What can utilities learn from this past summer?
By John McMalcolm
The heat wave that swept across the U.S. this past summer resulted in a dramatic rise in energy consumption levels as residents in affected areas had to use more air-conditioning to keep cool.
In order to prevent power outages, utility companies took a wide range of measures to reduce energy use. While some of them managed to provide uninterrupted power supply through the entire summer, others were not so successful.
Here are several effective tactics that utilities can use to keep energy consumption under control during exceptionally hot summers.
Demand Response Programs
New York City experienced its longest heat wave in over a decade this past summer, and it broke its energy use record.
According to Con Edison, the utility that supplies power to the city, a record-high 13,322 megawatts of electricity were used on July 20, 2013, and the amount could have been several hundred megawatts higher if not for its demand response programs.
There are basically two types of demand response programs, namely, offering lower energy rates at certain times of the day and directly controlling the amounts of electricity customers can use.
Con Edison encourages its customers to sign up for its demand response programs by offering rewards. By doing so, it has their approval to reduce their energy use when the need arises.
Energy Efficiency Advice and Services
Utilities that do not have demand response programs can cut down energy consumption by providing energy efficiency advice and services for their customers.
They can teach their customers how to consume less energy during summer by posting energy-saving tips on their websites, conducting energy-saving seminars or offering free energy checks and advice.
Oklahoma Gas and Electric has a program that provides a wide range of energy efficiency services either free of charge or through rebates, including cooling system service, duct repair, attic insulation and others.
Renewable Energy Incentives
Instead of promoting energy savings, some utility companies are encouraging their customers to produce their own energy with solar panels or geothermal systems.
Arizona Public Service Co. provides incentives to customers who use solar power to generate electricity and heat water.
Customers who have grid-connected solar power systems can even sell their excess energy to the grid. In their endeavor to promote renewable energy, utilities also assist their customers in obtaining federal and state funding and rebates.
Utility customers need to keep track of their energy consumption constantly in order to save energy effectively. They can do so with the help of smart meters, which send energy use data to them and their utility companies.
Pacific Gas and Electrichas installed more than 9.6 million smart meters across Northern California, and it is getting information about its customers' energy use every 15 minutes. It will notify its customers when their energy consumption is approaching a higher-price tier.
Cutting down energy consumption does not only help prevent interruption of power supply; it can also be beneficial to the environment. By following the tips above, utility companies can contribute significantly to a sustainable future.
About the Author: John McMalcolm is a freelance writer who writes on a wide range of subjects, from energy conservation to online reputation management services.
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere