Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Envisioning the Energy Future

Envisioning the Energy Future was an event held from 10 am to 4 pm on Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at the conference center of the Federal Reserve Bank across from South Station in Boston.  The conference was hosted by the Acadia Center, formerly ENE, Energy Northeast and brought together practitioners from Denmark and all over NE to share their expertise.

The morning panel was on  "Utility in the future," moderated by Abigail Anthony, Acadia Center 

Nathan Adams, Green Mountain Power
Tim Woolf, Synapse Energy Economics, Inc
Jonathan Schrag, Guarini Center (NY)
Peter Rothstein, New England Clean Energy Council

Jonathan Schrag - will distributed generation be as green as RGGI?  Market-based initiatives are driving the marketplace. They are looking at things like Priceline for an open marketplace structure, at least in NY.  Brooklyn doing an innovative demand management project.

Current state microgrid projects can drive grid and regulatory modernization.  Focus on what you want the grid to do rather than particular technologies.

Peter Rothstein - more than 10% of the largest cleantech companies in the world in MA, over 80,000 soon to be 100,000 people employed in the state in this sector.  More than 10% of ARPA-E grants in MA, many in storage. How do you get utilities to invest in new technologies, in an environment where they now spend .2% on R & D, about a tenth of what industry in general spends. RD&D - demonstrations to develop workable business models.  Third parties are going to be a major party to future developments.  Change the model to one more like telecom which anticipates the customers' next needs.  The innovations will need to serve both customers and provide value for the grid.

Tim Woolf - it may be harder to get the regulators to change than the utilities.  Performance based rate making - UK's RIO (sp?) is one example and require strict performance standards.  Demonstrates a shift to outcomes.  Performance based mechanisms are a way to proceed - track and report, target setting, rewards and penalties.  Each of these measures can stand alone or combined.  There are pitfalls in terms of uncertainty of outcomes and unintended consequences as well as gaming and manipulation.  Collecting data is a no regrets policy that can be implemented now.

Nathan Adams - changing grid model, customer value, use local resources.  Moving to a network leveraging distributed marginal pricing.  Most people don't want to deal with real time pricing but technology can do it for them.  Third parties to create value for utility, customers, and the third parties.  NY, CA, MA are now leading in policy reform.  Pilot microgrid project in Rutland to build the model - frequency regulation, solar ramp smoothing , islanding with automation to follow by Fall after summer installation.  Storage through a solar/battery -  battery 4MW - 2.5 MW solar.  Over 200 controllable water heaters.  Hardest challenge is to engage customer appliances without inconveniencing customers.  Change the utility capital model - cap revenue to drive efficiency;  turn grid into platform business so that the market creates prices not regulators.  Frequency regulation market ISO-NE is initiating is a good step forward.

Over lunch, Klaus Veslov, of Oestkraft (, the municipal utility on the Danish island of Bornholm spoke about "The Ecogrid EU Project in a Strategic Perspective" (

Danish is wind first with solar and biomass and a full electrification of infrastructure, exchanging energy with Sweden, Norway, and UK (UK connecting with Iceland).  Storage is a problem and they can't make a business case for hydrogen on any terms.  Danish political and social consensus is going to renewables quickly.

Bornholm - bright green island, 100% fossil free by 2025, as a business case.  80% renewables now with a lot of problems with solar intermittence balanced by coal and diesel.  Population is 45,000 and has become the national test site for new energy systems with municipalities, companies, and universities participating.  2000 households in the Ecogrid, about 4000 people, with lots of green building, energy efficiency, geothermal, and electric vehicles.  From consumers to prosumers.  First stage from 2011-2015 with a proposal for Ecogrid 2.0. Now there is overproduction of wind. Household investments in air to water heat pumps with district heating.  Reversing market system for peak shaving and educating customers to use energy when it is being produced, running demand backward - grid demands energy from distributed resources. Participants are not being motivated by money because there isn't much economic benefit yet.  Automating about 1200 households with energy controls. 2 hours of training per participant at their demonstration Villa Smart house but voluntary demand response lasts for only about 30 days.

