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Clean Hydrogen Power

Clean and GREEN H2 |


Hydrogen and the Clean Energy Transition

Hydrogen is one of the most promising emerging energy technologies to fill the rising global demand for clean low carbon and emission-free energy sources. The recent global societal shift towards environmental sustainability, and the global imperative for climate action, have significantly altered energy consumption patterns.

Clean and renewable energy companies are booming. Solar companies experienced their highest production and distribution rates in 2020, enhancing the national use of renewable power. In addition to solar, other renewable energies and emerging next-generation clean energy technologies (such as hydrogen and carbon capture) are also having breakthrough years. President Biden has influenced alternative energy sourcing by establishing ambitious sustainability standards in the U.S. – such as net zero by 2050, and a carbon-neutral electricity grid by 2035. The Biden administration also seeks to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 50-52% by 2030 (from 2005 levels).

Biden generated the Build Back Better (BBB) plan, seeking to invest in American society and the American clean energy sector. The proposed program allocates trillions of funding dollars for United States’ infrastructure (as well as other programs that benefit society), including funding for the clean energy industry, promoting technological advancements and system alterations.

The Build Back Better plan includes funding for hydrogen and carbon capture technological RD&D (as well as a variety of other next-generation clean energy technologies). Various parts of the BBB climate-related plan also include funding for clean energy infrastructure, EV charging infrastructure, financial incentives such as tax credits for renewable energy, and modernizing the US electrical grid (in addition to more clean energy programs). When the US diversifies production and use of clean energy (including clean hydrogen and carbon capture), national greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) are effectively reduced.

Fortunately, Congress did end up passing a part of the original BBB plan – the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The IIJA does have some investment for technological measures described in this article and was signed into law by President Biden in November 2021. Unfortunately, it does not look like the rest of the original BBB will pass Congress during Biden’s first term. Still, both the development of hydrogen technologies and carbon capture technologies, have bipartisan support. The technological developments discussed in this article are set to continue advancing this decade (a bit more slowly than if the full BBB passed.)


Domestic Energy Production Challenges

Nearly 80% of America’s energy production and consumption (with the transportation sector included) is derived from fossil fuels. These finite natural resources (coal, oil, and gas) create atmospheric pollution during combustion (GHGs and other pollution). GHGs alter the planet’s natural temperature control process, degrading the global ecosystem. On the other hand, hydrogen represents clean energy; as hydrogen, itself, doesn’t release carbon or contribute to atmospheric pollution. 

The Earth absorbs sunlight, generating heat and warming the surface. The planet is capable of reabsorbing a finite amount of additional solar radiation or emitting it back to space. When GHGs invade the environment from the combustion of fossil fuels, they alter the atmosphere’s natural composition and change the process. GHGs have a higher sunlight-to-heat conversion rate and trap energy rather than sending it to space.

Over time, the entrapment and overproduction of heat raise Earth’s temperature. As the planet warms, the evaporation rate rises, oceans heat up, and global weather patterns are changed; resulting in extreme flooding in some global regions (from increasingly extreme storms), and elongated drought periods (causing wildfires, damage to agriculture, etc…) in others. Global warming also degrades aquatic ecosystems, causes rising sea levels, and adversely affects biodiversity worldwide (among other global adverse effects of climate change).

Hydrogen is a clean energy solution for energy storage and transportation to replace climate-change-causing fossil fuels. Right now, hydrogen can be used as a fuel source for cars and buses – and in the future, for long-haul shipping, heavy-duty trucks, and, hopefully, long-haul aviation.

Hydrogen can be used for energy storage. Hydrogen also represents a potential zero or low carbon emissions fuel source for HVAC in buildings; a zero carbon emissions solution for building heating. Hydrogen potentially performs all of these functions without contributing to global warming, air pollution, or climate change (zero carbon in the case of green hydrogen – whereas blue hydrogen represents a low carbon solution – see below for a description of the hydrogen production color spectrum).


What is Carbon Capture?

As the demand for zero and low carbon emissions energy sources rises, environmental engineers and scientists develop new clean production technologies. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) decreases GHGs in the process of producing hydrogen in natural gas power plants (as well as in energy generation from other fossil fuels, and other industrial processes). CCS + H2 production generates reliable low carbon power – hydrogen. After capturing the carbon emissions from methane reforming (in the blue hydrogen production process, described below), partial oxidation restructures the elements as they flow through a catalyst bed, creating clean hydrogen. The actual use of hydrogen for energy generates zero pollution and no carbon emissions.

Though carbon capture cannot directly generate hydrogen for sustainable energy uses, methane reforming in natural gas power plants can. Methane reforming in natural gas power plants combines Fahrenheit steam, combined with a catalyst. The process produces hydrogen and a relatively small amount of carbon dioxide (smaller than the natural gas energy-generating process). Carbon capture can be used to capture CO2 from the natural gas combustion, as well as the methane reforming cycle – a low carbon process to create clean hydrogen.

Environmental scientists and engineers develop carbon capture technology to reduce atmospheric pollution from manufacturing facilities and power plants. The technology can absorb 90% of carbon emissions, significantly decreasing GHGs.

Pre-combustion carbon capture turns fuel sources into a gas rather than burning them. Post-combustion capturing separates carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion emissions. The collection of CO2 travels to an alternate processing facility where individuals repurpose or store it, decreasing adverse ecological effects.


Hydrogen Production – the 3 Colors

Engineers have developed various methods of hydrogen production and differentiated them on a color spectrum. When companies create H2 from methane reformation without collecting carbon outputs, they generate grey hydrogen. This process releases 9.3 kilograms of GHGs for every kilogram of hydrogen. In order to create a sustainable, low carbon solution for future hydrogen production, the world must transition away from grey hydrogen to environmentally-friendly hydrogen production methods (grey hydrogen currently represents a vast majority of global hydrogen production).

