Category Archives: Best Practices

Energy Efficiency Policy Tracker: August 2014

Josh Craft, Manager of Public Policy Analysis

Josh Craft, Manager of Public Policy Analysis

This summer, we’ve seen the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states continue tackle the major themes outlined at last month’s NEEP Summit in Newport: modernizing the electric grid, de-carbonizing the electric sector, and managing electric-gas infrastructure constraints in New England.

As you can see, policymakers did not shy away from strong action in June and July — whether it was the EPA releasing its Clean Power Plan, or states like New York and Massachusetts moving key proceeding on grid modernization forward. And the New England governors are still pressing for investment in new gas pipeline capacity, though plans are yet to be fully developed This in spite of the upcoming fall elections, where eight states and the District of Columbia will hold gubernatorial (or mayoral) contests in November.

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The Utility of the Future: Shifting Regulatory Paradigm, or Demise of the Grid?

Massive grid defection could happen in the near future. A speaker at New England Electricity’s 141st Restructuring Roundtable, “The Electric Utility of the (Near?) Future; and The Promise of Storage for Renewables,” presented on the economic benefits of going off the grid, sending ripples through the packed audience that lined the walls and filled the overflowing room.

A commercial solar array on top of an office facility in Fall River MA, System installed and commissioned by Solar Installation LLC

A commercial solar array on top of an office facility in Fall River MA, System installed and commissioned by Solar Installation LLC

Clearly, this was a big deal. As a Public Policy Intern at NEEP, a meeting in Boston with the who’s who of the New England energy scene discussing major changes is the height of excitement. The June 27th Roundtable was moderated by Dr. Jonathan Raab of Raab Associates Ltd., and hosted a star-studded panel of energy leaders, whose presentations are available online.

The way we interact with the energy grid is evolving; the regulatory changes state governments make to create a modern Utility of the Future are crucial, as this is an issue that affects everyone on a daily basis.

Jon Creyts, a Managing Director at the Rocky Mountain Institute, began the morning by jumping into this highly contentious issue with his presentation entitled “The Economics of Grid Defection.” The goal of Creyts’s study was to establish a fact-base for where and when solar power coupled with battery storage hybrid power systems can compete with traditional utility service.

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How the Liberal Arts and a Semester in China Brought Me to Energy Efficiency

Lauren headshot

Lauren Vunderink, photographed near her hometown of Austin, Texas

“The future is coming fast,” Susan Coakley, founder and executive director of the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP) told us in a recent staff meeting. That statement reflects the atmosphere here at NEEP, a forward-thinking group of people helping to organize, guide, and standardize energy efficiency information, legislation, and codes on both a regional and national level.

I am spending the summer in Lexington, Massachusetts as NEEP’s public policy intern, and have barely skimmed the surface of the vast amount of material and initiatives that NEEP is responsible for – the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region is a busy place for efficiency. I am assisting this active organization in any way I can, including reading and summarizing proposals, attending and summarizing meetings, and helping with new data organization software.

As an Anthropology major at Connecticut College, I find the production, use, impacts, and perception of energy sources to be fascinating aspects of modern societies, shaping their environments, economies, and public health. I have always been drawn to environmental issues; the Anthropology major and liberal arts education has allowed me to study a variety of topics, like history, economics, art, and science, encouraging the development of  multiple lenses through which issues can be understood. It struck me that changing our energy sources and the way we use energy can have positive economic, environmental, and social impacts.

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Intrigue, deal-making, and a happy ending: Delaware passes landmark efficiency bill

What a cliff hanger! In the fight to expand energy efficiency in Delaware, we had an uphill battle, a gritty gang of advocates, steadfast civil servants, a reluctant lawmaker. And somewhere in there, some extraordinary legislative maneuvering. Maybe not ready for Hollywood, but for those of us who have been toiling away to bring ratepayer-funded efficiency programs to Delaware, this victory is sweet.

Seal_of_Delaware In the wee hours of the morning of July 1 as the 2014 session drew to a close, Delaware’s General Assembly surprised and delighted efficiency supporters, passing a bill to enable ratepayer-funded programs and allow utilities to deliver those programs to their customers. Continue reading

Energy Efficiency: A True Boon to Businesses

IMG_0201 resizedAt the tail end of October 2013, I hit the ground running  as NEEP’s new Public Relations Manager. I quickly learned about NEEP staffers, their roles, and how they all connected together to make our projects move forward. I studied NEEP whitepapers, workshops, and business plans. I looked up acronym after acronym. I met (via email, phone, and in person) scores of NEEP partners and sponsors.

