The electric transmission system is a marvel of engineering that has powered our growth for more than half a century. Today, the grid is aging—becoming less reliable and less capable of meeting our 21st century needs for abundant, inexpensive renewable energy. Outdated regulations governing the grid have not kept pace with our national goals and have been a hurdle to building the grid we need.
A renewable energy smart grid will make electricity cleaner by building transmission to our nation’s vast but remote renewable resources. A smarter grid—with full communications capabilities and operational controls at all levels—will make the electric system more reliable, secure, and efficient. Our national grid is evolving from a large number of smaller, local grids. These largely independent, though increasingly interconnected, grids must do more to communicate and coordinate with each other, not only to keep the lights on, but also to plan for future system needs. We need national goals, and corresponding policy tools to plan, pay for, and site interstate transmission facilities to get the maximum amount of cost-effective and clean renewable energy to consumers.
We need to make the grid:
Bigger: Bolster our transmission system to bring renewable energy resources—like wind in the Great Plains and solar in the desert Southwest—to the population centers that need them.
Smarter: Broadly deploy “smart grid” technologies to make the grid more reliable, resilient, and secure, and enable much greater energy efficiency for consumers and businesses.
Better Integrated: Elevate planning, siting, and cost-allocation processes from the state and local level to a regional level with input from all stakeholders.
The Energy Future Coalition launched Americans for a Clean Energy Grid in 2009. The Initiative was an outcome of the Coalition’s Clean Energy Smart Grid Vision Statement, which was drafted with input from a broad group of stakeholders. The vision statement calls for the United States to:
Develop New Regional Transmission Plans to Bring Renewable Power to Market. Congress should enable the grid to maximize the development of domestic renewable energy by linking resources to population centers. Congress should establish a new process within the two multi-state power systems that cover the entire country (except Texas, Alaska, and Hawaii) to plan, site, and recover the costs for transmission.
Create New Incentives for Investments in Smart Grid Technologies. Congress should increase funding for demonstration projects and provide tax breaks for smart grid investments.
Make Grid Security a Priority. Congress should ensure that new grid investments and technologies make our power system safer and more secure. A smart grid is more adaptive and self-healing and can better manage electricity flows, which helps safeguard our electric power system from attacks and natural disasters.
Preparing the Electric Utility for Disruptive Change
In the United States and throughout the developed world, the electric utility sector is at the beginning of a fundamental transformation. Technological innovation promises dramatic changes in risks and reward for the current utility structure – competitive, financial, cyber, and physical risks; rewards from lower costs of service and reliability, greater energy source diversity and ubiquity, and the first opportunities for meaningful energy storage and customer participation price setting.
The grid of the future beckons, with a vision of hundreds of millions of diverse, low-carbon power sources integrated seamlessly into a more reliable and secure network, but also capable of operating independently; a system where new competitive forces keep minimizing costs while offering new products and services at all levels.
WHAT IS UTILITY 2.0
Utility 2.0 refers to the next iteration of the electric utility infrastructure – including all aspects of the supply and distribution chain – and how utilities will be operated in the future. The utility of the future world of flat electricity demand, widespread distributed generation, electric vehicles, and high penetration of renewable energy. Electric utilities have been operating with relatively stable business models and regulations for more than a century, but the market dynamic is changing fast. EFC’s Utility 2.0 initiative focuses on all aspects of utility operations, especially technology, infrastructure, and regulatory policies, and produces recommendations for improving grid reliability and resiliency.
PILOT PROJECT: MARYLAND
In February 2013, EFC hosted an initial Utility 2.0 Pilot Project meeting of experts and advocates to discuss potential elements for the pilot project. Concepts for the pilot rolled in, and proposed elements range from those as concrete as including smart thermostats in homes and distributed battery storage, to such theoretical concepts as “redefining the utility” and changing the way that utility performance is evaluated.
In early March 2013, a draft pilot design proposal was sent around to over 100 stakeholders for review, input, comments, and suggestions, and by March 15th, the pilot design was complete and handed off to Governor O’Malley, Pepco Holdings, Inc., and Baltimore Gas & Electric. We have proposed that the involved stakeholders meet to discuss the elements of the pilot design, with hopes that some or all of the design will be implemented in the State of Maryland, and ultimately serve as a model that can be replicated and learned from elsewhere in the United States.
As of May 2013, the final report has been released to the public. The report has received positive reactions thus far, with the most noteworthy being that of Montgomery County Council-member Roger Berliner, Chair of the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment committee. Council-member Berliner formally filed the report before the Maryland Public Service Commission, requesting public comment on the recommendations made in the report, the forming of work groups as appropriate, and suggesting that Maryland move forward with implementing such pilot programs. Council-member Berliner said that the report “offered a compelling vision of an energy future that is more reliable, cost-effective, green, energy efficient, consumer directed, and technologically advanced.”