Companies can capture carbon emissions in the methane reformation process, storing them to preserve the atmosphere, producing blue hydrogen. The CCS process can collect up to 90% of the CO2 emissions and place them underground for climate change prevention. The process is significantly more sustainable than grey hydrogen production.

The zero carbon emissions hydrogen production process uses renewable energy, electrolyzers, and water, generating green hydrogen. Advanced technological devices (electrolyzers) separate hydrogen (H2) from H2O using electrolysis. Solar panels and wind turbines power the systems, creating zero emissions throughout the practice.

Green hydrogen is the most sustainable version of the energy source. Industries can power their production using a 100% clean energy source (green H2), eliminating atmospheric pollution from the process.

The process of producing green H2 is much cleaner than the conventional, ecologically degrading hydrogen development practice of methane reforming. Traditionally, energy professionals generate H2 from fossil fuel sources, generating 830 million tons of GHGs annually. Producing green hydrogen from zero-emission sustainable sources can enhance its efficiency while reducing atmospheric degradation. Producing blue hydrogen still uses methane reforming, but by also using CCS technology, a cleaner method of producing hydrogen is being used.


Hydrogen Fuel Cell Energy
hydrogen fuel cell

The process of producing hydrogen can supply fuel for hydrogen-powered fuel cells, creating an alternate clean energy source for energy storage and transportation. The cells work like batteries, running off of the hydrogen inside of them. They contain one positive and one negative electrode, generating the cathode and anode.

The two electrodes contain an electrolyte. Hydrogen fuels the anode, and air powers the cathode, separating molecules into protons and electrons. The free electrons travel through a designated circuit, creating electricity. Excess protons move to the cathode, combining with oxygen and generating water as the output. Pure water is a sustainable alternative to other GHGs, and water is the only emission in hydrogen power generation.

hydrogen fuel cell bus – Berlin, Germany

Hydrogen fuel cells are used in energy storage, and hydrogen buses, as clean energy battery solutions. Read more about Europe’s extensive effort to expand the hydrogen bus presence on the continent here. The only emissions from hydrogen buses run by fuel cells are water.

Homeowners can also potentially utilize hydrogen fuel cells, shrinking their carbon footprints. Hopefully, hydrogen will be used in large home appliances in the future, such as electric HVAC units, electric furnaces, electric boilers, and other applications. Adopting electric home appliances can aid the transition away from fossil fuel-derived power sources. 

You can compare your carbon footprint and utility savings by first receiving an energy consultation. A professional energy consultant can unveil your property’s compatibility with hydrogen fuel cell power sources. They can also recommend energy efficiency practices, reducing your carbon footprint over time.


Benefits of CCS, Electricity, and Hydrogen Fuel Sourcing

President Biden set a national carbon-neutrality goal upon entering office. Meeting the objective requires a restructuring of the energy sector. Both hydrogen and carbon capture represent solutions to accelerate the low-carbon, clean energy transition. Biden plans on developing a carbon-neutral electric grid, sourcing 100% of U.S. electricity from clean energy sources.

Although still fairly expensive, clean hydrogen represents a highly efficient low-carbon power alternative. “Hydrogen can be re-electrified in fuel cells with efficiencies up to 50%, or alternatively burned in combined cycle gas power plants (efficiencies as high as 60%).”  [Quote from  –  energystorage.org/technologies/hydrogen-energy-storage]. We can effectively develop a carbon-neutral nation by diversifying our electricity sources.

Green and blue hydrogen development can provide sustainable support for the electric grid, be used in the transportation sector or energy storage (in hydrogen fuel cells), and even as a low carbon solution for HVAC units and other major appliances in buildings. CCS with hydrogen development (producing blue hydrogen) represents a low carbon source of clean hydrogen, while green hydrogen production represents a zero carbon source.

We can generate clean energy while eliminating further atmospheric degradation when we target significant pollution producers and replace dirty energy with clean energy sources like electricity and hydrogen. Both electric and hydrogen buses represent clean energy solutions. Utilizing electric vehicles (EVs) can increase society’s access to emission-less power. If you want to drive with zero emissions, you also have the option of choosing a hydrogen fuel cell car (although, currently, an EV represents the less expensive zero emissions option). With both electricity and hydrogen, ultimately the process of generating the energy must come from a low carbon or zero-emissions source in order to truly be a clean energy solution.

The process of using electricity and/ or hydrogen in buildings and transportation also reduces the enhanced greenhouse effect by decreasing atmospheric emissions. When we capture the elements before they reach the environment, we prevent the overproduction and entrapment of heat (as in blue hydrogen). Green hydrogen, or electricity powered by renewables, shrinks the carbon footprint of energy production closer to zero.


Enhancing Urban Sustainability

Many cities have recently increased their sustainability standards, regulating carbon emissions and pollution production processes. They are electrifying transportation, and buildings, requiring cleaner energy (as in renewable portfolio standards and clean energy standards). CCS used in combination with hydrogen power (blue hydrogen) production can support urban transformations towards clean, low-carbon energy. Green hydrogen power production can support the urban energy transition completely away from fossil fuel reliance towards zero-emission energy.


Article by Jane Marsh

Author bio:

Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of

Environment.co



 

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Economy vs. the Environment

GREEN, Healthy Environment = GREEN, Healthy Economy


Economic growth does not have to come at the expense of the environment. Sustainable technologies (such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable mass transit, electric vehicles) are also extremely beneficial to the economy. For example, the renewable energy industry employs over 500,000 people in the United States. The coal industry is responsible for under 90,000 jobs in the US. In addition, the cost of renewable energy, like solar and wind, is lower than coal (especially when looking at the levelized cost of energy), as depicted in this chart:

(chart from: wind-and-solar-are-our-cheapest-electricity-generation-sources-now; and also see: lazards-levelized-cost-of-energy)

GREEN Growth

A good example of eco-environmental sustainable growth can be seen clearly at the national level. Economic growth is beneficial and necessary for both industrialized and developing nations; as modernization (cities, national infrastructure, vital services, etc…) significantly improves the quality of peoples’ lives.