Leveling the Playing Field for Distributed Energy Resources

Scudder Parker, VT Energy Investment Corp
Amy Boyd, Acadia Center
Fran Cummings, Peregrine Energy
Jim Grevatt, Energy Futures Group
Kerrick Johnson, VELCO

Amy Boyd - skyrocketing transmission costs in NE, higher than the rest of the US.  Define reliability needs rather than transmission needs to bring non-wire alternatives into the picture earlier.  Regional entities don't pay for non-wires, the states pay for it on their own.

Jim Grevatt -  NY case study for ConEd on energy efficiency as an alternative to transmission and distribution costs.  They realized they did not have to build the projects that were deferred through efficiency.  2013 heat wave spurred them to greater action.  Brooklyn Queens project is $200 (?) million, 85% residential.

Fran Cummings - RI National Grid on solar PV as a distributed resource in Tiverton and Little Compton.  Found that orienting solar to the west rather than due south for more value to the grid in peak shaving and distribution.  Solar is a better distribution resource than expected.

Pecan Street project in Austin, TX - a neighborhood energy initiative.

Kerrick Johnson - VT case study, a transmission company, 2010-2013 deferred $400 million transmission through alternatives. Only 4% of that benefit was to VT ratepayers as opposed to regional ratepayers. Transmission returns on a state by state level can benefit the state's ratepayers to the detriment of regional ratepayers.

NB:  IBM came up often in terms of data and controls both here and on Denmark.  Energy smart cities are halfway to smart cities.

The Role of Energy Efficiency and Demand Side Resources to Reduce Price Pressures in the Energy System

James Howland, Acadia Center
Jeremy Newberger, national Grid
Jeff Schlegel, Schlegel and Associates
Michael Stoddard, Efficiency Maine Trust
Eric Wilkinson, ISO-NE

Jeff Schlegel -  Energy efficiency as demand reduction, lowering price volatility but the multiple values of the efficiencies are disaggregated based upon the regulations and pricing. Adjust peak times closer to reality, now 11am to 3pm.  No longer any winter peak capacity numbers in ISO-NE.

NB:  Different peaks for different flows:  peak demand, peak solar and renewables supply, peak system efficiency

Eric Wilkinson - the vast majority of energy efficiency has been in lighting.  ISO-NE wants to see new interconnection standards so that a blip in transmission does not result in taking a large chunk of PV offline due to automatic shutdown.

Jeremy Newberger -  RI has an energy efficiency focus.

Michael Stoddard - ME energy efficiency through Efficiency Maine Trust statewide, about 2.7 cents per kWh (?) to save energy.  Boothbay project replaced about $16 million of transmission with $6 million of non transmission resources within six months. Boothbay is using some of the fishery industry freezers as energy storage.

Even MA, most efficient in the US for the last 5 years, lags in terms of energy efficiency compared to Europe.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Creating Renewables Micro-Utiliies

Justin Buck, Cambrian Innovation

Modular, turn-key waste water to energy systems using electrically active microbes.  The amount of energy in waste water is proportional to the BOD level. 

Uses exo-electrogenic organisms like geobacter and shewanella.  Geobacter is efficient and shewanella can operate in a wider variety of circumstances (a generalist).
They can build microbial fuel cells using waste water as a fuel.

Cambrian is looking at water treatment, electricity generation, and information from the flow through the system.

Ecovolt - world's first bioelectrically enhanced waste water treatment system, a biogas producer which can remove more BOD from water than traditional methods and produce more biogas.  Does not yet deal with heavy metals and pollutants like benzene.  A primary treatment system that removes soluble BOD, provides heat through hot water, biogas, and electricity.  Payback from less than a year to three years.  20,000 gallons per day per module.  Working on a WEPA - water energy power agreement.  The electricity comes from burning methane.

