 (Navigant Research)

    “The offshore wind energy market continues to march ahead, as 2015 represented a record year of activity with over 3.7 GW brought online…[O]ffshore wind reached nearly 12 GW of cumulative capacity by the end of 2015, up from 995 MW installed globally in 2014. Over 65% of the annual capacity was installed in Germany…[T]he United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and China [were other key markets]…The major market driver…is the demand for clean and diversified energy sources from an increasing number of governments…[and especially those] near areas of strong offshore wind potential, particularly the North Sea and Baltic Sea in Europe. Potential is also ripe along the northeastern seaboard of the United States…” click here for more


    France Is Paving More Than 600 Miles of Road With Solar Panels; In five years, France hopes the panels will supply power to 5 million people

    Danny Lewis, February 4, 2016 (Smithsonian)

    “…[France’s 621 mile Wattway…will be built in collaboration with the French road-building company Colas and the National Institute of Solar Energy. The company spent the last five years developing solar panels that are only about a quarter of an inch thick and are hardy enough to stand up to heavy highway traffic without breaking or making the roads more slippery…The panels are also designed so that they can be installed directly on top of existing roadways, making them relatively cheap and easy to install without having to tear up any infrastructure…The panels are made out of a thin polycrystalline silicon film and coated in a layer of resin to strengthen them and make them less slippery. Because the panels are so thin, they can adapt to small changes in the surface of pavement due to temperature shifts and are sealed tightly against the weather…[They] are even snowplow-proof, although plows need to be a little more cautious so as not to rip the panels off the ground…[French authorities] will start laying down segments of Wattway this coming spring.” click here for more


    Foreigners may own 100% of geothermal businesses

    Koirhul Amin, February 4, 2016 (Jakarta Post)

    “The government will issue a new regulation soon that will allow foreign investors to hold 100 percent ownership of [10 megawatt or larger] geothermal power plants …[as] part of the government’s program to boost investment in clean energy in Southeast Asia’s largest economy…For plants with a capacity of less than 10 MW, foreign ownership will be capped at 67 percent…Currently foreign investors may own up to 95 percent of plants with greater than 10 MW capacity…The government is aiming to increase the use of renewable energy from 6 percent in 2014 to at least 23 percent by 2025 and at least 31 percent in 2050…[The government also plans] to allow up to 49 percent foreign investment in high- and extra high-voltage power installation services, while medium- and low-voltage power installation would remain closed to foreign investors…Currently all power installation services must be fully owned by local investors…” click here for more

    Thursday, February 04, 2016


    Climate Change and Pets: More Fleas, More Heartworm

    Sue Manning, February 3, 2016 (AP via ABC News)

    “…[2015 was the hottest year on Earth in 136 years of record-keeping and climate change is] affecting cats and dogs…Fleas and ticks are getting smaller, but there are more of them, they eat more often, and they're causing problems in what used to be the colder months…Heartworm is spread by mosquitoes, but those mosquitoes — which used to be found only in certain regions — are now carrying the disease all over the United States…For pet-owners, those changes may mean rethinking preventive care like giving dogs flea and tick repellent and heartworm pills…Ticks cause Lyme disease in dogs as well as in humans. The bugs are most active in warm months, but with cities in the Northeast and Midwest setting record highs this past December, calendars no longer offer guidance on when pet-owners should worry and when they can relax. Dogs should be checked for ticks, just like people, and veterinarians can offer guidance on a variety of pest repellent products…” click here for more


    Leafless Artificial Trees Swaying In The Breeze Can Harness Wind Energy And Generate Electricity

    Angela Laguipo, February 3, 2016 (Tech Times)

    “…[A team of engineers is] looking at leafless artificial trees to generate renewable power when they are shaken by the wind…Ohio State University engineers have discovered new information about the vibrations that happen when wind passes through artificial tree-shaped figures…[A] massive amount of kinetic energy associated with those motions that is otherwise lost…[The researchers mathematically modelled a tree-like structure and unveiled that despite large and random inputs, it is possible to maintain consistent frequency. That means] objects shaped like leafless trees made from electromechanical materials possess the ability to convert forces like winds into strong vibrations. These vibrations, in turn, can generate electricity. For this reason, the researchers propose valuable applications that serve as an alternative to other renewable energy sources such as solar energy, which is not always available…” click here for more