Unfortunately, most global economic growth historically has only been possible with the exploitation of natural resources. Historically, this exploitation of natural resources has been in land (as in exploitation of forests. wilderness), water (e.g. oceans, rivers, lakes), and especially fossil fuels (gas, coal, and oil for energy, oil/ petrochemicals for manufacturing).

Today, this exploitation of natural resources is no longer necessary to achieve growth; sustainable technologies are abundant, efficient, and affordable (such as renewable energyenergy efficiency technologies, sustainable mass transitelectric vehicles, etc…).

The global sustainability movement best represents the current global modernization movement; as evidenced by increased global investment in, and increased innovation of, clean energy technologies. In addition to the lower cost of, and increased efficiency of, clean energy technologies, the clean energy is the fastest growing segment of the US economy for job growth.


Please see: Renewable Energy JOBS are UP; and RE cost is down


Efficiency of sustainable technologies

Modern, 21st-century sustainability technologies are simply more energy-efficient and cost-efficient than their 20th-century fossil-fuel-intensive counterparts; as evidenced by hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs). EVs and hybrids get greater MPGs with greater fuel efficiency; providing much more savings (and responsible environmental safety as well), than all transportation options relying on more polluting vehicles running only on internal combustion engines (ICE vehicles).

EVs generate much less CO2 and other GHGs than ICE vehicles; especially when EVs are charged with electricity from a municipal grid powered with low-carbon energy sources. There’s also savings on maintenance costs, in addition to savings on fuel and much lower emissions, with EVs and hybrids compared to ICE vehicles (even when an EV is more expensive to purchase than a similar ICE vehicle); as illustrated in this chart comparing the total cost of ownership for a Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vs. ICE equivalent minivan:

PHEV vs ICE vehicle – total cost of ownership

The significantly greater long-term, sustained economic benefits of, and opportunities provided by, modern, sustainable technologies are true for every technology that uses clean energy instead of dirty fossil fuels. The economy grows more as companies’ carbon footprints are reduced, fewer natural resources are used, the environment is treated with care; and more efficient products, as well as sustainable jobs, are developed.

Economic growth only TRULY happens (long-term) with sustainable technologies, which promote both economic growth AND environmental protections. If the economy has boom cycles due to environmental deregulations which allow coal, oil, gas, and petrochemical companies to avoid best environmental practices – how is that not counter-productive and a negative strategy overall?


Economic costs of unsustainable energy

Let’s say one person in the community gets wealthy due to loosening regulations on fossil fuel development, while another deals with damage due to the same deregulation. For example, in the case of a mishap in fracking or drilling when there are deregs allowing for booming fossil fuel business, but also causing destruction due to lax environmental standards. This is seen in: us-oklahoma-drilling-blast/five-missing-after-oklahoma-oil-and-gas-drilling-site-explosion.

The costs (negative externalities; costs to public health and the environment) of damage due to fossil fuels are increasing; costs of repair, cost of clean-up for environmental pollution, and/ or medical costs due deregulation & increased pollution (not to mention loss of life and personal injury in fossil fuel development and production), global warming, less clean water, air, land etc…

These costs associated ONLY with fossil fuels and NOT with renewable energy, increase when environmental deregulations continue to be given to what should be highly regulated fossil fuel industries. The federal, state, and private resources required to deal with the many problems associated with the deregulated fossil fuel industry offset any short-term economic gains. With clean energy and energy efficiency job growth and economic investment there is sustained long-term growth, without the abundance of negative externalities that come with fossil fuels.


Sustainable economic growth

Isn’t it a better idea to focus on a sustainable social business growth model vs. analyzing adjusted gains due to continual subsidies to fossil fuel companies; and deregulating industry to help fossil fuel intensive companies in the stock market? 10% of the richest Americans own 84% of all stocks in the stock market.  A much better indicator of economic health is the job market, and, in fact: jobs in clean energy are up to 10 times higher than jobs in fossil fuel industries.

For example, take this chart which compares US jobs in solar (& wind energy) v. jobs in fossil fuels (& nuclear):


Job opportunity is much more focused on the clean energy sector than fossil fuels- see: The United States green economy now employs 10 times more people than the fossil fuel industry



An article from the Earth Institute of Columbia University looks at the need for combining the ideas of environmental sustainability and economic growth. Here, the author specifically examines the economic opportunities created with environmental regulations>>>

“There are political and business leaders who do not care if economic growth causes environmental damage and there are environmental advocates who do not believe you can have economic growth without causing environmental damage. In a New York Times piece on the climate and economics discussions at Davos, Mark Landler and Somini Sengupta reported that:

Critics pointed to a contradiction that they said the corporate world had been unable to resolve: how to assuage the appetite for economic growth, based on gross domestic product, with the urgent need to check carbon emissions. “It’s truly a contradiction,” said Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “It’s difficult to see if the current G.D.P.-based model of economic growth can go hand-in-hand with rapid cutting of emissions,” he said.”

I find this dialogue a little amazing since it completely ignores the history of America’s success in decoupling the growth of GDP and the growth of environmental pollution. This fact of American environmental and economic life began around 1980, a decade after the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and continues today. It’s really quite simple: with public policies ranging from command-and-control regulations to direct and indirect government subsidies, businesses and governments developed and applied technologies that reduced pollution while allowing continued economic growth…

Environmental protection itself contributes to economic growth.”     FROM –  blogs.ei.columbia.edu/economic-growth-environmental-sustainability

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Plan for Smart Meter Deployment in all 50 States

Modern SMART Meters

Many buildings in America today still rely on inefficient energy infrastructure, such as older models of energy meters, instead of modern, cost-effective, energy efficiency technology such as smart meters.[1] Smart meters are energy meters with digital, high-speed, real-time, two-way communication, and data storage functions. Since 2013, the number of smart meters have passed the number of older models of meters deployed on energy grids throughout the United States.[2]

Energy utilities should continue to expand the deployment and implementation of smart meters to market capacity in the United States. Market capacity for smart meter deployment is defined here as replacing ALL old energy meters with smart meters throughout the United States.


