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Bristol, United Kingdom

Anderson W.,Center for Sustainable Energy | White V.,Center for Sustainable Energy | Finney A.,University of Bristol
Energy Policy | Year: 2012

This paper presents findings from a study of low-income households in Great Britain which explored households' strategies for coping both with limited financial resources in the winter months, when demand for domestic energy increases, and, in some cases, with cold homes. The study combined a national survey of 699 households with an income below 60 per cent of national median income with in-depth interviews with a subsample of 50 households. The primary strategy adopted by low-income households to cope with financial constraint was to reduce spending, including spending on essentials such as food and fuel, and thereby keep up with core financial commitments. While spending on food was usually reduced by cutting the range and quality of food purchased, spending on energy was usually reduced by cutting consumption. Sixty-three per cent of low-income households had cut their energy consumption in the previous winter and 47 per cent had experienced cold homes. Improvements to the thermal performance of homes reduced but did not eliminate the risk of going cold as any heating cost could be a burden to households on the lowest incomes. Householders' attitudes were central to their coping strategies, with most expressing a determination to 'get by' come what may. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Parag Y.,The Interdisciplinary Center | Hamilton J.,University of Oxford | White V.,Center for Sustainable Energy | Hogan B.,University of Oxford
Energy Policy | Year: 2013

One of the many barriers to the incorporation of local and community actors in emerging energy governance structures and policy delivery mechanisms is the lack of thorough understanding of how they work in practice, and how best to support and develop effective local energy governance. Taking a meso-level perspective and a network approach to governance, this paper sheds some new light on this issue, by focusing on the relation, channels of communication and interactions between low carbon community groups (LCCGs) and other actors. Based on data gathered from LCCGs in Oxfordshire, UK, via network survey and interviews the research maps the relations in terms of the exchanges of information and financial support, and presents a relation-based structure of local energy governance. Analysis reveals the intensity of energy related information exchanges that is taking place at the county level and highlights the centrality of intermediary organization in facilitating information flow. The analysis also identifies actors that are not very dominant in their amount of exchanges, but fill 'weak-tie' functions between otherwise disconnected LCCGs or other actors in the network. As an analytical tool the analysis could be useful for various state and non-state actors that want to better understand and support - financially and otherwise - actors that enable energy related local action. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

