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June 24, 2014

By Vicki Vaughan
San Antonio Express-News

CPS CEO Doyle Beneby

CPS CEO Doyle Beneby said the Customer Response Unit addresses a recurring concern. generic viagra that is reliable

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CPS CEO Doyle Beneby said the Customer Response Unit addresses a recurring concern.

SAN ANTONIO — CPS Energy launched a new program Tuesday that’s designed to help customers take advantage of its energy efficiency programs and help those struggling to pay utility bills learn how to get assistance.

CPS CEO Doyle Beneby explained that in meetings with City Council, "one thing kept coming up — that we at CPS weren’t reaching all the places that we needed to" to inform customers about its services, especially its low-income assistance programs.

As a result, city-owned CPS has formed a new business unit whose mobile customer-service team will match CPS customers with the right program or service.

In some cases, the outreach employees will meet face-to-face with customers. Customers will be able to identify mobile team members because they’ll wear uniform shirts and drive hybrid vehicles bearing a Customer Response Unit logo.

The outreach plan is designed to make customers aware of various CPS programs that can help them manage or lower their utility bills.

The Casa Verde program, for example, provides an average of $5,000 in free home weatherization improvements for those who qualify.

District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales praised CPS’ new program, saying she’d initially asked the utility to send an employee to her district office a couple of days a week to help with customers’ problems. viagra gold 800mg

"So this is beyond what our expectation was, because it was only going to be for District 5 residents," Gonzales said. "Now this will be for people in the whole city who need it. It’s a much more focused approach to help people."

Maria Koudouris, CPS’ community engagement vice president, said the outreach team will handle customers’ problems that can’t be handled by the utility’s call centers.

For example, if a senior citizen has fallen behind in paying a bill, it may be caused by the timing of a Social Security payment. viagra printable coupon

"We’ll set them up with a better payment plan … and we’ll take more of a holistic approach" to see if the customer qualifies for weatherization or another assistance program, Koudouris said.

To qualify for the weatherization program, a customer’s income must be no more than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

"There’s a whole menu of programs that we have, and we’ll try to get a lot more customers into those programs," she said. cheap online viagra no prescription

About half a dozen CPS employees will be part of the outreach group "and it could grow from there," CPS spokeswoman Lisa Lewis said.

Koudouris said CPS initially will work with Merced Housing Texas, a nonprofit that provides affordable housing, and the George Gervin Youth Center to get the word out.

Chuck Landy Jr., vice president of community and government affairs at the Gervin center, said it receives many calls from people asking how they can get help in paying their utility bills.

"This assistance from CPS will make a difference," Landy said.

Gervin center officials plan to aid the CPS team by doing their own outreach to tell the community about CPS programs.

"We’ll bring in all of our resources at the Gervin center," Landy said.

Also Tuesday, CPS said it is extending summer hours at its customer service centers to 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday for residential customers.

Saturday hours — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. — remain the same.

Fair Use Notice
This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

April 30, 2014

American Council for Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE)

Media Contact(s):
Patrick Kiker, 202-507-4043, Communications Associate

Energy Efficiency Would Allow EPA to Set More Aggressive CO2 Reduction Targets, Increasing GDP by $17.2 Billion and Creating 611,000 New Jobs, While Providing States More Flexibility to Manage their Energy Resources

Washington, D.C. — A new study by ACEEE outlines how energy efficiency could be used in an upcoming standard by the U Continued.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce CO2 levels with no net cost to the economy. The standard, currently under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget and likely to be released in early June, would set a CO2 emissions limit for existing power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.

The study shows how the Environmental Protection Agency could use four common energy efficiency policies to set a carbon pollution standard that reduces emissions to 26% below 2012 levels. In 2030, these policies would save 600 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, save over 925 million MWh of electricity, reduce electricity demand by 25%, and avoid the need for 494 power plants.

"If the Environmental Protection Agency is looking for a way to cheaply cut carbon pollution and boost the economy while giving states the freedom to use their energy resources, energy efficiency is the answer," said ACEEE executive director Steven Nadel.