Defining: what is a smart meter?

A smart meter records the electrical energy used by a building and sends that information digitally to the utility (and often can send the data to customers, too); in real-time, for monitoring and billing. Smart meters allow for two-way communication between the customer’s energy meter, and the utility (as well as for the energy customer, in many circumstances). They allow for utilities to read meters remotely; and for the utility to take operational control of the meter remotely when necessary.  Smart meters can also track energy consumption and provide data on the energy supply/ demand at the time of use.

Smart meters provide other data for analysis, such as power quality and power outages. They can store and/or transmit data on demand; and smart meters are programmable with respect to the data the smart meter is collecting, storing, and transmitting. Smart meters transmit data wirelessly (dependent on the wi-fi capabilities of the area in question) to utilities (and to energy customers in many smart meter systems). They use cable and/ or broadband carriers if the wireless or cellular signal in the area is not sufficiently operative.

Real-time Smart Data

Smart meters provide real-time, high-speed data and analytics to utilities; making the utility more efficient, responsive, resilient, and reliable. In addition, this data and analytics can, in many cases, be passed on to energy consumers. This enables energy customers to be more informed, and more efficient, with their energy usage; along with utilities.

Smart meters increase the energy efficiency of the energy used by utilities and energy customers (how smart meters increase energy efficiency for utilities and consumers is further detailed in the “Benefits of Smart Meters” section below). Smart meters can reduce customer’s energy bills by helping to reduce their energy consumption, and reduce electrical energy demand from utilities and on the grid (as seen in the examples in the “Case Studies” section below).

By reducing energy production and consumption from the utility/ energy grid and energy customers, and by making energy use more efficient, smart meters effectively reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with power generation. Therefore, they also reduce the impact of GHGs associated with energy generation on climate change (see section on “Benefits of Smart Meters – for environment” below).[3]  

How are Smart Meters Deployed?

Smart meters can be deployed by utilities on a city-wide, a statewide, or a regional, basis. Local governments, city municipalities, or state governments, along with private energy utilities/ energy infrastructure companies, can help promote the use of smart meters.[4] The local/ state utility usually manages and maintains smart meters and related infrastructure, and the utility usually maintains customer relations/ accounts.

However, third-party private energy companies (both associated with, and/ or independent from, the utility) can take over some services, and continue to do so more and more in the 21st century. Today, there are private energy companies that offer these services to customers throughout the United States,. In these energy services, a customer signs a contract for a subscription of smart meter compatible equipment, smart meters, and smart appliances.[5]

Smart public-private partnerships

The utility will generally maintain and manage the energy infrastructure, the actual energy distribution, however the utility may want to stop directly servicing the customer account/ customer relations. A private energy company (a private company other than the utility) can sometimes take over managing the energy customer’s account.[6] The U.S. should create and leverage private-public (utilities, other private energy companies, government) partnerships in the energy sector to replace old meters with smart meters in all states in the United States.

Utilities usually supply most of the up-front capital (energy meters, other energy infrastructure including energy distribution systems), the initial deployment, the maintenance of energy meters; however, utilities also often depend on public and private efforts made by local municipalities, or State governments, and/ or other private energy companies. In order to use smart meters, the old meters for energy customers need to be swapped out with new smart meters.

More often than not, smart meter deployment and use is driven by, and promoted by, private-public partnerships, involving utilities and government. These sectors will need to contribute resources and effort in order for a complete switch to smart meters to be made in large areas such as cities, states, and regions.

Examples of smart meter deployment, use, and smart meter implementation plans in the immediate future, include Pennsylvania, as well as more examples of success with recent smart meter deployment and implementation in other US states (the “Case Studies” section below details the success of smart meter deployment and implementation in these areas of the US), and countries throughout the world, found below in the “Case Studies” section.

Act 129 in Pennsylvania – Boon for Smart Meters

One example of statewide legislation which has led to widespread deployment of smart meters, as well as implementation plans for smart meters, is Act 129 in Pennsylvania. Act 129 of 2008 amended Section 2807 of the Public Utility Code [in Pennsylvania] by adding a requirement for electric distribution companies (EDCs) with greater than 100,000 customers to submit, for PUC approval, a smart meter technology procurement and installation plan.”[7]

Customers of the parent energy company First Energy (in Pennsylvania) can expect old meters to be swapped out for new meters (if it hasn’t been done already), as local utilities, for example, customers of West Penn Power, Penelec, and Met-Ed get new smart meters; while the roll-out of smart meters for customers of the utility Penn Power is now complete.