Scaling is the most difficult thing.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Pollster Peter Hart at Harvard 2/3/15

Pollster Peter Hart spoke at Harvard's Shorenstein Center on February 3, 2015 to a small group of people in the regular Tuesday noon conversation.  He brought slides from the recent NBC/WallStreetJournal poll done just prior to State of the Union

The major point was that the Michigan consumer index is well up over 85% and his own polling shows that people are more satisfied with the economy (45% to 55%) than they have been before. The recovery is still not complete but people seem to be feeling better about their economic future.

Creating jobs, defeating ISIS, reducing the deficit are the top three issues, in different order, for Republicans, Democrats, and Independents but people, in general, hate the government and, in particular, loathe Congress.

Hart related how in one a focus group, a Republican woman, Jenny, said the politician she'd most like to spend an hour with is Elizabeth Warren.  She was mad at Boehner because he said everyone who needs a job has one.  As her husband has been out of work and looking for 18 months, she knows that's not true.  She also feels caught since she went back to school for more training and to advance in her job.  Now she has student loans that amount to about $1300 a month, nearly twice her monthly rent.

He spent most of the hour answering questions.  Asked about polling now, he said it has nothing to do with what will happen in 2016.  One Republican candidate who stood out in his polling and focus groups is Rand Paul.  All the other Republican candidates had problems.  Hart advised us to look at who has a theme, who has something to say to the country.  He believed that Jeb Bush at least has a vision as does Paul.

As to what to run on, Hart said that candidates should run on safety and economic security, as always;  but it's no longer war, it's radical terrorism and how we get our sense of confidence back. Immigration remains a hot button issue while gay marriage seems to be settled and something the Republicans should avoid.

Hart's company now break out Republicans into Tea Party and not in all their polls.  I asked him about this after the session and he agreed that there are a number of different constituencies in the party today which may result in the Republican party becoming more like the Democratic party, a collection of competing interests.

When asked, he refused to name who were his picks for 2016 but gave betting odds that it would be Clinton and Bush.  The advantage goes to the Republicans given that the 6 year election results have been a historic indicator.

One major difference from previous years is that anger is closer to the surface now and there is a disconnect within the population with many not realizing how much of a struggle it is to get ahead or simply live now.

In discussing the idea of "voters voting against their own interests," he talked a little about West Virginia which voted for Dukakis in 1988 but is now a solid Republican state although there has been no real demographic changes within the population.  West Virginia changed from economic to social value voters over time.

On the issue of income equality, Hart says the debate is no longer supply side versus fairness but economic security.   He has not done any polling on the issue of inequality of opportunity.

He believes that Senatorial and Congressional choices are made from the head but Mayors, Governors, and Presidents are chosen on more intangible measures.  Who would you like to be in a car in the HOV lane with?

People are getting their information more and more from the Internet.  Fox and MSNBC viewers are like the fans of different teams.  But younger people follow a wider range of news sources than their elders.

He believes that voter participation will be up in 2016 but the African-American vote will be down unless there is someone on the ticket to energize them.  Voters under 30 have been turning out and their cohort will probably keep growing.

Both he and his Republican partner, Bob McInturff, felt that in 2012 there was a potential for a double digit third party and there still is potential for a Broom Party, clean sweep of the bums. (Obviously, he doesn't understand how difficult it is to get a third party on the ballot state by every 50 states.  It is probably too late already for such an enterprise to be successful for 2016.)

Asked whether the economy is as predictive an indicator as it was, he replied that the consumer index looks like it will go up but there may be "Democratic fatigue" as Obama builds his legacy, something that will be perceived as pushing the country to the left.

"Hillary's campaign will be bigger than life," Hart says but Elizabeth Warren is perfect on one issue for a lot of people.  She has the potentiality to be the Robert Kennedy of 2016.

I asked him about the concern about the deficit, whether he had done reality testing with the issue, letting people know that the deficit has decreasing rather than growing, cut in about a half since Obama took office.  Hart replied that people do not understand the economy and that he has not done any of what I would call reality polling, asking people their opinions on the deficit and then polling them again after they've seen what the numbers actually are.