WORKSHOP: FACILITATING THE EVOLUTION OF THE ELECTRIC UTILITY
In a related effort, the Energy Future Coalition, along with co-host World Resources Institute, held a workshop on Facilitating the Evolution of the Electric Utility in early May 2013. At the meeting, senior officials from the Department of Energy cross-pollinated knowledge and information with many NGOs also working on utility reform. The discussion was fruitful, with actionable takeaways and important connections forged. EFC looks to continue to leverage its convening power in trying to make the inevitable transition to the Utility of the Future far smoother than it otherwise might be.
Building on the work described above, EFC is now actively pursuing several initiatives. Most recently, we have been designated as a member of Maryland’s Resiliency Through Microgrids Task Force, which is exploring very seriously the potential for a public interest microgrid that would enhance electricity system resiliency in the case of a major storm or other outage event. In addition, EFC is pursuing an initiative that will attempt to understand in totality the work of numerous organizations working on utility evolution and modernization issues, while also bringing new and previously quiet stakeholders to the table.
For more information on Utility 2.0, or to subscribe to our e-mail list for future updates and meetings, please send us an e-mail.
Efficiency can meet our energy demand more cleanly, quickly, and cost-effectively than any other available supply option. It offers a bridge between the conventional fossil fuel-based power of today and the clean power of tomorrow.
The United States, in partnership with other leading nations, should lead the world in doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvements within five years. By investing in efficiency, we will gain an energy supply resource that is clean, cost-effective, and home-grown.
Rebuilding America: At a time when America’s workforce is in crisis and the commercial building sector remains fragile, improving the energy efficiency of the U.S. building sector can be an important part of our economic recovery. The building sector currently accounts for 70% of all electricity and 33% of all natural gas usage, and is responsible for 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions. By retrofitting existing buildings, we can create jobs, reduce electricity costs, and reduce global warming pollution. Rebuilding America can put 625,000 people back to work by retrofitting 50 million buildings by 2020. Click here for more information.
Jump Start Chicago: As part of its Rebuilding America campaign, the Energy Future Coalition helped to jump start commercial building retrofits in the City of Chicago. With collaboration from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, as well as a remarkable steering committee, we developed a broad coalition of building owners, civic organizations, local government, utilities, contractors, investors, and executives, and grew deep roots in Chicago that we hope will flower into the type of action that will make the city an American model for energy efficiency. Click here for more information.
Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge: The Energy Future Coalition has been involved with the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge (“Atlanta BBC”) as part of its Rebuilding America initiative to facilitate major energy and water efficiency upgrades of municipal, university, hospital, and commercial buildings in a 400 block area in the city’s Downtown central business district. The goal of the Atlanta BBC is to reduce energy and water consumption by at least 20% in participating buildings across Atlanta by 2020. Click here for more information.
Setting a National Energy Efficiency Standard: We need a national energy efficiency standard that builds on the work of these forward-thinking states. The standard, known as an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS), sets a minimum level for energy savings (electricity and natural gas), establishes a target date, and creates the monitoring and verification needed to ensure savings are achieved. Setting a national standard highlights the critical role of efficiency for our energy future while avoiding a “one size fits all” approach and recognizing that each state will need a different strategy to meet the standard. The Coalition commented in detail on how energy efficiency could be included in a Clean Energy Standard – click here to read comments.
LEARN MORE – see our resources on energy efficiency.
Eliminating Aromatic Hydrocarbons from our Nation’s Motor Fuel
What are aromatic hydrocarbons?
- Aromatic hydrocarbons make up 20-30% of each gallon of gasoline.
- The most common aromatic hydrocarbons include benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX).
- Benzene is the most hazardous and is a known carcinogen. Whereas, toluene and xylene convert to benzene in the combustion process and contribute to the formation of ozone smog.
- BTEX is a primary source of ultrafine particulate matter (PM) or ultrafine emissions
Why do we use aromatic hydrocarbons?
- Aromatic hydrocarbons are added to gasoline to increase the octane rating of an engine, which leads to better engine performance and increased fuel efficiency.
The Health Hazards of Aromatic Hydrocarbons
- Ultrafine PM are small enough to penetrate blood cells and travel to the body’s organs
- Some possible adverse health effects include an increased risk of asthma, respiratory disease, reduced lung development and function in children, cardiovascular disease in adults, and cancer.
- Despite all of these potential health effects, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate ultrafine PM and these hazardous aromatic hydrocarbons.
What is the Energy Future Coalition doing?
- The Energy Future Coalition has called attention to the health risks aromatic compounds in gasoline.
- Our strategies entails:
- Meeting with the EPA and other stakeholders to draw attention to the issue.
- Developing a comprehensive white paper on the science and health impacts of aromatics
- Recruiting allies to address the issue, such as the American Lung Association, automobile manufacturers and others.
- Planning conferences about the existing research on the health effects of aromatics and the policy and technical options for addressing them
- In conjunction with the Urban Air Initiative, EFC has submitted comments on the EPA’s Tier 3 rule.
- To date, the EFC has held two Washington DC workshops attempting to attempting to address the public health impacts of particulate pollution generated by partial combustion of aromatic hydrocarbons in motor fuel, as well as potential technical and policy responses to those issues.