Benefits of Smart Meters

Smart meters present an opportunity for 3 main categories of benefits; benefits to energy companies, benefits to energy customers, and benefits to the environment:

Benefits to Energy Companies

  • Monitors the electric system much more quickly AND *aa.
  • Enables dynamic pricing, which adjusts the production of energy for required for buildings, and the cost of electricity based on demand, AND *bb.
  • Makes it possible to use energy resources more efficiently
  • Provides real-time data that is useful for balancing electric loads while reducing power outages (i.e. blackouts), the utility can quickly problem solve power quality issues, disturbances, and outages effectively and based on accurate real-time data
  • Reduces the expense to the utility of building new power plants to keep up with energy demand from utility by increasing energy efficiency by customers/ buildings, and decreasing energy use by buildings
  • Helps to optimize income with existing resources

Benefits to Energy Customers

After the electric company has deployed and implemented all of the features of smart meter technology,  its smart meter infrastructure; smart meters offer the following benefits to electricity customers:

  • *aa. Far greater (and more detailed) feedback regarding energy use (through Energy Management systems)
  • *bb. Enable BOTH utilities AND consumers to adjust their habits (through data analytics software, Energy Management apps) in order to lower energy generation costs and electrical bills
  • Reduces the number of blackouts and system-wide electricity failures

Benefits to the Environment

  • Reduces the need for new fossil fuel power plants that produce GHGs
  • Reduces GHGs from existing power plants by increasing energy efficiency, and decreasing energy production and consumption
  • Reduces carbon footprint of energy customers
  • Reduces or eliminates pollution created by vehicles driven by meter readers [8]

Smart meters are currently being given a hard look by most utilities in the US to replace (or utilities already have plans to, or have already replaced) old, “non-smart”, meters throughout the country; as the United States continues to upgrade its energy grid in every state to a modern, 21st century, smart grid nationally. Smart energy meters give utilities, as well as energy customers, a detailed, real-time look at energy consumption in a building (even narrowing the detailed data into categories like ‘HVAC’, and ‘electricity’.

Also gaining in popularity are tools such as residential/ business building Energy Management energy monitoring systems and apps (systems for monitoring energy consumption in buildings, apps for tablets or smartphones) to regulate the efficiency of energy consumers’ energy use.

Some building Energy Management apps are able to incorporate the data from smart meters into apps for smartphones or tablets, and further break the data down into sub-categories of energy used by specific appliances in the building; given that the appliance has to also be a smart appliance, and connected to the smart meter, and that the given model of smart meter, and the model of appliance, must have that capability).[9]

Smart meters (and building Energy Management systems) allow utilities to reduce their energy costs during off-peak times by increasing energy efficiency, and by helping utilities recognize energy use patterns for building, and balance energy supply and demand loads, therefore reducing overall energy generation needed for buildings.[10] Utilities can then pass those cost reductions onto customers, re-invest those cost savings in research & development of even more cost-saving technologies, or simply enjoy the greater profit with the increased revenue.

Additionally, smart meters reduce labor costs for the utility- namely the amount of labor needed by the utility to monitor consumption of energy; as technicians from the utility are replaced by automated high-speed wireless data networks. This also poses a direct savings to the utility. Also, energy bills are more accurate with the use of smart meters and smart technology, as opposed to with the human manual readings of energy meters for the utility, as the utility sends people out in the field to go meter by meter recording data when old meters are used by the utility.[11]

Furthermore, “smart buildings promise to improve efficiency by [designing] these [smart meter, Energy Management] systems to reduce operating costs and increase the safety, productivity and quality of life of those who work and live inside their walls.” FROM- forbes.com/honeywell/


“New advanced metering infrastructure [smart meters] that can measure customer load with increased granularity has created opportunities for variable rate structures, effective demand response and increased customer control over their energy use. And now, with the ability to compare real-time usage to historical baselines, the industry can begin to more accurately value efficiency as energy…” FROM- how-smart-meters-are-changing-energy-efficiency-in-california/

Lastly, buildings represent the #1 source of GHGs in America, when the totals of the emissions from energy to create electricity for buildings and energy production for HVAC are combined.[12] Smart meters change (decrease) the share of emissions created by buildings by allowing utilities and customers to generate and use energy more efficiently.[13]


Case Studies

The growth of smart meter deployment in the United States is summed up in the following case studies-

Although the initial expense of smart meter deployment represent substantial up-front costs to utilities (billions of dollars are invested annually by utilities in researching & developing, and deploying, smart meters, and smart meter infrastructure), the return on investment from implementing this technology (as seen in the financial benefits listed above) are also substantial, and often present a short-term cost horizon which is favorable to the utilities, making the initial investment in smart meter development, with a break even point of only a few years.[14]

States in the US currently have been successfully deploying and implementing smart meters for energy; including in Pennsylvania (as demonstrated in the case study above), New York, and Illinois (as seen in the case study examples below).

Similar to First Energy in Pennsylvania, ConEd in New York plans the deployment of smart meters to all of their customers in the state (although ConEd took the initiative to plan on the statewide deployment of smart meters independently, without first being compelled by legislation).[15] ConEd in Chicago and Northern Illinois aims to have installed approximately 4 million smart meters in all homes and businesses across northern Illinois by the end of 2018.[16]

Although the following worldwide locations may not be all entirely analogous to U.S. states (different economies, different demographics as compared to the United States), it is interesting to note the success of smart meter programs throughout the world. The growing deployment of smart meters throughout the world is summed up in the following examples:

  • Europe- The UK plans to have smart meters deployed to all residential properties (30M+ homes) by 2020, as well as most small businesses (2M+ businesses).
  • Canada- In the province of Ontario alone, there are 800,000+ residential and commercial properties with updated smart meters.
  • Japan- Businesses utilize smart meters throughout commercial buildings in the country, and Japan’s Energy Conservation Centre plans more research & development, and deployment and implementation, of smart meters.
  • Australia- In the province of Victoria, there are plans to deploy smart meters to 2.6M properties. As the deployment of smart meters is taking place, energy customers are offered in-home displays tied to the smart meters, eliminating the need to go outside to look at the display.[17]

“As climate change and its effects become more apparent, the energy industry is working to change the current system as quickly as possible to improve energy efficiency and reduce human activity’s impact on the environment. Although some companies and countries are slower to adopt smart meters and similar concepts than others, no one can argue the fact that a massive overhaul of the current systems is imperative.”[18]

The most effective strategy to increase the impact of smart meter deployment and implementation in the United States is to encourage and promote smart meter deployment and implementation in all 50 states of the United States.