    New Installation To Power Templeton Winery With 100 Percent Solar Energy; New solar installation will help cut electricity bills by $20,000 per month

    Yesica Lopez, January 29, 2016 (KEYT NewsChannel3/Santa Barbara, CA)

    “Castoro Cellars has completed an installation of a new solar project that will allow the Templeton winery to run 100 percent on solar power. The new installation…will have an annual production of over one million kilowatt hours…[The 625-kilowatt solar electric system] will help eliminate about $20,000 per month in electricity bills…They expect the system to pay for itself by the fifth year, and will save nearly $240,000 per year for at least the next 25 years…” click here for more


    Tropical fruit in Nebraska? Geothermal makes it possible … and cheap

    Kate Yoder, 1 February 2016 (Grist)

    “…Russ Finch, a mail-carrier-turned-farmer, is growing these tropical fruits in Alliance, Nebraska…[His] “Greenhouse in the Snow” uses the Earth’s heat to keep the temperature at a balmy 28 degrees…Perforated plastic tubes make a circuit underground outside the greenhouse in a trench 8-feet deep where Finch says the temperature remains a steady 52 degrees year-round. A fan moves air through the tubes and into the greenhouse when it gets too hot or cold…There are no propane or electric heaters, just a small motor that runs the small fan. That means the greenhouse uses very little energy, keeping costs down to about $1 a day, all but cutting out the fossil fuels needed to control the climate inside…[The construction cost was] $22,000. But with disease threatening Florida’s oranges and an ongoing drought in California, maybe it’s not such a bad idea to grow citrus in America’s breadbasket, where…water and land are relatively cheap and abundant…” click here for more

    Wednesday, February 03, 2016


    Inside Minnesota's legislative battle over utility rate structures and solar; A special legislative session is coming after the veto of a bill with contentious rate structure, solar reforms

    Herman K. Trabish, June 3, 2015 (Utility Dive)

    A budget bill with groundbreaking and contentious utility provisions was vetoed by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (D) after being pushed through the lower house in a midnight rush. The veto set up a one-day special session and a flurry of deal-making.

    If it had been signed into law, HF 1437, an omnibus jobs, housing, economic development, and energy appropriations bill, would have allowed Xcel Energy to realize many of the goals of a statewide utility modernization initiative by filing a multi-year rate plan with state regulators and requesting remuneration based on meeting specified performance metrics.

    It would have also allowed electric cooperatives and municipal utilities to add monthly fixed charges to the bills of customers with on-site net metered distributed energy resources.

    The bill “insufficiently funds” several agencies, and “contains changes to Minnesota’s net metering laws that will disincentivize the use of wind and solar power,” Governor Dayton wrote in his veto letter to the legislature.

    The legislative special session is expected in mid-June after key players haggle out a compromise on the bill’s controversial points. The deal that emerges will determine whether Minnesota’s co-ops and munis are pushed to follow Xcel Energy toward innovative rate structures or supported in their own push to use monthly bill fees to control distributed generation on their systems.

    “I have not heard yet what is in and what is out,” said Minnesota Rural Electric Association Director of Government Affairs and Counsel Jim Horan. “It is important that the governor mentioned the change in net metering for co-ops and munis. We were disappointed to see it mentioned that way.”

    Performance-based multi-year rates

    “The multi-year rate plan received bi-partisan legislative support and we expect that this important initiative will remain in the bill through the special session,” reported Chris Clark, President of Xcel’s Minnesota subsidiaryNorthern States Power.

    A multi-year rate plan is one of the key planks of Minnesota’s groundbreakinge21 (21st Century Energy System) Initiative. It is intended to help utilities move to a new business model through two fundamental shifts:

    The shift from providing all customers with grid electricity produced primarily with coal, natural gas, or nuclear power at large central stations to providing them with a full spectrum of energy resources and options for when and how cutomers want to use them

    The shift from dependence on returns from new central generation and escalating rates to meeting publicly preset performance metrics for energy efficiency, reliability, affordability, emissions reductions, predictable rates, and other goals that add wider benefits.

