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Clean energy advocates and leaders from across the West are urging policymakers to enact policies and support investments in renewable energy and efficiency that would modernize our electric system while slashing greenhouse gas emissions. With President Obama calling for action to address climate disruption in his State of the Union address, and thousands of others marching on Washington this past weekend, a series of white papers and a video are being released to help illustrate how adopting a Clean Energy Vision rather than business as usual will move the West forward.
“Our country faces pressing climate change threats” said Ron Lehr, director for Western Grid Group and former Chairman of the Colorado Public Utility Commission. “Acting now to move to cleaner energy sources can save money, benefit our environment over the long term and reduce our dependence of security-risky foreign oil.”
The video released by the Western Clean Energy Advocates shows how a cleaner energy system will increase our energy security, create new high-tech jobs and avoid harm to our health, land and water, in addition to reducing climate pollution.
The video is part of an effort to raise awareness about electric choices being made today. Between now and 2050 the electricity sector in the West will invest approximately $200 billion. Investments down the Clean Energy Vision path will reduce carbon dioxide emissions while building a cleaner, more flexible and resilient electric system. Spending along a business as usual path will continue to rely on older, more polluting and inflexible technologies. With power plants responsible for nearly 40% of electric utility-generated emissions, addressing the industry’s investment choices is a critical component of fighting climate change.
“We have some clear choices in front of us,” said Kris Mayes, former Chair, Arizona Corporation Commission. “Smart investments are those that allow us to take full advantage of new technologies and resources that lead to energy security and a healthier environment. In Arizona and across the West our decisions can have lasting impacts and policy makers can play an important role in determining which path we take.”
The Clean Energy Vision outlines how clean energy development will create more jobs and drive more local economic activity than continued business-as-usual investment. A few straightforward changes in industry practices and policies can increase grid flexibility, improve reliability, reduce costs to consumers and accommodate larger amounts of clean power. These include:
- Better weather forecasting. Electricity use is driven in large part by weather. Better forecasting improves reliability, while inadequate anticipation of extreme temperatures has led to blackouts.
- Balancing Area consolidation. Coordinating the activities between the 38 different electrical areas in the West increases the resiliency of the transmission grid and increases efficiency through greater sharing of resources.
- Energy Imbalance Market. An Energy Imbalance Market allows utilities to share resources when they have an electrical imbalance in their system. This lowers the amount of emergency reserves that each utility must maintain and increases the overall reliability of electric service. Creating a western regional market to supply these imbalances allows the most efficient power plants to run more and the least efficient to run less or not at all; saving customers money.
- Improved generation siting. Solar and wind farms generate electricity at different times based on where they are located. New software allows power buyers to choose the wind and solar projects that produce power closest to the time when a utility needs power.
- Greater use of demand resources. When power needs increase utilities can either turn on additional power plants or reduce customer demand. Working with customers to voluntarily reduce demand is often more cost effective than turning on new power plants and it reduces emissions.
- Targeted energy efficiency savings. Energy savings programs targeted to specific locations on the transmission system help relieve congestion on the transmission system, and reduce regional power cost while avoiding or delaying the construction of new transmission.
- Added renewables. The most effective way to reduce the aggregate variability of wind and solar generation is to install more of it in geographically-dispersed areas.
· Faster scheduling and dispatch. Power producers can adjust the amount of power they provide to the grid every five minutes, instead of today’s standard of once every 30 minutes or once every hour. This can help lower the cost of integrating variable generation and maximize the use of the existing transmission system.
Western Grid 2050 report
Transition Plan: Modernizing the Grid
Transition Plan: Policies Western States Can Build On
Transition Plan: Clean Energy Investments and Incentives
Transition Plan: Policy Reference Guide
For a full list of the organizations who are part of the coalition of Western Clean Energy Advocates, visit: http://www.cleanenergyvision.org/wcea-organizations/
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