 



footnotes:

[1] Website URL+ path: https://www.forbes.com/sites/honeywell/2016/10/28/why-we-need-smart-buildings/#1e314cad77d9 (accessed11/15/2018)

[2] URL + path: https://www.utilitydive.com/news/how-smart-meters-are-changing-energy-efficiency-in-california/410489/ (accessed 11/15/2018)

[3] URL + path: https://www.energycentral.com/c/iu/smart-grid-and-climate-change (accessed 11/12/2018)

[4] URL + path: https://dailyenergyinsider.com/news/6539-utilities-regulators-jointly-improve-nations-electric-grid-aii-says/ (accessed 11/15/2018)

[5] URL + path: https://www.forbes.com/sites/allbusiness/2018/10/06/clean-tech-startups-key-issues/#58faf723194e (accessed 11/12/2018)

[6] URL+ path: https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/smart-meter-366.html,https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/smart-meter-366.html (accessed 11/15/2018)

[7] URL + path: http://www.puc.pa.gov/filing_resources/issues_laws_regulations/act_129_information/smart_meter_technology_procurement_and_installation.aspx (accessed 11/15/2018)

[8] URL + path: https://www.thebalancesmb.com/pros-and-cons-of-smart-meters-1182648 (accessed 11/16/2018)

[9] URL + path: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/utilities/smart-meters/ (accessed 11/16/2018)

[10] URL + path: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/save-electricity-and-fuel/appliances-and-electronics/reducing-electricity-use-and-costs (accessed 11/16/2018)

[11] URL + path: https://www.esa-automation.com/en/smart-meters-and-their-purpose-in-industrial-automation/ (accessed 11/16/2018)

[12] URL + path: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions (accessed 11/15/2018)

[13] URL + path: https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2017/01/f34/AEP_Smart-Grid-Technologies-Cut-Emissions-Costs-Ohio-SGDP.pdf (accessed 11/15/2018)

[14] URL +path: https://www.iotforall.com/how-make-smart-city-projects/ (accessed 11/16/2018)

[15] URL + path: https://www.coned.com/-/media/files/coned/documents/our-energy-future/our-energy-projects/electric-long-range-plan.pdf (accessed 11/16/2018)

[16] URL + path: https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/progs/env/smart-grid-for-a-smart-chicago.html (accessed 11/16/2018)

[17] URL + path: https://www.greencitytimes.com/smart-grid-overview/ (accessed 11/16/2018)

[18] URL + path:

https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/07/f2/20130716-Energy%20Sector%20Vulnerabilities%20Report.pdf

(accessed 11/16/2018)



FAQ

  1. What is a smart meter?

    smart meter records the electrical energy used by a building and sends that information digitally to the utility; in real-time, for monitoring and billing. Smart meters allow for two-way communication between the customer’s energy meter, and the utility, allowing for utilities to read meters remotely, and for the utility to take operational control of the meter remotely when necessary.  Smart meters can also track energy consumption and provide data on the energy supply/ demand at the time of use.

  2. What are some of the benefits of smart meters?

    Smart meters enable utilities and energy customers to produce and consume energy on a more efficient basis, where energy supply more accurately meets energy demand as reported from data collected and transmitted by smart meters. Not only is energy produced and consumed on a more efficient basis with use of smart meters, energy use is effectively decreased with the implementation of smart meter technology. By reducing energy production and consumption from the utility/ energy grid and energy customers, and by increasing energy efficiency, smart meters reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with power generation; and reduce the impact of GHGs associated with energy generation on climate change. 

  3. How are smart meters deployed?

    Smart meters can be deployed by utilities on a city-wide, a statewide, or a regional basis. Local governments, city municipalities, or state governments, along with private energy utilities/ energy infrastructure companies, can help promote the use of smart meters. The local/ state utility usually maintains smart meters and related infrastructure, and the utility often maintains customer relations/ accounts. However, third-party private energy companies (both associated with, and/ or independent from, the utility) can take over some of the management of energy distribution and customer relation management services.

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12 Ways You Can Help the Environment

It’s not hard to lower your carbon footprint, combat climate change, and help the environment. By doing just a few things differently every day, you can be kind to the planet.


Here are 12 things you can do to help the environment:


Reuse Water Bottles & Mugs

Reuse Water Bottles

Every time you throw a cup away, you create waste; disposable water bottles are made of plastic, the majority of beverage cups are plastic, styrofoam, or paper – and these products just end up in landfills (unless they are recycled). Cutting down on the number of cups you throw away is a great way to conserve resources. Get in the habit of only using one or two reusable mugs, thermoses/ sports bottles, etc… each day. If you’re refilling it with water, tea, coffee or juice, over and over again, just wash it out & reuse it.

Use Energy Star and Smart Appliances

Appliances that require less energy when compared to their traditional counterparts, are more energy efficient, and/ or have the ability to shift into a smart energy saving mode when needed; receive an Energy Star mark. The Energy Star label is used on a wide range of appliances and products; indicating to the consumer that the item in question will reduce energy consumption when compared to items not carrying the label. Many products have additional sustainable requirements that must be met in order to receive the Energy Star mark. Additionally, consider a smart thermostat, smart HVAC, and other smart, wi-fi enabled appliances that help you conserve energy in the home.

Conserve Water

Save water by running faucets only when you really use water. Install low flow toilets and faucets where you can in your residence. Consider a smart irrigation system for your garden.

Stamp Out Energy Vampires

Unplug any appliances that you’re not using; including electronic devices like computers. Don’t keep chargers plugged in, either. These all suck up energy even when they’re not in use. An eco-friendly option for plugging in electronics is using smart power strips.

Stay In For Dinner

From the gas your car uses to bring you to the restaurant to the trucks needed to deliver the food to the kitchen, dining out is a significant cause of environmental distress. This is true even if the restaurant only serves environmentally sustainable food; better to just cook at home more.

