The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) held a briefing that highlighted the challenges facing electric power systems in the United States and Europe. The future electric grid must be dynamic and adaptive to adequately respond to a number of game-changing trends: the growth of distributed electricity generation, advances in critical technologies, and the expanding role of real-time data in managing the power sector. However, a clear path has yet to be defined that harnesses these trends for a secure, affordable, and low-carbon energy system.
Speakers for this forum were:
Jon Wellinghoff, Chairman, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
Daniel Dobbeni, President, Eurogrid International; and former President, European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E)
Neil Brown, Non-Resident Fellow, The German Marshall Fund of the United States (Co-Moderator)
Carol Werner, Executive Director, Environmental and Energy Study Institute (Co-Moderator)
The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina (ECSC) held a briefing about "on-bill financing," an innovative approach to energy efficiency offering loans for energy improvements that are repaid through utility bills. South Carolina's customer-owned electric cooperatives (co-ops) recently conducted a residential on-bill financing pilot that achieved deep energy savings among its participants, resulting in improved home comfort and reduced monthly bills. Based on this and other success stories, the federal government may soon expand its support for similar programs.
The recently-passed Senate farm bill includes language to create the Rural Energy Savings Program (RESP), a program which authorizes loans and assistance to co-ops around the country to start or scale-up on-bill financing programs. RESP can help communities save energy, cut household utility bills, improve comfort, and reduce emissions. The program would create stable, high-skilled jobs and keep more dollars in the local economy. The briefing provided details on the design and results of the South Carolina pilot, prospects on spreading the pilot model throughout the country, and the potential impact of RESP.
Earlier this month, South Carolina's co-ops released the results of the "Help My House" Loan Pilot Program. Billing data on the 125 participating co-op member homes indicated a 34 percent reduction in energy use (1.35 million kWh) in the year after the work was completed, translating to an average savings of $288 per home after loan payments. The low-interest 10-year loans (averaging just under $7,700) are on track for a simple payback of 6.6 years, nearly identical to projections released last year. The average participating home is expected to save a net of more than $8,500 over 15 years. Loan funds were partially provided through a no-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program.
The pilot applied a comprehensive "whole house" approach, in which all of the energy efficiency measures were evaluated as part of the same system. Participating homes received a combination of air sealing, duct repair, HVAC upgrades, and insulation improvements. Loan eligibility was determined by good bill payment history rather than credit scores, opening up financing to a wider number of families.
The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and WIRES (Working group for Investment in Reliable and Economic electric Systems) held a briefing about the operational basics of high-voltage transmission to help explain the complex economic and policy challenges facing the grid in the 21st century.
By delving into the grid's operation and the interstate markets for bulk power it supports, the briefing was designed to provide a foundation for discussions about cost responsibility, land use issues, transmission planning, integration of variable renewable energy resources, and other issues that are becoming more important to the future of the power industry.
Fostering investment in electric transmission infrastructure is among the nation's highest energy priorities as a strong grid facilitates the development of alternative generation resources, is more resistant to storms, lowers electricity costs to consumers, promotes a liquid wholesale power market with minimal congestion and market power, improves reliability and energy security, and advances energy independence overall. Investments in the grid also create good, stateside jobs. The United States is likely to invest more than $300 billion in electric transmission during the next 20 years.
The barriers to the further development of transmission capacity have become so highly visible that President Obama released a memorandum on June 7 establishing energy corridors that should facilitate new transmission projects on federal lands. Previously, FERC Order 1000, issued in July 2011, had set out strong steps to promote regional and interregional transmission planning.
Thursday, June 20, 2013——The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America, held a briefing to discuss national and local trends in the adoption of Complete Streets policies and how they can be incorporated into fiscally-sound federal transportation policy to support the creation of safer streets in communities across the country. More than 500 jurisdictions at the local, regional, and state levels are now using Complete Streets policies to plan, construct and operate streets that safely accommodate all users – including transit riders, bicyclists, pedestrians of all ages and abilities, and drivers. These policies are helping to build stronger local economies, attract businesses, and support healthier and safer communities.
The Safe Streets Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Matsui and Rep. David Joyce (R-OH), illustrates how federal policy can support local efforts to address roadway safety.
The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) held a briefing about energy innovations at the state level. The briefing investigated the significant role states are playing by implementing novel policies and effective approaches that reduce the cost of generating clean energy. Many state governments view clean energy as a foundation of their environmental and economic development strategies and have taken leadership roles in demonstrating the business case for renewable energy initiatives. The briefing discussed the role and value of federal-state partnerships on innovative clean energy investments and provided state-specific examples.