(Image via MyMeter)
As utilities seek to cut energy use, one of the tactics they’re employing is encouraging customers to modify their habits.
And while data is limited on how effective these so-called “behavior” programs are, some recent reports show promising results.
Four rural electric co-ops in Minnesota, for instance, were able to reduce demand in 2013 between 1.8 and 2.8 percent using MyMeter — a program that gives utility customers more detailed information about their energy use.
While the results trended slightly higher than those of two other carefully-evaluated programs in Massachusetts, their importance goes beyond that. More significant, according to an expert in behavioral energy-saving programs, is the fact that the report adds to the very limited reliable data about the effectiveness of behavioral strategies.
Luther College in Iowa wants to invest in combined heat and power, but says it’s utility’s policies make it cost-prohibitive. (Photo by Justin Berndt via Creative Commons)
An Iowa college that wants to cut its energy consumption says its utility’s rate policies are holding it back.
“We are interested in combined heat and power to save money, and because we want to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Jim Martin-Schramm, a religion professor at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, who also serves as the college’s interim director of the Center for Sustainable Communities. “Right now it’s not a real option.”
The college has looked at the feasibility of a 1.4 MW gas turbine that would generate more than half of the electricity used on the campus each year. It’s projected that the system could also heat the campus through combined heat and power, also known as cogeneration. Martin-Schramm said the system most likely would use either natural gas or gas produced at a nearby landfill.
However, according to the college administration’s math, the fee that their local electricity provider, Alliant Energy, would charge them for sporadic use of grid power — also known as the “standby rate” — is simply too high for the project to be viable.
Bill Satek surveys combined heat and power operations for U.S. Steel. (Photo by Kari Lydersen)
PORTAGE, Indiana — “Feel this pipe,” says Bill Satek, laying a hand on a thick curved pipe inside Portside Energy’s plant on the grounds of the U.S. Steel Midwest mill on the shore of Lake Michigan. The metal is cool. A few feet away is a pipe that looks identical but is almost painfully hot to the touch.
“That’s the beauty of Portside,” says Satek. “That’s what makes this project awesome.”
The difference in temperature represents a significant savings in natural gas used to power the steel mill’s operations, cutting costs for U.S. Steel and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is part of a larger combined heat and power (CHP) operation that Portside Energy runs on contract for U.S. Steel, harnessing waste heat and using top-notch efficiency measures to provide electricity, steam and hot water for the mill.
FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse nuclear plant on the shore of Lake Erie. (Photo by Jeff Reutter via Creative Commons)
Two Ohio utilities are pursuing state and federal regulatory actions to help make their coal and nuclear plants more competitive.
FirstEnergy has filed a complaint asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to void May’s capacity auction by grid operator PJM Interconnection to the extent that it includes demand response. Demand response satisfies electricity needs at peak periods as a result of certain users agreeing to temporary cutbacks.
Meanwhile, American Electric Power (AEP) is asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to let it charge consumers for some of the costs for certain coal-fired power plants.
If they succeed, the utilities could get more money for power plants that presumably could not otherwise compete as well against other resources in the electric capacity market.
Koda Energy, a combined heat and power plant in Shakopee, Minnesota, runs on biomass. (Craig Lassig for Midwest Energy News)
Sean Casten and his father, Tom Casten, could be called the country’s family dynasty of combined heat and power.
CHP, also known as cogeneration, is the under-appreciated practice of capturing and using waste heat from power generation to make clean electricity and steam, greatly increasing efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Sean Casten is president and CEO of Recycled Energy Development LLC (RED), an Illinois firm that constructs and runs CHP operations for industrial partners. RED’s chairman is Tom Casten, who has more than three decades under his belt in waste energy recovery.
RED’s most prominent current project is transforming the 125 MW utility complex at Kodak’s Eastman Business Park in Rochester, New York, which provides power and heat to more than 40 tenants and owners. RED is turning the century-old coal-fired station, which already includes co-generation with waste heat, into a highly efficient gas-fired CHP plant.
(Photo by Carlos Lowry via Creative Commons)
While energy-saving efforts have been keeping costs down for Ohio ratepayers, a legislative “freeze” to the state’s efficiency standard raises questions about whether that will continue, particularly with new EPA carbon regulations on the horizon.
The capacity portion of Ohioans’ electric bills will go up for June 2017 through May 2018 as a result of May’s auction by grid operator PJM Interconnection. If it weren’t for energy efficiency, though, experts say the closing price of $120 per megawatt-day (MW-day) for Ohio and various other parts of PJM’s territory would have been even higher.
Last week’s passage of Ohio Senate Bill 310 raises doubts about how much energy efficiency can help Ohio consumers in future auctions.
(Photo by Geir Arne Hjelle via Creative Commons)
While one Missouri utility is “over-performing” on energy efficiency, an agreement this week will help another of the state’s major utilities get caught up.
After years of negotiations with environmental advocates and state regulators, Kansas City Power & Light has agreed to an expanded suite of efficiency measures it will offer to its Missouri customers.
The Missouri Public Service Commission still must approve the plan, which is expected to save the electricity typically used by 5,000 Missouri households over 18 months.
(Photo via USDA)
The farming region of central Wisconsin presents a bucolic image, home to rolling fields, numerous dairies and a family-owned chicken processing plant that started in 1925 with two brothers delivering eggs and livestock.
These operations also produce a lot of waste, including countless tons of manure and the detritus from processing poultry.
Now New Chester Dairy and Brakebush Brothers are teaming up through a Milwaukee-based company to turn that unsightly waste into renewable heat and power.
Ford employee John Wooten assembles an EcoBoost V-6 engine at a plant in Lima, Ohio. Photo via Ford Motor Company. (Click to enlarge)
With the help of the U.S. Department of Energy, Ford Motor Co. now boasts that since 2009 — through expanding production of fuel-efficient vehicles — it has avoided 2.38 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions and saved 268 million gallons of gasoline.
The company reached a milestone in early May when it sold its 500,000th F-150 pickup truck equipped with a fuel-efficient EcoBoost engine. Ford credits the V-6 truck engine for nearly one-fifth of the fuel savings it attributes to the EcoBoost fleet, which also includes four- and three-cylinder engines used in smaller cars.
Driving that progress was a $5.9 billion loan from the federal government to transform 13 factories across six states into state-of-the-art assembly plants.
The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. (Photo by Mike King via Creative Commons)
Critics showed up in force this week as Ohio’s House of Representatives began hearings on a bill that would dramatically alter the state’s clean energy laws.
The Public Utilities Committee for the Ohio House could vote on the bill as early as next week. If Senate Bill 310 becomes law, it could hurt both consumers and businesses, say opponents.
As passed by the state Senate last week, SB 310 would freeze Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards for two years, pushing final targets from 2025 to 2027. Meanwhile, a study commission would review the law’s mandates.
However, last-minute changes made to the bill would also dramatically change both standards.
“They essentially gutted the standards, so that when they do come back they’ll be essentially meaningless,” says Ted Ford, president of Ohio Advanced Energy Economy.