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US Mayors Are Working Diligently on Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

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If you were a mayor of a US city, what would you be doing to convert your municipality to renewable energy? What energy efficiency measures would you pursue? If you and other mayors are working to achieve a zero emissions community currently, what obstacles stand in your way from achieving these goals?

A recent report, “Leveraging New Technologies to Modernize Infrastructure and Improve Energy Efficiency in America’s Cities,” provides timely information on how mayors are working in the US to incorporate energy technologies and infrastructure improvements.

Throughout the report, it is clear that respondents have evolved in just a few years in their positive recognition of renewable energy progress and urban applications. City leaders have become much more knowledgeable about the need to deploy energy technologies to improve city infrastructure.

Most Promising Technologies for Reducing Energy Use & Carbon Emissions in Cities

The 103 US mayors in this survey were asked to select the most promising technologies from a list of 20 options. (Note: Some questions offered mayors the opportunity to list up to three choices or all that apply.)

With increased attention to the deployment of electric vehicles to “electrify” more of the transportation sector, this survey queried mayors on specific issues relating to the increased use of electric vehicles (EVs). Of particular note is that more than half of the mayors identified all-electric vehicles as the “most promising technology” for reducing energy use and carbon emissions in their cities.

All-electric vehicles 55%
Low-energy buildings 49% (e.g., construction and retrofitting of public buildings)
Solar electricity generation 47% (e.g., photovoltaics)
LED or other energy-efficient lighting 43%  (including street lights, buildings and connected systems)
Energy-efficient appliances, pumps, and other systems 27%
Smart grids / smart meters 13% (monitoring electricity use in homes/offices)
Hybrid solar-energy storage systems 11%  (e.g., batteries)
Hybrid vehicles 10% (combination gasoline/electric)
Waste-to-energy conversion 7% (i.e., creating electricity o r heat from combustion of waste)
Energy-efficient water treatment technology 6%
Methane capture from landfills and/or bio-solids 5%

More than 2 out of 3 mayors indicate their city has a plan/strategy for building out this infrastructure. These mayors with a plan/strategy (69%) were then asked if the technology’s implementation was dependent upon securing additional resource commitments from federal, state, and/or private sector partners. Nearly 9 of 10 mayors (89%) are counting on partner resources to help fund their EV charging infrastructure.

Nearly every mayor (97%) indicates that their EV charging infrastructure plan/strategy was part of a larger city effort to reduce energy use/climate emissions in the transportation sector.

Technologies Receiving Top Priority in Next 6 Months

More than half of all mayors are working to “increase significantly” the deployment of solar energy technologies on city buildings and facilities.

Solar electricity generation 21% (e.g., photovoltaics)
All-electric vehicles 17%
LED or other energy-efficient lighting 14% (including street lights, buildings & connected systems)
Low-energy buildings 13% (e.g., construction and retrofitting of public buildings)
Electric vehicle charging stations 10%
Energy efficient appliances, pumps, and other systems 9%
Hybrid vehicles (combination gasoline/electric) 4%
Hybrid solar-energy storage systems (e.g., batteries) 3%

It is noteworthy that these priorities diverge somewhat from earlier surveys. In the Conference’s 2014 survey, “Energy Efficiency and Technologies in America’s Cities,” two-thirds of the mayors (66%) identified LED or other efficient lighting, solar electricity generation, and low energy buildings as their top three priorities. In the 2016 survey, 3 of 4 mayors (76%) chose the same technologies in the same order. In this new survey, less than half of the respondents (48%) identify these technologies, and they rank them differently.

Areas Cities Are Targeting Most for Improved Energy Efficiency or Reduced Energy Consumption

More than 7 of 10 mayors identify energy (e.g., shifting fuel sources, solar energy, methane capture and/or distributed generation) and public buildings (e.g., heating, cooling, and ventilation) as the top two areas cities are targeting most for improved energy efficiency and reduced energy consumption.