    The performance-based approach to ratemaking and incentives proposed by HF 1437 follows the e21 concept in allowing state regulators to approve a multi-year rate plan based on the utility’s long term investment projections, and a utility-proposed reasonable capital cost recovery plan. Regulators would also be able to approve a utility-proposed set of reasonable performance measures and incentives that are “quantifiable, verifiable, and consistent with state energy policies.”

    To allow for oversight of utilities with such long term authorization, the bill also establishes the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s privilege to establish “reasonable and prudent costs of service … and ensure that rates remain just and reasonable." It would allow the PUC to review and extend the plan if necessary, and “initiate a proceeding to determine a set of performance measures that can be used to assess a utility operating under a multiyear plan.” Distributed generation, net metering, co-ops, and munis

    “The Xcel multi-year rate was non-controversial. It passed both bodies and Xcel backed it. It was not cited by the governor in his veto letter,” said Allen Gleckner, senior policy associate at Fresh Energy, a Minnesota-based clean energy advocacy group. "But his veto letter did say the rollback of net metering disincentivizes solar and wind. He called it out specifically. That puts him face to face with the co-ops and munis.”

    In a special session, the failure to approve a budget could shut the state government down, Gleckner explained.

    “The Governor and leadership could easily decide to get the deal done by stripping out controversial issues like the net metering policy,” he said.

    But, Gleckner added, the coops and munis have been lobbying hard for it throughout the session and count powerful rural legislators among their allies.

    “If Senate leadership wants it enough, they could give up budget items to keep [the net metering changes]," he said. "The only concrete thing right now is that it was included in the veto letter.”

    In a provision long lobbied for, the bill changes Minnesota law preventing discrimination against solar owners with special fixed monthly charges. But, it also allows co-ops and munis to “charge an additional fee to recover the fixed costs not already paid for by the customer through the customer’s existing billing arrangement.”

    The bill specifies the charge on net metered distributed generation must be “reasonable and appropriate… [and] based on the most recent cost of service study.” It also requires that study to be publicly available. In a potential departure from the custom of allowing co-ops and munis to self-regulate, the bill also authorizes the commission to ensure the fixed charges are “not discriminatory.”

    Rate design is complicated, Horan said.

    “Customers with distributed generation use the system as a back-up batteryand to sell back power. That imposes costs on the utility in terms of metering and billing and interconnection costs and other on-going costs," he said. "This is not a punitive fee. We are looking for a formula to collect some of the fixed costs needed to serve that member.”

    The impact of a fixed fee will be managed by regulators’ oversight, he told Utiltiy Dive.

    “This allows net metering to continue and allows co-ops to continue to support net metering and distributed generation and allows distributed generation to grow in the state," he said. "It protects electric co-ops and protects their members from the cost shift and prevents one neighbor from subsidizing another, but still allows distributed generation to grow.”

    How to respond to distributed generation growth?

    “The co-op provision basically says we don’t know how to deal with distributed generation or accommodate it or value it so we will just slap an additional charge on their bills,” explained John Farrell, a director at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and author of studies on the value of solar and the "Utility 2.0" business model.

    “The vision behind e21 is that we align the intentions of a profit making company with the social interests. The bill is trying to align the utility’s incentives with a more renewable and efficient future,” he said. “The co-ops and munis are saying they are not willing to look at how distributed generation fits into the bigger picture of electricity supply and demand on a 21st century grid.”

    Co-ops were formed in the 1930s because they realized that if they didn’t bring electricity to rural regions, nobody would. But now, Farrell echoed what Mark Vogt, CEO of the Minnesota co-op Wright-Hennepin recently told Utility Diveabout his co-op’s solar program, saying that "they know if they don't do it, someone else will.”

    There are a lot of distributed generation providers, Farrell said. “Will the co-ops response to that be the 20th century clamp-down with fixed charges? Or will they embrace distributed generation?”