Resources and Current Research
- Frederica Perera from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health studies the fetal and developmental impacts of very low concentrations of ultra-fine particles and PAHs in NY.
- A 2013 Harvard Study investigated the correlation between exposure to secondary organic aerosols (SOAs) from aromatic hydrocarbons in gasoline and premature mortality
- Von Stackelberg, Katherine, Jonathan Buonocore, Prakash V Bhave, and Joel a Schwartz. 2013. “Public Health Impacts of Secondary Particulate Formation from Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Gasoline.” Environmental Health?: A Global Access Science Source 12: 19. doi:10.1186/1476-069X-12-19.
- A recent study from the late Theo Colborn’s research group investigated the literature for the health effects of BTEX exposure.
- Bolden, Ashley L., Carol F. Kwiatkowski, and Theo Colborn. 2015. “New Look at BTEX: Are Ambient Levels a Problem?” Environmental Science & Technology, 150415000233002. doi:10.1021/es505316f.
If you’d like more information on aromatic hydrocarbons and what EFC is doing to combat them, please contact the Energy Future Coalition.
Renewable Energy: 25x’25
As of November 12, 2015, 25x’25 is transitioning to become a special project of Solutions from the Land.
In 2004 the Energy Future Coalition launched 25x’25, and since then it has grown into the premier renewable energy initiative in the agricultural community. The 25x’25 U.S. vision is for the U.S. to supply 25% of its energy needs with renewable energy by 2025 while continuing to produce safe, abundant, and affordable food, feed, and fiber.
The 25x’25 Alliance consists of hundreds of partners, ranging from large corporations to nonprofit groups to individuals eager for a new energy future. The 25x’25 vision has been endorsed by 11 governors, 24 former governors, 15 state legislators, and was adopted in the 2007 energy bill. Through the 25x’25 Alliance, partners are working together to advance renewable energy solutions that are clean, domestically based, and stimulate new economic activity in the U.S.
This video, produced for the 2010 25x’25 National Summit, details some of the ways in which the U.S. can reach the 25x’25 goal:
The U.S. has an abundant supply of renewable feedstocks and resources right here in our backyard, including wind, geothermal, biomass (agricultural and forestry products and residues, energy crops, and yard clippings), biogas, solar, and others. The American Council on Renewable Energy estimates that new renewable energy could meet all of U.S. energy needs through 2025, and an economic study produced by the University of Tennessee for 25x’25 determined that benefits of meeting the 25% goal include:
- Generating $700 million in new economic activity.
- Reducing oil consumption by 2.5 million barrels per day – 10% of U.S. predicted consumption in 2025.
- Creating 4 to 5 million good new jobs.
- Eliminating 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions and cleaning up the air by decreasing urban smog.
25x’25 has facilitated efforts to generate consensus policy recommendations, create sustainability principles, and identify opportunities for agriculture and forestry’s participation in a low-carbon economy.
The 25x’25 National Steering Committee chartered a special Carbon Initiative Work Group in 2008 to analyze agriculture and forestry’s role in a reduced carbon economy. The Work Group, which is composed of nationally recognized producers, economists, conservationists and academic and business leaders, has been carefully examining opportunities to participate in a reduced carbon economy and has concluded that agriculture and forestry can and will deliver substantial emission reductions and carbon sequestration services.
Released in July 2010, 25x’25 published a report titled Meeting the Goal: A Progress Report, which details the steps that the U.S. has taken to reach the 25% renewable energy mark by 2025.
In April 2013, 25x’25’s Adaptation Work Group produced “Agriculture and Forestry in a Changing Climate: Adaptation Recommendations” which outlined a variety of pathways for building and strengthening resilience to climate change in our nation’s agriculture and forestry system in the areas of research, production systems and practices, risk management, decision tools, and outreach. Rather than being offered as a definitive set of adaptation recommendations, the report was intended as the beginning of a national dialogue on the steps needed to prepare for an uncertain future.25x’25’s climate change work has evolved into the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance supported by Solutions from the Land, a new not-for-profit corporation focused on land based solutions to global challenges.
Through its Energy for Economic Growth Initiative, 25x’25, in collaboration with the National Rural Electric Cooperative’s Cooperative Research Network, is assisting a group of rural electric utilities in developing and piloting renewable energy for economic growth rate mechanisms and business and community engagement models. As part of the project, 25x’25 is also helping participating rural electric cooperatives and public power providers in sharing their experiences and outcomes with utilities across the country. The goal of the project is to demonstrate how distributed renewable energy generation can be a new vehicle for powering communities and empowering cooperative members to improve the quality of their members’ lives. To help sustain the tremendous growth of distributed generation projects undertaken by co-ops, the Alliance’s Energy for Economic Growth (EEG) team focuses on pilot projects that not only produce renewable energy, but also offer important ecosystem service benefits such as carbon sequestration and improvements in soil, water and air quality.
Please visit the 25x’25 website for more information, to sign up for updates, and to endorse the vision