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Building a Modular Net Zero Home: An Update from the Trenches

When I last wrote about our project building a super-efficient, solar-powered home, my husband Tom and I were exhilarated. After months of agony waiting for approval of our septic system and building plans, we finally closed on the acre of land in Salisbury, Mass. Meanwhile, factory construction of the modules at Keiser Homes was already complete.

We had closed on the land and construction loan on April 16. A week later, we were standing in the light rain around a gaping, muddy hole in the ground. As a small crew worked behind us, Tom and I posed for pictures with our architect, builder, town selectman and representatives from Boston magazine, Boston Children’s Hospital and National Grid. It was the groundbreaking ceremony for the magazine’s Design Home 2014, and we beamed like sunshine, despite the weather.

groundbreaking

Pictured, L – R:  Beth Lonergan, Ishaga Diagnana, and Dave Gendall of National Grid; Kristen Standish, Publisher of Boston magazine; Michael Bornhorst, Director, Corporate Initiatives at Boston Children’s Hospital; Tom and Natalie Treat, homeowners; Matt Silva, former Sales & Marketing Manager at Ridgeview Construction; Parlin Meyer, Development Director at BrightBuilt Home; and Freeman Condon, Salisbury Town Selectman.

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Only Natural? A Rush to Gas before Right-Sizing, Efficiency Would Cost Region

You can practically hear the hand-wringing. New England is increasingly dependent on natural gas for electricity generation, and in a long cold winter such as we’ve just experienced, heating need puts a squeeze on this energy feedstock, causing wholesale prices to skyrocket.

Figure 1: Electric Pricing Rising with Natural Gas Prices. Source: ISO-New England

Figure 1: Electric Pricing Rising with Natural Gas Prices. Source: ISO-New England

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EM&V Workshop: 5 Things You Should Know About the Emerging Evaluation World

EMV plantJoin NEEP on Monday, June 2 in Newport as we gather a mix of policymakers, program administrators, system planners, federal agencies, and EM&V practitioners for a pre-Summit workshop on the evolving evaluation, measurement, and verification (EM&V) world.

With all the buzz around streamlining EM&V as the efficiency resource grows — through developments such as use of national EM&V protocols, access to and use of ‘big data’ and smart meters/devices, and use of emerging automated M&V tools — it’s hard to sort out what’s happening when and what key barriers we must overcome before we see the EM&V 2.0 world evolve. Panel topics will include:

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Energy Efficiency Policy Tracker: May 2014

Spring has brought forth a rush of activity on energy efficiency and energy policy in states in the NEEP region. Below is an overview of a major proceeding in New York, a roundup of state legislative and regulatory activity, and a new report on the cost of energy efficiency programs.

New York Energy the Future of Utilities, Distributed Resources

New York State has opened a major proceeding on the future of energy regulation and the electricity grid, entitled Reforming the Energy Vision, or “REV.” The sweeping April 2014 order and proposal issued by the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) will have major implications for the future of energy efficiency, distributed generation, and electric ratemaking in the Empire State and perhaps beyond. PSC Chair Audrey Zibelman said in a statement that New York seeks to “maximize the utilization of resources, and reduce the need for new infrastructure through expanded demand management, energy efficiency, renewable energy, distributed generation, and energy storage programs.”  At its core is an attempt to promote more customer-sided resources, including energy efficiency and distributed generation in order to reduce the costs of meeting New York’s peak electricity demand and the state’s carbon emissions.

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Sweating the Small Stuff: Energy Efficiency Policy and the Keystone XL Pipeline

Energy efficiency policy work doesn’t always make for great conversation at dinner parties. Energy efficiency represents energy and money not wasted, so it’s less tangible than new solar panels or a natural gas well. And much of NEEP’s work is behind the scenes, spread across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in regulatory proceedings that can be hard to follow, on topics that may not, on the surface, sound very interesting. The energy efficiency policies we follow certainly haven’t captured media attention the way that the future of the Keystone XL pipeline has. But an article in last week’s New York Times by Coral Davenport helps show just how important these proceedings on energy efficiency (and other aspects of energy and environmental policy) are to the future of our energy landscape and the Earth’s climate.

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