Archive

Smart cities, you’ve got a friend in electric cars: How to unleash the potential of smart charging through public procurement

Comments Off on Smart cities, you’ve got a friend in electric cars: How to unleash the potential of smart charging through public procurement

The electrification of road transport is happening – and it is already having a profound impact on the energy system and our cities. As more and more people drive electric, smart charging can ease the integration of the newcomers into the grid.

Smart charging enables charging to automatically happen at times when electricity costs are lowest – without compromising the needs of vehicle owners. As a result, smart charging creates a powerful opportunity to use more renewable energy and better utilise existing grids, accelerating the energy transition while reducing costs for all.

Cities are essential actors in making smart charging happen at a large scale. Every time they publish a public procurement procedure and every time they issue permits for EV infrastructure, it is in their hands to make smart charging work better — now and in the years to come.

But how can local authorities deploy a future-proof, robust smart charging network, with technology rapidly evolving?

Important standards supporting smart charging – such as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) – are not yet available for charging stations built today. To avoid becoming obsolete before the end of its expected lifetime, infrastructure must be ready for future upgrades.

In this webinar, Luka De Bruyckere from ECOS and Jaap Burger of RAP will present their new guide explaining how to build future-proof infrastructure, and equip cities to make the right choices when procuring new charging infrastructure.

Guest speaker Hugo Niesing from the city of Amsterdam will share his experience in advancing smart charging in a city that leads the transition to e-mobility.

Moderated by Ivo Cabral, Press & Communications Manager, Environmental Coalition on Standards at ECOS.

Taking the burn out of heating for low-income households

Comments Off on Taking the burn out of heating for low-income households

The future of heat in buildings is not fossil fuelled. The urgency of the climate crisis, Europe’s 2030 climate targets, the current war in Ukraine and the resulting skyrocketing energy prices all mean we need to massively accelerate efforts to move away from burning fossil fuels in our homes. This is no small task as fossil fuels currently account for over 75% of heat supply, and the residential sector is Europe’s single biggest fossil gas user, responsible for 40% of gas consumption.

The recent energy price volatility and the cripplingly high gas prices make the economics of switching from fossil fuel heating to heating with a heat pump better in 2022 than before the crisis. Those households that can afford it may well be considering the switch.

For lower-income households, however, the high prices make all forms of heating – and most other household expenses – less affordable. For these people, the switch to clean heating is further away than ever. But the risks of remaining locked into expensive fossil fuel use are more acute due to high and volatile prices, rising costs of redundant infrastructure and, potentially, exorbitant costs for hydrogen.

RAP analysis establishes the upfront investment and running costs to switch to heating with a heat pump, before and after the price crisis. Based on this assessment, Louise Sunderland and Duncan Gibb set out strategies to make the switch to clean heating affordable and safe for lower-income households. Targeted subsidies for upfront investment in clean heating technologies are essential, alongside reforms to electricity pricing to help ensure bills are affordable. The study also explores a range of other strategies to secure affordable clean heat such as bringing together combinations of building-level technologies, services and the benefits of cheap renewable electricity generation. We present five recommendations for:

  • Prioritising lower-income households in heat decarbonisation strategies.
  • Ensuring an ‘energy efficiency first’ approach to reduce heating needs.
  • Providing targeted subsidies for clean technologies.
  • Rebalancing burdens away from electricity bills and directing social support to electricity bills.
  • Focussing Europe’s innovation attention on the needs of lower-income households.

Good COP/Bad COP: Balancing fabric efficiency, flow temperatures and heat pumps

Comments Off on Good COP/Bad COP: Balancing fabric efficiency, flow temperatures and heat pumps

Heat pumps are widely recognised as the key technology to decarbonise building heat demand in Ireland. To receive grants for heat pumps, homeowners in Ireland are required to have a heat demand per unit of floor area, known as a ‘heat loss indicator’ (HLI), below a certain level. The HLI requirement was designed to protect households from high bills if they switched to a heat pump.  

There is a concern that the HLI is limiting heat pump deployment, thereby hindering Ireland’s goal of net zero in 2050. This review of the HLI policy and associated rules was undertaken alongside a discussion of heat pumping technologies and their operation, optimal performance and innovation. While there is still a major role for building fabric energy efficiency upgrades, innovation in heat pumping technologies means they may be able to more easily replace combustion-based technologies than has been previously assumed due to better performance and higher output temperatures.

To achieve more rapid and potentially smoother deployment of heat pumps, current HLI grant requirements should be reevaluated. Initially, the HLI requirements could be loosened, subject to relevant consumer advice and protections. In the longer term, a focus on flow temperatures and in-situ performance may be more appropriate. Building fabric efficiency requirements could be maintained but simplified. Finally, trials and programmes to evaluate heat pump performance in Irish buildings should be expanded and expedited in order to provide accurate and local data on this strategically important technology.