Buy Local

Go to a farmer’s market rather than the grocery store for your produce. It will taste fresher; and you’ll be supporting local farms rather than fossil fuel-intensive national ones.

Turn Out the Lights/ Use Eco-friendly Lights

Use energy efficient LED or CFL lights when you can. Turn off lights in rooms/ on patios when not needed. Once a month, perhaps try a controlled brownout where you pretend that the electricity has gone out and you must make do in the dark; light candles and use flashlights while you save money and energy. 

Natural fiber shopping tote

BYOB

Not bring your own beer, but rather bring your own bags to the grocery store to reduce the number of plastic bags floating around. If you do use those free bags at the grocery, recycle the plastic or brown grocery bags in designated bins at your grocery store, or save them up at home and recycle them at the appropriate mixed paper/ mixed plastic dumpsters at your local recycling center; do the same with phone books and junk mail. Ideally, use reusable shopping totes made of natural fibers or bamboo whenever possible.

Recycle

Order as many multicolored, separate recycle bins as available from your municipality. Also, locate your local recycling center, and visit it to see how many different categories of goods you can recycle. Yes, you’ve probably been recycling your soda cans and milk jugs for decades, but did you know (in many areas) you can recycle batteries, TVs and computers, cardboard, and even many metal goods?

Grow a Garden

The planet likes it when you grow things. It helps filter out bad air and is a great sustainable practice. Plus, you can’t beat home-grown tomatoes or herbs.

Start a Compost Pile or Donate Food

We create an incredible amount of natural waste through peels, shells, grounds, leftovers etc… Instead of tossing all of that potential useful food waste in the trash, start a compost pile and recycle it through you municipal compost facility, or separate compost trash bin (if available in your city), or in your own yard/ garden. Another good thing to do with potentially wasted food is to donate food to a local food bank, homeless shelter, non-profit, or church.

Go Solar

If you’re not ready for solar panels on your roof, try solar garden/ patio lights to get your feet wet. Also, depending on your location, you might have community solar available in your neighborhood or clean energy/ renewable power option available from your utility.

  • Please see the “Energy Saving Ideas” & “Ideas for a Greener Lifestyle” in the bottom section of this website>>> Other sustainable living ideas include buying food from local, organic markets, weatherizing your residence (where available), and using smart thermostats and home energy management systems (where available).

#13 (Honorary Mention) – For information on how switching from using toilet paper to bidets can help the environment, please see: bidetmate.com/how-eliminating-toilet-paper-helps-save-the-earth


Here is an infographic with some simple, effective, cost-efficient energy efficiency solutions:

FROM – rocketmortgage.com/green-smart-homes


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Decoupling and Divestment to Reach Sustainability

Decoupling, Divestment, ESG Investments


Decoupling

Decoupling in eco-environmental terms can be defined as a striving for economic growth without creating corresponding environmental impacts. Nations, industries, and corporations, will still reach full potential and economic growth; and perhaps achieve even greater success, by following sustainable practices. Economic growth for companies can be achieved while simultaneously lowering a company’s carbon footprint, and striving for a sustainable environment. 

There is no guarantee that any nation, industry, or corporation, will ever be completely “sustainable” from one year to the next, especially given the fact that all resources will continue to depreciate at least minimally. However, with the increased investment in, innovation of, and use of renewable energy, energy efficiency, other sustainability technologies (e.g. batteries for energy storage, electric vehicles), and decreased waste/ better waste management; the chance to achieve sustainability becomes more and more likely over time.

The economy depends on natural resources from land to water, metal to energy. There is a need to consider the depletion of these resources, and adjust investments; even with the need for increased gross domestic product (GDP) and profit. When the profit of the nation, industry, or corporation, is the greater consideration than the natural resources required for economic gain, there is very little likelihood of environmental sustainability.

It’s possible to have a vision of a company making a profit while maintaining environmental sustainability goals. In first-world countries, it’s possible to at least consider a minimal need for the growth of GDP. However, smaller third-world countries face a much larger need for GDP rise; increase in GDP that many developing countries still see as coupled with fossil fuel use. In looking at industrialized nations, historically, economic growth has been tied to increased use of fossil fuels for energy.

Eco-environmental decoupling, where economic growth occurs without an increase in environmental costs or demands, should be a common practice for all industries and corporations in the developed world today. Additionally, many developing nations across the world today have increased their financial status, even with the decoupling of some basic natural resources; such as oil.

Economic growth is beneficial and necessary for both industrialized and developing nations; as modernization (of cities, national infrastructure, vital services, etc…) significantly improves the quality of peoples’ lives. Unfortunately, most global economic growth historically has only been possible with the exploitation of natural resources; land (as in exploitation of forests. wilderness), water (e.g. oceans, rivers, lakes), and especially fossil fuels (gas, coal, and oil for energy, oil/ petrochemicals for manufacturing).

Today, this exploitation of natural resources is no longer necessary to achieve growth; sustainable technologies are abundant, efficient, and affordable (such as renewable energy, energy efficiency technologies, sustainable mass transit, electric vehicles, etc…). The global sustainability movement best represents the current global modernization movement; as evidenced by increased global investment in, and increased innovation of, clean energy technologies.


Divestment

The standard definition of divestment is a reduction of some kind of asset for financial, ethical, or political objectives. The global divestment movement, in eco-environmental terms, refers to companies pulling their assets and capital investments from fossil fuel companies.

Here are some major stories of the sustainability divestment movement from 2018, a year where the global divestment movement really picked up steam- cleantechnica.com/cleantechnica-divestment-year-in-review-2018 Here’s a quote from the above Cleantechnica article: “From school children to individuals, companies, and corporations, the global fossil fuel divestment movement has challenged the right of the fossil fuel industry to damage the environment. By divesting from fossil fuels, we are requiring polluters to take responsibility for their products…”

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals are being adopted by many companies worldwide. These ESG goals go hand-in-hand with divestment goals, 100% clean energy goals, and company-wide net zero goals. ESG goals for investments can be viewed as similar to divestment goals, as ESG goals represent the most important metrics in evaluating a company’s overall sustainability.

