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'Negawatts' Yield Juicy Returns, Possibility of Net Zero Emissions for California

Andrew Burger headshotWords by Andrew Burger
Data & Technology

Spurred by a state government mandate and surprisingly attractive rates of return, interest in intelligent energy storage systems looks to be surging in California. Aiming to scale installations of its GreenStation demand management-smart battery storage system, Green Charge Networks (GCN) reports that California municipalities, including the cities of Lancaster and Redwood City, are joining national retail chains and industrial businesses in signing GCN Power Efficiency Agreements (PEAs) and deploying the solution.

California is at the leading, some would say bleeding, edge of developing a new energy infrastructure centered on a diversified mix of clean, renewable and distributed energy resources. Boosting energy efficiency figures to play a big role in reducing energy use and carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.

Turning traditional energy economics on its head, companies such as GCN are taking advantage of technological innovation, government incentives and existing utility rate structures and finding ways of boosting energy efficiency by paying people and businesses to use less energy – so-called "negawatt" pricing – hence reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.

A heady mix

A heady mix of state and local incentives, federal government support and public-private development partnerships is enabling innovative energy technology developers and service providers such as GCN to make the transition from pilot to commercial scale quickly. Enabling clients to save big on utility demand charges is driving interest in GCN's GreenStation. GCN points out that utility demand charges have been rising more than 7 percent a year in California and can account for 50 percent or more of commercial, industrial and institutional electric bills.

As GCN senior vice president of sales Steve Kelley explains in a press release,

“Many people speculate on the potential of energy storage but at Green Charge Networks we have signed customers who are installing the GreenStation energy storage today. We’re pleased to enter into this partnership with various cities, retails, and colleges to help the community utilize power more efficiently."

Department of Energy grants funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and a Smart Grid Demonstration Project public-private partnership with New York's Con Edison initially enabled GCN to develop and hone the sophisticated predictive analytics and intelligent battery storage capabilities at GreenStation's core. Contracts with national chains including 7-Eleven and Walgreens soon followed.

Enactment of California AB2514, which mandates the state's three investor-owned utilities install 200 megawatts (MW) of energy storage capacity to their grids by 2014 and 1.325 gigawatts (GW) by 2020, has created the first power grid storage market in the U.S. Also sparking demand for energy storage solutions is California's Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) and clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency mandates and incentives enacted by local municipalities.

Net zero emissions cities

Lancaster, Calif. was the first U.S. city to mandate the use of residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in new homes. It has also set a goal of becoming the first net zero carbon emissions city in the nation.
Looking to reduce the demand charges paid to utilities when the sun sets and energy demand spikes, Lancaster has signed on to deploy a GCN GreenStation at the Lancaster Museum of Art & History (MOAH).

A driving force in enacting these pioneering clean, renewable energy initiatives, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris was quoted as saying:

“The City of Lancaster continues to seek new and innovative ways to foster the use of renewable energy, protect the environment, and create cost savings for our taxpayers in the process. Energy storage is the cutting edge of renewable energy technology and it will propel our city toward becoming America’s first truly Net Zero City. We are proud to partner with Green Charge Networks to implement this technology in our community.”

Added GCN's Kelley:
“Since solar-generated power is now required in new homes in the City of Lancaster, the next evolution will come from intelligent energy storage and power efficiency, which will help offset demand charges.”

Similarly, Redwood City will deploy GreenStations at the Redwood City Libarary and a second at a downtown facility, according to GCN's press release. Contracts with Santa Clara County, the Peralta Community College District and Cal State Fullerton have also been signed.

The first city in the Bay Area to have a GreenStation installed, the 30-kilowatt (kW) system at the Redwood City Library is expected to cut utility demand charges in half every year.

Bottom-line returns

GCN is finding that its intelligent demand response-battery storage platform can provide customers with attractive bottom-line and investment returns without tax credits or government mandates by enabling GreenStation customers to reduce the demand charges they pay utilities.

Ninety percent of the proposals GCN is sending out to prospective customers in California have ROIs, or payback periods, of five years or less, CEO Vic Shao told 3p in an interview. The average is in the 3.5 to four year range. “The returns are absolutely incredible when you factor in all these rebates and tax credits and so forth. Some really super attractive situations have ROIs in the 1.5 to 2.5 year range, about 25 percent of our deal flow,” he elaborated.

*Graphic courtesy Green Charge Networks
** Image courtesy: RGGI (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative)

Andrew Burger headshotAndrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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