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Five key actions for activating household demand-side flexibility

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Securing a clean, efficient and affordable power system is a complex undertaking in the best of times. The current energy crisis, however, has compounded the challenge with a cost-of-living crisis, the need to free Europe from its dependency on Russian fossil gas, and the ever-present spectre of climate change. A seemingly insurmountable task begs all available resources. One of the most powerful — and often undervalued — solutions is household demand-side flexibility.

Empowering and rewarding consumers who are able to shift how and when they use electricity is a vital power system resource. Demand-side flexibility contributes to a reliable and decarbonised power system while reducing costs, a critical outcome for low-income and disadvantaged households.

On 28 September, the Electrification Academy was pleased to welcome Sophie Yule-Bennett to unpack the insight and recommendations from RAP’s 2022 study The joy of flex: Embracing household demand-side flexibility as a power system resource for Europe. She explored:

  • The benefits of demand-side flexibility: sustainability, reliability, equity and affordability.
  • Barriers to flexibility as a resource.
  • Five key actions for activating household demand-side flexibility.

Where Do We Go From Here: Visions for a Clean Heat Standard

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The term “transition” implies moving away from one thing and toward something else. The energy transition in the United States has challenged utility regulators to ensure that the movement away from fossil-fuel-dominated resources, and the adoption of lower-carbon resources in their place, will not put at risk the economic benefits, security, and reliability associated with our current energy system.

As part of this transition, states across the country are exploring ways to lower the emissions associated with a particular energy demand: building heat. In a webinar discussion, panelists took a closer look at a variety of these efforts under way. Policies adopted or being considered by Northeast and Western states illustrate how cleaner heat does not need to be an “either/or” proposition, but instead can provide everyone — suppliers, consumers, and grid operators — with choices and a path toward a lower-carbon future.

The time is now: smart charging of electric vehicles (Webinar)

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European policymakers and car manufacturers are increasingly committing to the phaseout of internal combustion engine vehicles. With this shift to electric transport, tariffs and services for so-called smart charging of EVs bring significant value to consumers and the power sector. Now is the time to build a robust regulatory framework to expand the markets for these offerings consistently across the entire continent. 

On 25 May, the Electrification Academy welcomed Jaap Burger and Julia Hildermeier of the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) to share the findings of their study The time is now: smart charging of electric vehicles. The authors, who analysed 139 smart charging tariffs and services across Europe, shared: 

  • A brief overview of the benefits of smart charging for users and the power system. 
  • Innovative approaches and best practice examples of dedicated EV tariffs and services. 
  • Recommendations to accelerate the use of smart charging.

For an introduction to smart charging, check out our earlier Electrification Academy webinar with Frank Geerts and Michael Hogan, Smart charging puts the pedal to the metal on emobility. 

 

 

How far can we go with wind and solar?

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In this era of urgent and ambitious climate goals, most paths to a decarbonised power system feature high shares of variable renewable energy, primarily wind and solar. To avoid high costs, new tools to capture the benefits of these clean resources are needed, to manage the new loads from electrification of heating and transport, and accommodate increasingly distributed system sources. Ensuring reliability will require faster response times and greater flexibility.

The International Energy Agency’s Wind Technology Collaboration Program Task 25 has explored these formidable challenges in their report Design and operation of energy systems with large amounts of variable generation. On 30 March 2022, the Electrification Academy welcomed lead author Hannele Holttinen to share the findings of IEA Wind TCP Task 25. She drew on the extensive information gathered in the report to share:

  • Recent experience and study results from 17 countries on operating and planning systems with large amounts of variable renewable energy sources.
  • How net-zero plans affect power system planning and operation.
  • How to push limits towards near-100% renewables.

 

So, How Does This Work Again? The Role of Advisory Services in Fleet Electrification

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Suppose you are a fleet manager, in charge of your organization’s efficient transportation of people and goods. By necessity, you must be an expert at planning, budgeting, financing, purchasing, operations, scheduling, and the maintenance of vehicles that use fossil fuels. Now, suppose you have an opportunity to electrify your fleet. How can you effectively assess the economics and the complex logistical challenges of such a transition?

The answer is advisory services, assistance offered by utilities or other companies to educate and enable consumers — whether fleet managers or individuals — to make informed decisions. This webinar explores the various needs that advisory services meet and elevates considerations for states as they further electrify their transportation sectors.

We heard the story of fleet electrification from the varying perspectives of a school district, a transportation services provider, a technology company, and a utility:

  • Timothy Shannon, transportation director, Twin Rivers (Calif.) Unified School District
  • Matt Stanberry, managing director, Highland Electric Fleets
  • Yanzhi (Ann) Xu, co-founder and CEO, ElectroTempo
  • Jason Peuquet, strategy and policy manager, clean transportation, Xcel Energy

Regulators, meanwhile, will increasingly encounter advisory service program requests from utilities and a greater presence of third-party providers offering these services. How can they approach these requests and make sure that they are consistent with state policies? RAP’s Jeff Ackermann, a former utility commissioner, acted as respondent to address some of these questions. David Farnsworth and Camille Kadoch moderated the session.