Collaborating for Gas Utility Decarbonization

Comments Off on Collaborating for Gas Utility Decarbonization

Beginning in late 2021, RMI and National Grid jointly convened a series of facilitated collaborative workshops with stakeholders from the nonprofit and utility sectors across several regions, including RAP. This roundtable group explored what it may take to decarbonize the gas distribution system in the United States and the customer end uses it serves today, with a focus on the nation’s residential and commercial buildings.

This report, the roundtable’s final product, describes how the process was designed and conducted and lays out a set of guiding principles and strategies to inform decarbonization of the gas utility and corresponding end uses. Because participants had widely divergent perspectives on an array of issues, the report seeks to reflect initial areas of consensus and does not necessarily reflect the specific policy positions of any individual participating organization. This report is meant as a first step to inform further discussion and action for policymakers and regulators, primarily at the state level.

Getting the hydrogen network we need for decarbonisation

Comments Off on Getting the hydrogen network we need for decarbonisation

Clean hydrogen provides a tool that can open up new opportunities for decarbonisation. But it is just one tool, and an expensive one at that. If policymakers allow, or even support, continuation of the current ‘hydrogen rush,’ we will end up with a larger hydrogen network than needed — with high costs for consumers.

Policymakers have the right tools in their toolbox — including unbundling, transparency requirements and regulatory oversight — to ensure that hydrogen supports rather than hinders decarbonisation efforts. The regulation of the fossil gas sector provides important lessons to be considered for hydrogen regulation. Megan Anderson and Andreas Jahn explain how independent, unbundled ownership can allow for the hydrogen network to be efficiently planned, developed and operated.

Modernizing Gas Utility Planning: New Approaches for New Challenges

Comments Off on Modernizing Gas Utility Planning: New Approaches for New Challenges

Significant new uncertainties and options for the gas industry are creating new challenges for regulators who are responsible for ensuring that utility investments are in the public interest.

Many of the unknowns relate to the potential for customers to switch from gas to electricity for heating and other uses and the potential for utilities to replace fossil methane with alternative gases. Gas customers could face higher costs if their numbers decline in favor of electrification or if investments in alternative gases far exceed current resource costs.

Yet current typical tools and processes for regulating gas distribution utilities do not give regulators complete information on which to make decisions about long-term utility investments in this context.

Commissions across the country are recognizing the need to review and update their planning approaches. This paper surveys current efforts to modernize gas utility planning and draws lessons for those considering similar work. At the heart of the paper are five principles for redesigning planning to restore confidence that utility investments will be in the public interest:

  1. Build equity into planning so decisions are made with equitable service and distribution of costs and benefits in mind.
  2. Consider an expanded range of investment and resource options.
  3. Establish integrated gas planning by combining integrated resource planning practices with gas distribution system planning.
  4. Use combined energy planning to take the broadest possible view of emissions reduction opportunities.
  5. Foster collaboration with state agencies that have expertise in emissions reduction.

Utility Regulation in the US: A Brief Introduction

Comments Off on Utility Regulation in the US: A Brief Introduction

​In a webinar for the Urban Sustainability Directors Network and the Southeast Sustainability Directors Network, David Farnsworth explored the power industry and how it is regulated in the public interest.

Performance Targets

Comments Off on Performance Targets

​In a presentation to a National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners working group, Jessica Shipley offered guidance on designing performance-based regulation that meets public interest policy goals.

The clash with gas: Should it stay or should it go?

Comments Off on The clash with gas: Should it stay or should it go?

Europe’s stated goal of achieving a net-zero power system by 2050 is inherently replete with enormous opportunities and challenges. High energy prices and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have now ratcheted up the urgent need for action to emergency levels. Policymakers are facing the challenge of a lifetime to secure the supply of energy and protect disadvantaged consumers while maintaining momentum towards long-term climate goals. The events of 2022 have made evident to many experts that the transition away from fossil gas will figure prominently in all of these objectives.

To support policymakers and the numerous stakeholders in planning for a deliberate reduction in the use of fossil gas in the coming years, RAP has developed five fundamental guiding principles. The principles are general in nature due to the breadth of this gas transition and the various policy instruments that governments will need to reform such a large part of our energy economy. In light of the current crises, the authors have also applied these best practices specifically to the European Commission’s proposed Hydrogen and Decarbonised Gas Market package and Hydrogen Strategy, as well as to the hydrogen strategies of selected Member States.

To achieve an efficient and cost-effective transition away from fossil gas, we offer policymakers the following recommendations:

Graphic with five principles for transitioning away from fossil gas