California is rethinking how to incentivize consumers to manage their energy use. In September, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said it would seek to create an integration framework to make choosing and integrating distributed energy resources easier for consumers. The CPUC found that “harmonization” of consumer benefits and “system” (grid and societal) benefits is necessary for integrating more distributed energy resources (DERs). How can we harmonize these benefits with simple, scalable solutions that work for consumers and communities? Let's start with a fundamental question on the definition of harmonization. Does that mean equalization of benefits -- ensuring that benefits to consumers and the system are roughly equal? Equalizing benefits can serve two purposes: prevent ratepayers from paying more than the net value of DERs, and level the playing field for DERs to compete with distant power plants by compensating consumers for the additional locational system value. Or does harmonization mean alignment -- adjusting consumer benefits to incentivize actions that are beneficial to the system? The answer, of course, is both. But when to apply one approach over another is a matter of contention. Take the example of net metering policy, which is meant to do both things at once. Harmonization requires the application of the equalization principle, in the broader mandate to both ensure that ratepayers at large pay no more than the net value of DERs. But harmonization also requires attention to maintaining steady DER growth under state renewables and greenhouse-gas reduction mandates, which means aligning customer choices via incentives for rooftop solar. A key question is whether it’s currently possible to calculate the net value of DERs. Continuing the net metering example, California utilities and stakeholders are still working on quantifying the benefits of DERs, including location-specific and general carbon-reduction values. California could apply an alignment approach to harmonization during this bridge period where it is not possible to quantify a substantial portion of the benefits of DERs, and transition to an equalization approach once more DER benefits can be quantified. To encourage individual consumers to make DER choices that collectively benefit the grid, we can design financial signals in two ways. One option is to ensure that each separate solution-specific DER incentive is designed to encourage adoption of other complementary DERs so the consumer’s combined system presents an optimized or flexible resource to the grid. However, this top-down, solution-specific approach to regulation is likely too time consuming and complex for regulators to implement or stakeholders to navigate. There are already separate, specific incentives, including tariffs or rebates for distributed generation, energy storage, energy efficiency and demand response. Adjusting each incentive to reflect the grid optimization of every possible combination of DERs, as well as adjusting for market penetration over time and other factors, is a nearly impossible task. To illustrate this concept, let’s return to the example of net metering policy for distributed solar PV. Standalone net-metered solar is likely less valuable to the grid than a system enhanced by combining other DERs, including various energy efficiency measures, different types of demand response, managed electric-vehicle charging, different amounts and types of energy storage, and optional advanced inverter settings. With each combination, the net-metered value of the solar generation would have to be adjusted up or down, as would any incentives for the other technologies, to reflect the appropriate value of the combined DERs for both the consumer and the system. This adjustment would be difficult in any case, but is complicated by the many overlapping regulatory proceedings, attribution methodologies and cost-effectiveness calculations. The simpler option is to incentivize consumers based on the capabilities and performance of any type or combination of beneficial DERs. Start with the premise that every consumer can better manage their energy use by adopting a range of clean DERs. Then, seek optimization of the suite of services they ultimately purchase by sending the right price and incentive signals for the capabilities and performance desired by the system. This would greatly reduce the complexity of harmonizing consumer and grid-wide system benefits. For example, the CPUC could develop technology-neutral use cases for DER operations to meet specific needs, such as load reduction, load shifting, voltage regulation and frequency response.  Rather than separately approving and designing incentives for each new technology or new combination of DER solutions, regulators could approve a process for relying on aggregated consumer performance. The CPUC has required regulated utilities to consider quantifiable societal benefits of DERs in distribution resource planning. To harmonize consumer and societal benefits, we will need new methods for quantifying societal benefits and sharing these benefits with consumers. Regulated utilities know how to include compliance costs in cost-benefit calculations. However, many societal benefits do not fit neatly into this category. Good examples of local government initiatives that are not incorporated into regulated utilities’ plans include: increasing resilience; implementing zero net energy codes and standards; reducing greenhouse emissions beyond state goals; setting local clean energy and energy management goals; and increasing local economic benefits of clean energy and energy management. Local efforts are critical to meeting state climate and clean energy goals. However, there’s no consensus among stakeholders about which local efforts should be supported with utility ratepayer dollars versus other local or state funds. One approach is to determine which local plans support statewide targets, such as climate goals, and which local targets primarily provide local benefits, such as local jobs requirements. In addition to determining how much ratepayers should pay for statewide societal benefits of DERs, regulators must also decide how to harmonize consumer and local societal benefits. For example, consumers within a local jurisdiction could be given the option to pay more to meet local goals that primarily provide local benefits. Local governments, consumer choice aggregators and DER solutions providers have been tackling these issues, and it’s time to connect these efforts with utility grid planning and resource planning. We recommend that regulators support demonstration projects to show how local entities can quantify and share societal benefits with community members. Over time, grid and resource planners across the country will no longer view DERs as disruptive resources. Rather, they'll be seen as ways to help consumers manage their energy use. Rather than restricting how and where DERs provide system value, planners can focus on sending the right signals to consumers and DER providers to deliver innovative solutions across the grid. Similarly, planners can both leverage and support local efforts to meet the state’s climate and clean energy goals and tap societal benefits. Stephanie Wang is a senior policy attorney at the Center for Sustainable Energy.

« ABI Research forecasts nearly 203M Software-Over-the-Air-enabled cars to ship by 2022 | Main | America Makes and ANSI launch additive manufacturing standardization collaborative » In order to make clean vehicles more accessible to a greater number of California drivers, especially in communities that are highly impacted by air pollution, the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) is implementing increased incentive levels for low- and moderate-income consumers and high-income eligibility caps. The California Air Resources Board approved the changes in June 2015, as directed by the Charge Ahead California Initiative established by Senate Bill 1275 (De León). They will apply statewide to vehicle purchases or leases effective 29 March 2016. Since 2010, the CVRP has issued more than $291 million in rebates for more than 137,200 vehicles, according to the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE), which administers the ARB program. Rebates cover a range of battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric and fuel cell vehicles. For low- and moderate-income consumers, CVRP rebates for all types of eligible light-duty passenger vehicles are being increased by $1,500. When combined with the $7,500 federal tax credit for battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, the California rebates provide savings of up to $11,500. To qualify for the increased rebates, applicants must have household incomes less than or equal to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For an individual, the gross annual income limit is $35,640, and for a household of four, it is $72,900. Higher income consumers will not be eligible for CVRP rebates if their gross annual income exceeds $250,000 for single tax filers, $340,000 for head of household filers and $500,000 for joint filers. Income levels will be determined by the amount reported on the applicant’s federal tax return. The caps do not apply to fuel-cell electric vehicles, which represent less than 1 percent of CVRP’s applications and qualify for rebates of $5,000. Applicants may be required to provide proof of income. Additional clean vehicle rebates based on income eligibility are available in disadvantaged communities in the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. ARB’s Drive Clean website offers a guide for clean vehicle incentives at DriveClean.CA.gov. The incentives, and this project, are part of California Climate Investments, which use proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade auctions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while providing a variety of additional benefits to California communities.