Are EU homes ready for full electrification?

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To achieve climate and energy goals, decarbonising Europe’s building stock is critical. As part of the ‘renovation wave,’ solar photovoltaic power systems, heat pumps, electricity storage and electric vehicles chargers will become prevalent in our homes. This raises the question whether the EU dwelling stock is ready for this transition. Around 50% of domestic buildings were built before 1990 without anticipating the needs of today and tomorrow.

The deployment of safe, efficient and smart electrical installations on a large scale requires a long-term vision grounded in a strong foundation of policy, tools and standards.

The Electrification Academy welcomed Prof. Angelo Baggini from the University of Bergamo to share his analysis of electrical installations in Europe and proposes solutions on the path towards zero-emissions buildings by:

  • Showing the difference between an electrical installation from 1990 and the needs of today and tomorrow
  • Analysing the implications of far-reaching electrification from a technical, policy and consumer point of view.
  • Presenting two case studies of home renovations in typical EU dwellings: an apartment and a single-family house.
  • Recommending improvements to legislation and standards.

Putting the Customer First: How States Can Keep Driving the Energy Transition

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The urgency and speed of the energy transition presents a variety of opportunities for states. They have a chance to move forward with regulatory reforms that put utility customers at the center of the transition. And they can reimagine traditional approaches to the regulatory process by continuing to make it more transparent, equitable, and proactive.

In a roundtable discussion, RAP staff highlighted what states can do (and are doing) on a variety of topics — from performance regulation to system planning to rate design — to navigate the energy transition with the customer’s interests always a top priority. In the last half-hour of “bonus time,” the panel also discussed opportunities stemming from federal action.

Building a Next-Generation Mix of Energy Resources: Practical Perspectives

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Earlier this fall, we explored next-generation approaches to competitive utility procurement in a webinar based on recent work by RAP and RMI — laying out recommendations for processes that consider all available resources, are aligned with policy objectives, and result in “least-regrets” outcomes. In a follow-up roundtable session moderated by Lauren Shwisberg of RMI and Carl Linvill of RAP, we heard more about this fast-changing landscape from a panel of practitioners:

  • Jim Baak, distributed energy resources manager, MCE
  • Kristin Munsch, director for regulatory and customer strategy, National Grid
  • Pat O’Connell, senior clean energy policy analyst, Western Resource Advocates (formerly of the Public Service Company of New Mexico)

Our panelists offered varying perspectives, working with the contexts of a vertically integrated utility, a restructured distribution utility and a community choice aggregator. They discussed what demand- and supply-side resource portfolio procurement looks like for each of them, challenges and opportunities, and what regulators can do to accelerate progress.

Quantifying clean: Electric vehicles and marginal emissions

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Net-zero targets are top of mind for all involved in the transition to clean transport and clean energy. Electrifying end uses that were previously powered by fossil fuels, such as transport and heat, always strikes a positive balance for Europe’s decarbonisation efforts. Yet assessing the actual progress is complex, especially given the continual changes to the energy mix as renewables increase. Measuring the CO2 emissions from electric vehicles, for example, involves analysing the carbon content of the electricity used to produce and charge them. The debate around this topic poses challenges for non-experts and experts alike.

On 22 November 2021, the Electrification Academy welcomed Dr. Martin Doppelbauer, professor at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, to help us understand: 

  • Future trends, as the grid grows cleaner and batteries improve — and what this means for electric vehicle production and operation. 
  • Unraveling considerations around marginal costs and emissions.  
  • Best practices for an effective shift to electric transport.

 

Participating in Power: How to Read and Respond to Integrated Resource Plans

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To address climate and equity challenges, utilities will have to transform the way they plan – ensuring that a full range of resources are considered to meet utility customers’ needs. One of the most important opportunities to ensure such outcomes is via integrated resource plans, or IRPs, which regulated utilities submit to their public utility commission (PUC) to demonstrate how they plan to meet consumer needs over longer time scales of 10 to 20 years. PUC processes need public input, but participation has historically been limited because of the technical and legal expertise required. A new guidebook from RAP and the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) aims to address that barrier. “Participating in Power: How to Read and Respond to Integrated Resource Plans” is intended as an educational resource for local governments and other entities who are advocating for advancing clean energy and equity priorities via intervention in the IRP process.

In an interactive webinar, staff from IMT and RAP talked through the guidebook’s advice for reading, analyzing, and developing comments in response to an IRP. The presenters discussed how stakeholders can gain an understanding of IRP modeling and the process, so that they can effectively engage with PUCs and offer alternative solutions to the traditional, fossil-fuel-based assumptions that the utility may present. Meg Jamison, director of the Southeast Sustainability Directors Network, also joined to answer questions about local-level engagement in IRP processes.