    Distributed generation has definite value to the system, Horan said, and co-ops are engaged in understanding what that value is.

    The politics of the proposal

    As to the fate of the bill, Horan could only say there is “a lot of wrangling going on.”

    “I’m always amazed at the political influence of the co-ops and munis,” Farrell said, noting they get the attention of rural legislators because their boards are the most influential people in their communities.

    Watch Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, a Democrat from the Iron Range, Gleckner said.

    “He is not prejudiced for or against renewables and is very transactional, but his son is a co-op leader,” he explained.

    Bakk wants a provision allowing two Iron Range utilities to offer reduced electricity rates to “energy intensive trade exposed industries” and might be willing to give up something to get that, Gleckner explained. The Governor might take that deal if Iron Range legislators want to risk other ratepayers' ire.


    ZIKA AND CLIMATE 'Range of Zika vector will increase with climate change'; DW asks emerging pathogens expert Amy Vittor about the connection between Zika and climate change. Researchers are using dengue as a reference point, as little is known about the new virus linked to a birth defect.

    Charlotta Loma with Dr, Amy Vittor, February 3, 2016 (Deutsche Welle)

    “…Zika virus is a close relative of dengue virus. It's a mosquito-borne virus that usually causes no symptoms, or only mild illness. But…it's been associated with the birth defect called microcephaly…Zika is spread by [two] very common mosquitoes…The conditions that seem to allow Zika to thrive are the presence of very good vector mosquitoes - namely Aedes aegypti probably mostly in Brazil at the moment - and a lot of human and mosquito contact…[Warm temperatures and humidity allow the dengue virus and probably Zika] to propagate within the mosquito…

    “Taking into account [different climate change projections], it looks like the range of these dengue vectors - and Zika therefore also - will increase…The expanding range of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus may be a result of climate change of the past decades…[It] has led to more fertile areas for disease to take hold…[and] we might see increases in disease in the future…[in] the northeast United States, certain areas of Europe, the southern areas of South America, and east Asia…” click here for more

    U.S. ARMY TO BUILD WIND-SOLAR HYBRID Fort Hood Kicks Off $100M Wind, Solar Energy Project

    January 29, 2016 (AP via CBS News)

    “…[Ground was just broken at Fort Hood, the sprawling Central Texas military installation, for the Army’s largest renewable energy project, a] $100 million hybrid solar and wind renewable energy project. The Department of Defense-related project also involves Apex Clean Energy and the White House Council on Environmental Quality…[It] is expected to produce electricity for Fort Hood with a goal of providing up to 40 percent of the post’s needs…The setup involves a solar farm that will use thousands of panels spread over about 130 acres of Fort Hood [and power from a nearby] wind turbine facility…” click here for more

    INTRO TO EV BUYING How to buy the best electric car; There's a lot to consider before buying your first electric car. Let's look at your choices.

    Wayne Cunningham, February 2, 2016 (Road Show)

    “…Despite range inferior to gasoline-powered cars, electric cars are working for the daily-driving lives of a few hundred thousand people in the US. Freedom from gas stations and low running costs are two prime reasons you might want to consider an electric vehicle (EV)… The range runs from the Tesla Model X, a roomy crossover SUV, down to the Smart Electric Drive, a tiny, two-seater hatchback. Among the middle ground for size, you will find theMercedes-Benz B-Class and Kia Soul Electric. A majority of EVs offer seating for five, with room for cargo, following the typical IC-based passenger-car model…[With up to 270 miles of range, a variant that hits 60 mph in under 3 seconds and a lithe, attractive body, not only is the [Tesla] Model S an excellent electric car, it competes well with premium gasoline-powered cars…Purpose-built as an electric car, the Nissan Leaf can go up to 107 miles on a charge. It is also widely available, giving it an edge over electrics sold only in a few markets]…” click here for more

    Tuesday, February 02, 2016


    3rd Annual Grid Modernization Index

    January 2016 (GridWise Alliance)