Energy 71% (e.g., shifting fuel sources, solar energy, methane capture, distributed generation)
Public buildings 71% (e.g., heating, cooling, ventilation)
Outdoor lighting 44% (e.g., of roads and public spaces)
Public transit 25% (e.g., service frequency, more e!icient vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles, EVs)
Wastewater treatment 22% (e.g., energy use by treatment plants & collection systems)
Water supply 15% (e.g., purification, production & distribution of potable and industrial water)
Recreation 8% (e.g., heating cooling, ventilation & lighting of parks, ball fields, stadiums)
Traffic management on roads 8%(e.g., Intelligent Transportation Systems including smart signals)
Waste management 6% (e.g., transportation, treatment, incineration, composting)
Public safety 5% (e.g., heating, cooling, ventilation & transportation for police, fire, emergency services)

Most Significant Challenges to Increasing Energy Efficiency & Conservation in these Areas

When asked to identify the “most significant challenges” to increasing energy efficiency and conservation in these areas, survey respondents overwhelmingly cite financial constraints and costs. Mayors rank these 4 funding concerns as major obstacles to embracing energy efficiency measures and replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy options:

Local budget/local funding constraints (69%)
High up-front costs (45%)
Limited/no available federal funding (29%)
Limited/no available state funding (28%)

These top challenges are the same — and in identical order — as the 2016 survey found, with similar percentage shares. Also of concern were:

Developing infrastructure for new technologies 22% (e.g., CNG fueling stations or EV charging facilities)
Inadequate technical expertise of city staff 18%
Current infrastructure still working / hard to justify upgrades 16%
Utility support limited 14%
Other (city specified in writing) 14%
Low/uncertain rate of return 13%
Unproven track record of technologies/systems 7%
Insufficient private sector offerings 5%
Lack of public support 4%

Mayors are Working toward Improving Energy Efficiency in Buildings

More than 2 out of 5 mayors — 43% of all respondents — have already developed a comprehensive city energy plan, with nearly all others anticipating their city will have a plan within the next 3 years. For cities without an energy plan (57%), one in 10 of mayors (10%) expect to develop one within the next year, nearly half (45%) within two years, and a sizable share (38%) within 3 years. Planning consists of:

Retrofitting city-owned buildings 80%
Providing energy audits 44% (e.g., city buildings, residential or commercial buildings)
Revising building energy codes 40%(e.g., International Energy Efficiency Construction Code)
Retrofitting commercial and industrial buildings 28%
Training/certification of workers/building operators/others 19%
Retrofitting multi-family buildings 19%
Retrofitting single-family residences 16%

Facilities Now Being Targeted for Connected Lighting

Public spaces are sites where both social communication and movement of people, things, and goods take place. These are classic, usually architecturally designed spaces between buildings that have been crucial to the functioning of the community and its social, historic, and economic life. Mayors are working to extend the use and vitality of these public space with enhanced city lighting.

Street Lights 86%
Landmarks 36% (e.g., bridges, iconic structures, and neighborhoods/districts)
City-Owned Buildings 29%
Public Parking Structures/Lot 29%
Traffic Lights 29%
Athletic Fields 25%
Parks 25%

Mayors are Working toward More Connected Lighting

When asked what they believe are the key benefits of deploying LED and connected lighting systems, mayors overwhelmingly identify cost savings and carbon emissions/energy use reduction.

Cost saving 85%
Carbon emissions/energy use reduction 77%
Longevity/reliability of luminaires 52%
Lower future maintenance costs 40%
Public safety 25%
Neighborhood enhancement/restoration 9%
System management 8% (e.g., wireless/wired or sensor controls of lighting)

How Connected LED Lighting Systems Can Leverage Local Infrastructure to Deliver Additional Capabilities

For cities that have deployed connected lighting or are now considering such deployments, nearly two in 3 mayors are working to incorporate lighting technology to help them leverage local infrastructure to deliver additional capabilities, citing public Wi-Fi as their top choice.