News Article | December 7, 2015
Site: cleantechnica.com

By Betsy Glynn, Northeast Regional Manager for Center for Sustainable Energy There’s no big surprise in Massachusetts earning the top spot for a fifth consecutive year in the State Energy Efficiency Scorecard issued by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). With a focus on capturing all cost-effective energy efficiency through utility ratepayer-funded programs, combined with strong state programs, buildings codes and deployment of combined heat and power (CHP) technology, the commonwealth’s electricity load has leveled off, and is even decreasing, as the economy continues to grow. However, with other states learning from the best practices of those with strong efficiency policies and programs and potentially leapfrogging ahead, the state may be on the path to a major upset in 2016. ACEEE’s Energy Efficiency Scorecard serves as a platform for national discussions about how to achieve energy and carbon reduction goals simultaneously, with annual and lifetime benefits far exceeding costs. Massachusetts earned 44 points in the 50-point ACEEE scorecard, compared to California’s 43.5. Third-place Vermont achieved 39.5 points whereas when the scoring began in 2006, it tied with Connecticut and California for the most energy efficient state title. While ACEEE reports Massachusetts’ electricity savings achievement level is at 2.5 percent, that figure represents only the savings goal set in its energy efficiency plan. In fact, in 2014, Massachusetts achieved electricity savings of 2.7 percent of sales by offering a variety of incentives and financing programs to encourage investments. Further, Massachusetts’ 2014 annual gas consumption was reduced by 1.33 percent of sales, compared to the goal of 1.15 percent. However, second-place California’s scoring is inching closer to Massachusetts, and this year the Golden State also received a “most improved” designation. Comparing California to Massachusetts can be difficult, given the inherent differences. For example, California’s population is nearly six times that of Massachusetts. From my house in Boston I can get to New York State in about two hours. I understand that it takes anywhere from 12 to 16 hours to drive from San Diego to the Oregon border (not accounting for traffic). If we begin to compare the two states in the ACEEE ranking, we can see some striking differences. Thanks largely to the Massachusetts Green Communities Act, it won all possible points in the utilities category, which encompasses policies and programs operated by or in partnership with utility program administrators. California, meanwhile, achieved 14 of 20 points in this category. In contrast, California won perfect scores in nearly all of the other categories: transportation, building codes, CHP, state-led initiatives and appliance standards. In these categories, Massachusetts achieved varied success in capturing points, with a low of zero for appliance standards. The two states are neck and neck on the total scoring, but are achieving those points in completely different ways. What would happen if Massachusetts adopts California’s stronger tailpipe emissions and appliance standards? And what if California begins to achieve stronger utility ratepayer-funded efficiency goals closer to the Massachusetts model? Of course, in this scenario, we’re not talking about the other 49 contenders (including Washington, D.C.) – any of whom could catapult past these two top-tier states. Another variable in the race to the top is the scoring system. ACEEE is constantly evolving the scoring to accommodate new technologies and practices, to capture the full possibility of opportunities to achieve savings. Will there ever be a perfect score? If there is, then how will we know the extent that future perfect-score states could be improving? In my professional circle, I regularly hear speculation about how the next scorecard ranking will pan out. When we have this simple platform, we can see how to learn from each other to achieve even greater savings moving forward. The differences between states’ energy efficiency performance levels represents a huge opportunity to fill the gap in performance so that we can all enjoy the benefits of a lower overall cost of energy, less reliance on carbon-emitting fossil fuels, improved energy reliability and increased local job growth. Recently, in Minneapolis during a discussion among national energy efficiency experts talking about the scorecard, one colleague from another state jokingly shook his fist in my direction while exclaiming, “We’ll get you, Massachusetts!” Reprinted with permission.    Get CleanTechnica’s 1st (completely free) electric car report → “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want.”   Come attend CleanTechnica’s 1st “Cleantech Revolution Tour” event → in Berlin, Germany, April 9–10.   Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.  

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