    Executive Summary

    The transformation of the electric grid in the United States continues to proceed at an unprecedented rate. The proliferation of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), utility-scale renewable generation, distributed energy resources (DERs), energy storage, electric vehicles, and other technologies is changing the way electric power is transmitted, distributed, and managed, in both large and small ways. These changes affect the full range of grid stakeholders – utilities, regulators, policymakers, grid operators, electric service providers, and customers – in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

    This third annual Grid Modernization Index (GMI), published by the GridWise Alliance in collaboration with Clean Edge, ranks and assesses the states and D.C., based upon the degree to which they have moved toward a modernized electric “Grid of the Future.” This GMI, based on survey data collected in June-October 2015, benchmarks states on a wide range of grid modernization policies, investments, and activities. The report also provides insights into some of the relationships and connections between state policies and regulations, customer engagement, and utility investments in modernizing the grid.

    The GMI ranking system uses a clearly defined set of criteria to evaluate and convey the progress and impacts of this transformative set of improvements to the states’ electricity infrastructure. The GMI rankings consist of three broad categories:

    • STATE SUPPORT, which is based on plans and policies that support grid modernization

    • CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT, which ranks states on their rate structures, customer outreach, and data collection practices

    • GRID OPERATIONS, which benchmarks the deployment of grid modernization technologies such as sensors and smart meters, as well as the advanced capabilities they enable

    Major Developments

    • CALIFORNIA now requires its major investorowned utilities (IOUs) to submit distributed resource plans (DRPs) that detail how they will value DERs as distribution grid assets.

    • NEW YORK’s landmark Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding recognizes the need for advanced metering functionality (such as smart meters). Advanced metering functionality is one of the foundational investments that will allow New York to achieve its ultimate goal: reforming the retail market to leverage DERs to optimize the electric system. The state’s utilities are already proposing plans to provide smart meters to those customers who do not yet have them.

    • In 2015, HAWAII increased its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS, i.e. the amount of renewable energy required) to 100 percent by 2045. Its utilities have struggled to integrate more solar photovoltaic (PV) (as well as storage and other DERs), which have grown rapidly as a result of net metering (the policy that allows customers with solar PV to be compensated for the electricity their solar panels add to the grid). In October 2015, the Public Utility Commission eliminated net metering in favor of two new rate options. (See sidebar on page 18.)

    • MASSACHUSETTS required its utilities to submit grid modernization plans by September 2015. Utilities’ proposals include additional smart meters, experiments with time of use and critical peak pricing tariffs, and DER management systems.

    • MINNESOTA has finished Phase I of its e21 Initiative, which aims to help utilities recognize the new role that customers play in electricity production and consumption, and offer new services and rates that reflect this emerging reality. In March 2014, it also created the country’s first-ever formula, or method, that helps value solar energy for utilities to use to compensate solar customers for the excess electricity they send back to the grid.

    • ARIZONA has been experiencing a major debate over net metering. To address this challenge, in October 2015, the state decided to consider both the costs and values of solar together in one Commission proceeding. Doing so is an important step, especially given that utilities and solar companies had previously been discussing whether to consider the value of solar power at all.

    Leading State Scores

    California is the highest-ranked state in this year’s GMI, with a score of 88, more than six points higher than its score in 2014. The state ranks first in the Customer Engagement category (as it did in the previous GMI), and second in both State Support and Grid Operations. California has a nearly seven-point lead over second-place Illinois, while Texas (which tied California for the top score in the previous GMI) ranks third. Maryland and Delaware (two of four states in the top 10 that lie fully within the PJM Interconnection territory) each move up a spot to fourth and fifth, respectively. This year, the top states have started to pull away from the rest of the field: in the previous GMI, the difference between first place and fifth was 15 points; now it is almost 28 points.

    The bottom half of the top 10 has gone through some significant shifts. The District of Columbia increases its ranking by two places to sixth, followed by Oregon, which adds 11 points to its overall score with big improvements in Customer Engagement and Grid Operations. Arizona and Pennsylvania are tied for eighth; the latter fell 19 points, though its ranking only fell four places. Finally, Georgia ranks 10th; Georgia’s score is the same as in the previous GMI, but it places in the top 10, due to big declines by other states. North Carolina is worth watching: It has added 10 points to its overall score and just misses ranking in the top 10.