Public Wi-Fi 65% (i.e., using light poles to expand broadband services)
Deep dimming of lights  59% (i.e., only when no vehicles or pedestrians are present)
Traffic monitoring and control 44% (i.e., improved traffic analysis and queue management)
Air quality monitoring 44%
Pedestrian counting and crowd detection 32%
Smart parking 29% (i.e., deliver real-time parking availability info to drivers and city)
Gun shot detection 27%
Noise detection 12%

Final Thoughts about How Mayors are Working toward Energy Goals

This report was prepared by The US Conference of Mayors and sponsored by Signify. And these mayors are not alone — mayors are working around the globe to increase energy efficiency and transition to renewable energy sources. Look no farther than the City of Oslo, Norway, which has a plan to slash carbon emissions in the next 8 years.

That’s a hefty goal, and, somehow, it seems as if it will happen with its 16 target areas of improvement. Let’s hope the US gets the same kind of municipal focus.

Photograph by Carolyn Fortuna/CleanTechnica


 

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Tesla’s Policy Lead Testifies at PUCT Open Meeting As Tesla Focuses on Supporting the Texas Grid

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Tesla’s US Energy Markets Policy Lead, Arushi Sharma Frank, was recently asked to testify at a Public Utility Commission of Texas Open Meeting. A photo of Frank wearing an LFDECARB tee shirt popped up on Twitter. The tee shirt itself is a message focused on decarbonization by the group Bros for Decarbonization. You can learn more about the group here.

Frank confirmed that it was an impromptu request to testify. She also shared exactly what she talked about.

The document Frank shared was a filing receipt for supplemental comments from Tesla signed by Frank. There’s also a video of her testimony which you can watch here. In the document, Tesla said that it appreciated the opportunity to share its comments regarding PUCT’s discussions that were held on June 16, 2022 — the open meeting regarding Tesla’s proposal OBDRR041 as well as its prior work demonstrating how virtual power plants (VPPs) work.

I recently published an article about Tesla’s VPP workshop, which was related to OBDRR041. Tesla also said that it appreciated the Commission’s comments related to its Distributed Energy Resource (DER) pilot projects. Tesla especially supported the conversation between Commission representatives and the staff at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), as well as with the market participants. The conversation covered the real implementation of the system through a pilot as opposed to a task force approach. The latter, Frank noted, could unnecessarily create delays in implementing a grid service solution for DERs.

Looking At The Document & Tesla’s Statements

The Commission’s decision to encourage ERCOT to get stakeholders together and develop a pilot project allowing the market solution of exports from VPPs to be tested is also something Tesla expressed its appreciation for. This allowed for addressing issues raised by utilities and other market participants that have concerns about the potential impacts of site-exporting DERs on distribution facilities. It also allowed for a discussion of the net impact and benefits to the transmission grid.

Tesla also clarified and provided information as a response to a few discussion topics and questions that were raised at the open meeting. These topics included the OBDRR041 status, the ERCOT Pilot Proposal, and a question posed to Tesla by Chairman Lake at the open meeting.

OBDRR041 status

Tesla noted that since the OBDRR041 is currently tabled at the ERCOT Technical Advisory Committee, it would not seek a vote until there was further development of issues and positions from ERCOT and the potential members of the committee.

“At this time, Tesla believes that OBDRR041 may remain tabled at the Technical Advisory Committee pending consideration of the feasibility of a Virtual Power Plant pilot as the Commission proposed at the Open Meeting.”

ERCOT Pilot Proposal

Tesla expressed its views on the formal ERCOT Pilot Proposal that was introduced at the Open Meeting. Tesla noted that for a formal ERCOT pilot approach to be a feasible alternative to OBDRR041, a pilot should :

Have ERCOT’s support and the market’s acceptance and approval from ERCOT’s governing board.
Be amenable to commercialization in that sufficient participants could be aggregated across sufficient distribution service areas (more than one, but in capped quantities, in each service area as described in a proposed pilot framework).
Adequately capture data addressing clearly identified distribution utility concerns, in parallel to or as part of the pilot’s scope.
Have provisions to ensure market services compensation commensurate with grid services provided by pilot participants
Have an identified “start date” and “end date” which are technically feasible for involved parties.