The field of sustainable, ESG investments is gaining popularity internationally (to about $1 trillion worth of ESG investments internationally by fall of 2020); and includes ESG bonds and mutual funds. Major corporations that are divesting, aiming to reach ESG goals, and/ or ambitious 100% clean and/ or renewable energy goals include: Apple, Google, Amazon, Starbucks, and even Walmart. Read more about Amazon’s clean energy goals here: Amazon’s Renewable Energy Projects

Even some oil majors, giant corporations leading the international oil & gas industry, like British Petroleum (BP), Royal Dutch Shell, and Total SA, are adopting company-wide carbon-neutrality targets. Are these oil giants taking carbon-neutrality seriously as a response to the global divestment movement? As a response to major emitting countries sitting net zero goals?

BP, Shell, and Total all have net zero targets of 2050, mirroring net zero targets of the EU, the UK, and many European nations individually (and now the US president, President Biden, has also pledged the US will reach net zero emissions by 2050). In addition to BP &Shell, Total is a stand-out net-zero pledge in the field of oil majors embracing sustainable targets.-

 “Like BP and Shell, Total promised zero out the emissions associated with its own business operations by switching to renewable energy and offsetting any remaining emissions. But Total has also gone a step further, vowing that all of its energy products used by customers in Europe will be carbon-neutral by 2050 — and that it will cut the emissions of products used worldwide by 60%.

It’s not clear yet how Total plans to radically clean up its business model, but it does have a head start: The company already has stakes in 3 gigawatts of renewable energy and plans to increase it to 25 gigawatts over the next five years.”  FROM –  grist.org/beacon/a-total-makeover


Also, major big oil/ big gas companies are divesting or just becoming “energy” companies – like Statoil >>> Equinor. As of the end of 2020, Equinor also pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050; in its ambition to re-brand itself as a “broad energy company”.

“The world is changing, and so is Statoil. The biggest transition our modern-day energy systems have ever seen is underway, and we aim to be at the forefront of this development. Our strategy remains firm. The name Equinor reflects ongoing changes and supports the always safe, high value and low carbon strategy we outlined last year,” said chair of the board, Jon Erik Reinhardsen.   FROM –   equinor.com/en/news/15mar2018


The European Investment Bank (EIB), the wold’s largest public investment bank, is also phasing-out its investments in fossil fuel companies. According to Rueters, “…the new policy [EIB to cease funding fossil fuel projects by end-2021] does not outright ban all fossil fuel projects, but makes most of them impossible under the new parameters: Under the new policy, energy projects applying for EIB funding will need to show they can produce one kilowatt hour of energy while emitting less than 250 grams of carbon dioxide, a move which bans traditional gas-burning power plants.Gas projects are still possible, but would have to be based on what the bank called ‘new technologies,’ such as carbon capture and storage, combining heat and power generation, or mixing in renewable gases with the fossil natural gas.” 

Climate activists celebrated the [2019] decision of the EIB to stop funding most oil and coal projects by 2021, part of a bid to be the world’s first “climate bank”…

In a statement following the news, Friends of the Earth Europe fossil free campaigner Colin Roche said the bank’s decision was a big one.

“Today’s decision is a significant victory for the climate movement,” said Roche. “Finally, the world’s largest public bank has bowed to public pressure and recognised that funding for all fossil fuels must end—and now all other banks, public and private must follow their lead.” FROM –  ecowatch.com/european-investment-bank-fossil-fuels

For an up-to-date list of banks ranked on various divestment goals (divestment from coal, divestment from oil & gas. For example, PNB Paribas, a French international investment bank and the world’s 8th largest public investment bank, has only divested from coal; while some other banks on this chart have banned some coal and oil projects…not gas), please see>

ran.org/bankingonclimatechange/#grades-panel 


Perhaps one of the biggest, most pleasant, surprises in the ESG/ divestment movement, came with BlackRock’s decision to begin divesting. BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager, managing investments worth over $8 trillion. This announcement came in 2020 after a wave of divestment announcements from major banks, including EIB. In looking at BlackRock’s divestment announcement, the Washington Post posited this summary of the divestment movement by big banks in 2019-2020:

“BlackRock isn’t the only big financial institution that has halted its lending to fossil-fuel projects in recent years. A number of big banks have taken steps to reduce their exposure to fossil-fuel projects.

JPMorgan ChaseWells Fargo and Citigroup have announced they would curb lending to Arctic oil and gas drilling projects, among other environmental pledges.

The latest wave of climate pledges by big banks was kicked off before the pandemic by Goldman Sachs, which decided in December it would no longer lend money to oil and gas projects in the fast-warming Arctic region.

The investment banking giant was followed a month later by BlackRock, which said it would limit its investment in the coal power business and make managing for sustainability and climate risk a key part of its investing strategy.”  FROM –  washingtonpost.com/powerpost/the-energy-202


Sustainability and economic growth can be combined when actions are taken carefully, with resources and raw materials managed efficiently. With the global sustainability movement, nations, industries, and corporations, are able to develop economically while still reducing their carbon footprint. For example, with requirements for decoupling, ESG investing including divestment strategies, and net zero targets, slowly coming into place; global industries are now competing to incorporate renewable energy into their economic growth. The renewable energy industry will continue to grow; to be one that becomes beneficial to global industries; while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and helping all industries commit to a long-term move toward sustainability.


See Also: gofossilfree.org/divestment/what-is-fossil-fuel-divestment

Additionally: sustainabledevelopment.un.org