Top 10 2015 Smart City Energy Stories – part 2

2015 has been another year of dramatic change in the energy landscape. Technologies such as renewable energy or electromobility continue their unstoppable growth, and new organizational models in the energy business are beginning to happen. We have made a selection of the top events last year related to energy and the grid that have influenced the future life in cities. Here the second part!

5. Opower $90M contract

I am a great fan of Opower and other companies that are shaking the energy landscape from inside. In May 2015 they signed a contract worth $90M with California’s PG&E to takeover their customer engagement activities. This is not the only company using Opower’s services, but is the largest contract they signed till date.

Opower’s vision of targeting user’s behavior to achieve energy efficiency objectives is very inspiring, a really innovative approach to demand management. Probably, energy users in cities in the following decades will be doing what Opower and other similar companies are inventing today.

4. NY REV

One of my favorites. I am an advocate for the shift in power business, and the Reforming the Energy Vision Initiative led by the State of NY is one of its most revolutionary drivers.

REV pursues to rebuild the electricity market in the state through the creation of Distributed Service Platforms that put together energy services providers and customers in a marketplace, where the latter select their “energy menu” and whom to purchase it. Besides, its goal is to achieve social objectives such as transparency, equity and optimization of public investments, while the market is deregulated.

REV was announced in 2014, but it started gaining coherence in 2015. It is an example of top-down transformation, seeking to shape the electricity market from the public sector side. It is ground-breaking both because of its goals and the way chosen to do so, through a participatory process involving the whole society of NY.

3. Grid Parity

As repeated through the years by cleantech apostles, renewable energy resources are approaching grid parity. But could it have been finally reached in 2015? There are so many scenarios, technologies and combinations that we will never be able to say that, but one study released this year exemplified the change: Utility-Scale Solar Prices decline 50% since 2009 and reach Cost Parity with Natural Gas at 5¢/kWh on average.

However, incentives are still alive (and as said, necessary in many scenarios). This year President Obama signed the extension of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar other 3 years, and the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind will also be extended through 2016.

2. Tesla Powerwall

Tesla_PowerwallOn April, Tesla announced the release of its Powerwall Energy Storage system. Although technically it is not a great revolution, its price (the 7 kWh model costs $3,000, proving that storage technology could get now affordable for a wider audience) and Tesla’s reputation as innovation star company gave it global echo. Will it mean a complete change in the energy business in our cities? Surely not by itself, but it forecasts a near future where citizens are active in that market, opening it to other actors different from utilities, such as startups, entrepreneurs and the like.

You can find more information here: Understandsolar.com

1. Cop21

The Paris agreement was signed by 195 countries in Le Bourget, France. It means the most serious effort against Climate Change. However, it could end halfway, if not confirmed by at least 55 countries to become legally binding. Among its ambitious measures:

  • To keep global temperatures “well below” 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels through the year 2100 and to “endeavour to limit” them to 1.5 degrees Celsius
  • To balance carbon source and carbon sinks in the second half of this century
  • To review each country’s emissions reduction contribution every five years so that it can be scaled up
  • For rich countries to help poor countries by providing “climate finance” to adapt to climate change

Even if the objectives are not completely fulfilled, the agreement portrays that the commitment of the international community in the fight against Climate Change is finally real. Sustainable energy generation and consumption is key, and cities will play a role in its transformation by including citizens in this effort.

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