In addition to that last point, Tesla added that the following are requirements in Section 25.361 (k) regarding pilot development and approval:

“ERCOT may conduct a pilot project upon approval of the scope and purposes of the pilot project by the governing board of ERCOT. Proposals for approval of pilot projects shall be made to the governing board only by ERCOT staff, after consultation with affected market participants and commission staff designated by the executive director.

“The ERCOT governing board shall ensure that there is an opportunity for adequate stakeholder review and comment on any proposed pilot project.”

Tesla noted that pilot  project proposals approved by the ERCOT governing board should include the following:

The scope and purposes of the pilot project;
The designation of temporary exceptions from ERCOT rules that ERCOT expects to authorize as part of the pilot project;
Criteria and reporting mechanisms to determine whether and when ERCOT should propose changes to ERCOT rules based on the results of a pilot project.
An estimate of costs ERCOT will incur attributable to the pilot project.
An estimated date of completion of the pilot project.

Tesla’s Response To Chairman Lake

Tesla expressed its appreciation for Chairman Lake, who stated that “nothing teaches like experience, so the sooner you get something in the field, the more you learn faster.”

Tesla also responded to a question posed by the chairman and said that it’s concerned that it will not be able to scope a pilot program in a Non-Opt-in-Entity (NOIE) area. Currently, Texas homeowners are unable to participate in VPPs due to the law. Tesla said:

“Primarily, this approach may not be economically rational as it could mean a substantial resource investment in a pilot that is not scalable to a commercial retail offer where Tesla could continue to directly serve those customers and grow the program’s strength and viability.

“The customers in a pilot should be able to continue to benefit from the value for their systems beyond the end-date of the pilot, in a commercially viable solution – but with a NOIE-only pilot, Tesla would have no control, legally or otherwise, over the continued participation of such customers once the pilot closes, even if a viable market participation framework is implemented following that pilot’ s conclusion.

“Any formal program participation of those customers would be solely at the option of the NOIE serving those customers. More simply, the purpose of a pilot is to study a solution that can be scaled following adoption of market rules based on pilot learnings. To build a program off the learnings of a pilot, the customer base involved in the pilot should be able to continue service under that formalized program, so that parties involved are not running the risk of raising a wholly new set of unstudied issues in a new distribution system type that was not part of the pilot.”

Frank also shared a link to over 60 pages of data from Tesla. Deep dive coming soon.

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Coalition Calls for EU Hydrogen Quota for Shipping

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Energy providers, shipping companies and NGOs call on the EU to introduce a minimum quota of 6% sustainable and scalable hydrogen fuels by 2030

A broad coalition of energy providers, shipping companies and NGOs — including Siemens Energy, Viking Cruises, Green Power Denmark and Brussels-based organisations Hydrogen Europe and Transport & Environment (T&E) — has called on the EU to introduce a minimum quota of 6% sustainable and scalable hydrogen fuels by 2030.

Last year the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, proposed a shipping fuel law (FuelEU Maritime Regulation) aimed at increasing the uptake of alternative marine fuels. Unfortunately, the law fails to guarantee the competitiveness of sustainable and scalable e-fuels, and risks promoting cheaper, unsustainable fuels. The coalition therefore calls on the European Parliament and EU Council to improve the proposal by including a dedicated e-fuels sub quota in the proposed regulation.

Delphine Gozillon, sustainable shipping officer at T&E, said:

“An ambitious shipping fuels law will be key to set the shipping sector on course for full decarbonisation. Sustainable e-fuels are currently too expensive compared to other alternatives such as fossil LNG and biofuels, holding back investments in production facilities, refuelling infrastructure in ports and zero-emission ships. However, with a bit of a push e-fuels produced from renewable hydrogen can be scalable. That’s why we need a quota to get the ball rolling and encourage companies to start investing in clean shipping fuels. Shipping does not need to be a dirty industry forever.”

A list of all the coalition’s demands can be found here.

Download the letter.

Courtesy of Transport & Environment.

Featured image courtesy of Maersk.