    The top 10 states have an average overall score of 64 points. For the states ranked 11 through 20, the average is 41 points, representing a 36 percent decline from the top 10; for states ranked 21 through 30, the decline reaches nearly 58 percent (27 is the average score). These gaps between the highest-scoring states and the next two tiers are larger than they were in the previous GMI.

    Key Takeaways

    • Continuing to fund investments in grid modernization is a challenge for both utilities and regulators due to pressure to keep rates low, making the internal competition for capital more challenging.

    • A wide gap generally exists with respect to progress achieved in modernizing the grid between the leading states and those that have not yet started to make significant investments.

    • Key factors associated with high GMI scores currently include AMI penetration, electric market deregulation, and the presence of demand response programs.

    • Deployment of grid modernization technologies, such as AMI infrastructure, has progressed, but the full potential range of benefits that such technologies could provide has yet to be realized, particularly around customer education and empowerment.

    • States and utilities need to consider dynamic rate structure reforms to fully unlock the benefits offered by the smart grid.

    • The source of leadership of grid modernization efforts varies widely from state to state, including between regulators, legislatures, governors, utilities, and customers. There is no one-sizefits-all approach, but collaboration among stakeholders is essential.


    NEW WIRES FOR NEW ENERGY Better power lines would help U.S. supercharge renewable energy, study suggests

    Puneet Kollipara, January 25, 2016 (Science)

    “Analysts have long argued that nations aiming to use wind and solar power to curb emissions from fossil fuel burning would first have to invest heavily in new technologies to store electricity produced by these intermittent sources…But a study out today suggests that the United States could, at least in theory, use new high-voltage power lines to move renewable power across the nation, and essentially eliminate the need to add new storage capacity…Future cost-competitive electricity systems and their impact on US CO2 emissions Nature Climate Change finds an] improved national grid, based on existing technologies, could enable utilities to cut power-sector carbon dioxide emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2030 without boosting power prices…But some observers wonder whether the U.S. power grid can rise to the renewables challenge…” click here for more

    SOLAR MAKES BIG MONEY ON WAREHOUSE ROOFS Put a Solar Panel on It; How did a warehouse company become one of America’s leaders in renewable energy?

    Daniel Gross, January 29, 2016 (Slate)

    “…Prologis, which at 97.54 megawatts trails only Walmart in the amount of installed rooftop solar capacity in the U.S…doesn't operate stores, doesn’t fret much about what upscale American consumers think about its energy use, and doesn’t even have much energy use to offset…It’s the world’s largest owner and operator of warehouses…Boasting 700 million square feet of space (about 25 square miles) in 21 countries, it has a market capitalization of more than $20 billion…[and] Prologis has figured out how to turn the ultimate waste of space—the flat roof of a warehouse—into an emissions-reducing, money-producing power plant [by selling the solar energy-generated electricity to the grid]…To date, Prologis has put solar panels on more than 100 buildings around the world, with a combined capacity of 140 megawatts. About 70 percent of its installations are in the U.S. Prologis has planted solar on only about 10 percent of its global footprint, in part because the economics don’t yet make sense everywhere it operates…The company plans to add about 15 megawatts of solar capacity per year through 2020…[and] likely add energy storage to the mix…” click here for more

    NEW YORK CITY LIKES GEOTHERMAL HEAT PUMPS New York City Passes Geothermal Energy Bill

    January 29, 2016 (Builder)

    “Following a 2013 measure to study the implementation of geothermal heat pumps, New York City Council has passed the geothermal energy bill and sent it to Mayor De Blasio to sign…The bill, Int. 0609-A-2015, will require New York City to identify and implement geothermal heat pump installations in all its new construction and retrofits when it is shown that doing so would be cost effective…This measure could be used as a blueprint for any city, town or borough in the U.S. Increased use of geothermal heat pump systems reduces energy costs for the end user, reduce peak load supporting a stronger grid, reduces emissions and creates jobs…[Geothermal advocates are working to get similar measures] passed in other major cities…” click here for more