Furthermore, adoption of these policies would significantly boost the economy, increasing the national gross domestic product by $17.2 billion and creating 611,000 new jobs across the country in 2030. This number includes people employed in jobs directly related to energy efficiency like home contractors and construction, and people like small business owners and their employees who benefit as money saved is spent back into the local economy.

"Energy efficiency is a proven economic driver that can help states already committed to reducing their energy waste, leveraging American ingenuity to create jobs while cleaning up the air," said Richard Caperton, director of national policy and partnerships at Opower.

Compliance with a new CO2 standard for existing power plants will ultimately fall to the states. Including energy efficiency in the standard as a way to meet the CO2 reduction targets will allow states more flexibility as they find ways to manage their energy portfolios.

The good news is that the energy efficiency technologies included in the plan have already been tested and are ready to be deployed. The vast majority of states already take advantage of some end-use energy efficiency programs and policies, and all states have vast untapped reserves of this resource.

The four policies included in the plan are: setting a state energy savings target of 1.5% per year, implementing updated national model building codes, constructing economically attractive combined heat and power facilities, and adopting standards for five appliances.

Since the 1970s, energy efficiency has been a major contributor to the U.S. energy landscape. Previous research by ACEEE found that economy-wide improvements in energy efficiency contributed to a more than a 50% reduction in U.S. energy use relative to what it would have been if pre-1973 trends continued. Economy-wide improvements in energy efficiency, along with structural changes in our economy, supplied more energy than domestic coal, natural gas, and oil combined.

Another recent report by ACEEE also found that energy efficiency is the lowest-cost electricity resource for utilities. Programs aimed at helping customers save energy cost utilities only about three cents per kilowatt hour, while generating the same amount of electricity from burning coal or natural gas can cost two to three times more.
"Energy efficiency is the ultimate resource: clean, reliable, and cheap," said the new study’s lead author, Sara Hayes. "The Environmental Protection Agency has the opportunity to improve our air quality and our economy in one fell swoop."

To read the study,Change is in the Air: How States Can Harness Energy Efficiency to Strengthen the Economy and Reduce Pollution, visit: http://aceee.org/research-report/e1401

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy acts as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors.

Fair Use Notice
This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Investment bank Citi says solar and wind are competing on costs with fossil fuels in the U.S.

April 1, 2014

By Giles Parkinson
RenewEconomy

Investment banking giant Citigroup has hailed the start of the "age of renewables" in the United States, the world’s biggest electricity market, saying that solar and wind energy are becoming competitive with natural gas peaking and baseload plants.

In a major new analysis released last week, Citi says the big decision-makers within the U.S. power industry are focused on securing low-cost power, fuel diversity and stable cash flows, and this is drawing them to the increasingly attractive economics of solar and wind.

Citi’s report notes that gas prices are rising and becoming more volatile. This has made wind, solar and other renewable energy sources more attractive because they are not sensitive to fuel price volatility.

Citi says solar is already becoming more attractive than gas-fired peaking plants, both from a cost perspective and a fuel diversity perspective. And in baseload generation, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydro are becoming more economically attractive than baseload gas.

The report notes that nuclear and coal are structurally disadvantaged because both technologies are viewed as uncompetitive on cost. Environmental regulations are making coal even pricier, and the aging nuclear fleet in the U.S. is facing plant shutdowns due to the challenging economics.

"We predict that solar, wind, and biomass continue to gain market share from coal and nuclear into the future," the Citi analysts write.

Citi says the key metric in comparing power sources will be the levelized cost of energy (LCOE). "As solar, wind, biomass, and other power sources gain market share from coal, nukes, and gas, the LCOE metric increasingly becomes important to the new build power generation decision-making," it says.

Citi defines LCOE as the average cost of producing a unit of electricity over the lifetime of the generating source. It takes into account the amount produced by the source, the costs that went into establishing the source over its lifetime, including the original capital expenditure, ongoing maintenance costs, the cost of fuel and any carbon costs. It also includes financing costs and ensuring that the project generates a reasonable internal rate of return (IRR) for the equity providers.

Below is the key graph on the current state of play, with baseload generation and its renewable competitors to the left, and peaking gas and solar to the right.

On baseload, all renewables except marine beat coal and nuclear. Combined cycle gas just hangs on.