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Diving Into Tesla’s 60+ Pages of PUCT Filings (Mostly Data)

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Tesla has over 60 pages of Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) filings that have recently been shared publicly, and we’re about to dive into them. Grab some water and a coffee and let’s go.

Tesla and its team, including its US Energy Markets Policy Lead, Arushi Sharma Frank, have been working hard to help Texan Powerwall customers be able to take part in virtual power plant (VPP) pilot programs. In May, Tesla held a VPP workshop for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and Frank was one of the key leaders hosting the meeting.

Recently, Frank was asked to testify at an open meeting of the PUCT, and there she shared Tesla’s comments and statements addressing questions and other concerns relating to VPPs.

Frank tweeted a thank you to the PUCT for the opportunity of allowing Tesla to provide comments. In addition, she followed up with two more tweets, with one mentioning her favorite part of the filings — Tesla describing a phenomenon called “clumping.” Clumping is a reference to capturing the full value of distributed energy renewables capacity in an aggregate load resource (ALR).

63 Pages Of Data For PUCT

In total, there were 63 pages. I’m only going to go over some of the data briefly. I think it’s important to highlight Tesla’s hard work because if Texas allows its residents who own Powerwall batteries systems to participate in VPPs, this opens the door for other states in the Deep South to at least consider clean energy solutions for various problems, especially grid-related. Texas is well known for its grid instability, and if it allows Tesla Powerwall customers to take part in VPPs, this could mean saving lives during disasters.

Included in the filings were comments from Tesla, a request from Tesla that the Commission direct ERCOT to prioritize several actions such as allowing ALRs (Aggregated Load Resources) to provide injection capacity from individual sites in a framework by December 2022, an informal narrative of Tesla’s VPP demonstration in ERCOT, and 47 slide pages detailing the ERCOT/Tesla ancillary service demonstration.

I think the most important part for us outsiders observing here is the 47 slides, because they highlighted a lot of data that shows just how the Texas grid will benefit from VPPs. The 47 slides showed several key meetings between Tesla and ERCOT about the demo program.

Key Meeting Between Tesla & ERCOT Shows Tesla Has Been Working Hard Trying To Convince Texas To Allow VPPs

In March, there were four meetings in which Tesla defined clumping, Frank’s favorite part, as well as two telemetry signal approaches. Following that were weekly meetings around the demo results with the last demo result being April 15, 2022. On April 9, Tesla and ERCOT revisited clumping and the two telemetry signals approach.

This tells me and anyone paying close attention that Tesla has been quietly working with ERCOT to help the Texas grid for quite some time. This, I think, is a good thing, especially for Texas.

Tesla Seeks To Register The First ALR In ERCOT

According to the documents, Tesla wants to register the first ALR in ERCOT and participate in services that are currently unavailable. These services include non-spin and sCED load reduction dispatch. Tesla wants to do this with the full value of grid services that injecting devices can provide in an ALR.

Tesla said that it will lead efforts to modify the utility’s ALR Policy Other Binding Document to make it fit with practical operational, registration, and qualification issues. It clarified that ERCOT can exchange two telemetry points with an aggregation-qualified scheduling entity (QSE).

Tesla ERCOT Demo Tests

Tesla’s first demo looked at the comparison of battery and premise-level telemetry. Below is a chart showing the initial conditions, test steps, data collected, and pass criteria.

Table courtesy of Tesla

This first test results show that VPPs work beautifully in Texas. According to the results, the load decreased during the evening while in the morning it decreased while exporting to the grid. And during the daytime, the exporting of energy to the grid only increased. Tesla explained further:

“Discharging from the customer’s battery using a step function can clearly be identified in the premise-level data.

“At different times of day, premise-level data will look differently, depending on the current load:

1. Evening time: during the evening peak, user load is typically high, and discharging the battery will show up as a decrease in premise-level load.

2. Morning time: during the night/morning time, user load is typically lower, and discharging the battery will both decrease load, and export energy to the grid.

3. Daytime: during the daytime, solar is exporting to the grid, and discharging the battery will increase the export.”

You can view the full demo, test results, and all of Tesla’s comments here.

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