As for peaking plants, it depends on the gas prices, but these are rising, and in some regions, prices are now back above their pre-GFC and fracking boom levels. The move to export LNG will likely cause a further increase in prices.

The following charts provide more details on those gas prices. As can be seen, natural gas prices have nearly doubled in the past two years, and these have a direct correlation to the price of gas-fired electricity.

At a natural gas price of $4.00/mmbtu, the LCOE of a gas peaker is $0.10/kWh and that of a CCGT (combined cycle or baseload plant) is $0.06/kWh. If Citi’s commodities team’s long-term gas price forecast of $5.50 is used, the implied LCOE is $0.12/kWh for natural gas peaker or $0.07/kWh for a CCGT plant.

"These numbers," Citi says, "set the bar for alternative energy.

"Given the large expected increase in demand for gas, offset by production gains, gas prices are expected to rise over the long term. As a result, the bar for renewables and other fuel sources to cross continues to rise, thus making it easier for alternatives to gain market share."

Financiers in particular are conscious about the volatility in U.S. gas prices and the likelihood that they will rise. These factors are influencing where they are putting their money, and new YieldCo financing facilities for solar and wind energy are making these technologies both cheaper and more attractive.

As for solar, costs are coming down. Citi says the base-case LCOE for solar is 13 cents/kWh, the near-term upside is 11 cents/kWh and the long-term upside (2016) is 10 cents/kWh. (This is despite the fact that some power purchase contracts are being written as low as 4 cents/kWh or 5 cents/kWh, but those figures are helped by various tax rebates.)

Citi says the outlook for solar LCOE is favorable, but the devil lies in the details. System costs comprise module costs plus balance-of-systems costs, and these vary based on end user, location, and other factors. As the table above shows, BOS costs are likely to fall sharply in the near term.

With a lower cost of capital, solar becomes much less expensive to finance and develop. In general, the growing financing market for solar has begun to recognize the strong cash flow and low risk profile that characterize solar projects.

"Solar is still early in the growth cycle, and in many countries — Germany, Spain, Portugal, Australia, and the Southwest U.S. — residential-scale solar has already competed with average residential electricity prices," Citi writes. "In 2013, solar was the second-largest source of new generation capacity behind natural gas — its prospects look bright in 2014 and beyond as costs continue to decline and improve the LCOE picture.”

As for wind, it continues to reduce costs, but the most interesting development is the reduction in financing costs, thanks again to the YieldCo phenomenon. viagra cost

"While LCOE may decline, the outlook for wind is also dependent on the wind levels in the areas it will be built and the cost of baseload alternatives. With gas prices forecasted to rise, the LCOE of wind is becoming more competitive with CCGT alternatives. Despite this, many of the most attractive wind sites are [already] in use and government incentives come into play, which reduces the outlook for wind," according to the report. pharmacy price levitra

Citi, however, is not as optimistic about hydro, geothermal, and marine energy sources because of physical limitations. "While hydro and geothermal are competitive from an LCOE basis, they require unique geological conditions and as a result, many of the remaining potential new sites have less attractive LCOEs," the report notes. Marine technologies appear to still be early in their development cycles with an uncertain roadmap.

Coal, it says, is basically priced out of the market. Environmental regulations mean that the LCOE for new coal is around 15.6 cents/kWh, and the report notes that coal only accounts for 2 percent of the generation projects under development.

On nuclear, Citi says cost overruns at the Vogtle plant under construction in Georgia — now slated to cost $15 billion, way above expectations — mean that nuclear is pricing itself out of the market. Citi puts nuclear’s LCOE at 11 cents/kWh, which it said is relatively expensive, versus combined cycle gas plants and solar and wind. And it notes that while financing costs are inexpensive in the current monetary environment, this situation will not last.

"Financing costs are likely to rise, which would hurt the LCOE attractiveness of a high-construction-cost generating source like nuclear," Citi says. "As a result, we do not expect nuclear to effectively compete on economic merits. Despite this LCOE dynamic, there is merit to increasing fuel diversity and supporting lower carbon generation.”

***

Editor’s note: This article is reposted from RenewEconomy. Author credit goes to Giles Parkinson.

Fair Use Notice
This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. canadian tadalafil online
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