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Publications

Viewing all publications in Electricity
  • Toward Resilience
    Report

    Toward Resilience

    Defining, Measuring, and Monetizing Resilience in the Electricity System

    By Burcin Unel and Avi Zevin
    August 1, 2018

    Grid resilience—generally, the electric grid’s ability to resist/absorb, manage, quickly respond, and recover from/adapt to high-impact, low-probability external shocks—has been a concern for electric utilities and energy planners for decades. While recent extreme weather and cyber security concerns have prompted the federal government to pursue policies that support coal and nuclear power plants, a more systematic focus on resilience will lead to very different solutions than what has been proposed by the Department of Energy. Our report aims to assist policymakers in understanding grid resilience and evaluating potential interventions aimed at improving grid resilience.

  • How States Can Value Pollution Reductions from Distributed Energy Resources
    Issue Brief

    How States Can Value Pollution Reductions from Distributed Energy Resources

    July 20, 2018

    DERs are a growing part of the U.S. electric system and many state electric utility regulators are looking to more accurately compensate them by paying for a variety of the benefits that these resources provide. Most states are currently focusing on energy and distribution-level benefits, but this approach overlooks the environmental and public health impacts of DERs. Even though some states like California and New York have been working on analyses that include environmental attributes of DERs, few regulators have attempted a thorough evaluation of the environmental and public health benefits. Our report, Valuing Pollution Reduction, lays out a practical methodology for calculating the E value, the highlights of which are captured here. Specifically, this issue brief describes how to appropriately value environmental and public health benefits by monetizing the economic, health, and climate damages avoided emissions would have caused. State utility regulators can use the steps described here, weighing tradeoffs between accuracy and administrability, to implement their own program to holistically compensate DERs.

  • Capacity Markets and Externalities
    Report

    Capacity Markets and Externalities

    Avoiding Unnecessary and Problematic Reforms

    By Sylwia Bialek and Burcin Unel
    April 30, 2018

    Many states are taking action on climate change by paying zero- and low-emitting electricity generators for avoiding the emissions that fossil-fuel-fired resources would otherwise emit. These “externality payments” help level the playing field between emitting and non-emitting generators. Critics of these policies argue that these payments might negatively affect the efficiency of wholesale electricity markets by reducing capacity prices, which heavily affect how generators enter and exit the market. Our report shows why the premises underlying recent reforms, which seek to shield capacity markets from the potential price impact of pollution externality payments, are flawed.

  • Managing the Future of Energy Storage
    Report

    Managing the Future of Energy Storage

    Implications for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

    By Madison Condon, Richard Revesz, and Burcin Unel
    April 24, 2018

    Many policymakers assume that increasing deployment of energy storage will automatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in part by helping to integrate renewable energy resources with intermittent and variable generation. This report, published in the Harvard Environmental Law Review, explores situations in which energy storage systems can in fact lead to increased emissions, and offers reforms to correct for poor incentives while ensuring that energy storage can provide the maximum benefit possible to the grid.

  • Valuing Pollution Reductions
    Report

    Valuing Pollution Reductions

    How to Monetize Greenhouse Gas and Local Air Pollutant Reductions from Distributed Energy Resources

    By Jeffrey Shrader, Burcin Unel, and Avi Zevin
    March 23, 2018

    Distributed energy resources (DERs)—grid-connected, small-scale electric generators such as rooftop solar installations, micro-turbines, combined heat and power systems, customer backup generators, and distributed energy storage systems—are a growing part of the U.S. electric system. They can help avoid the high levels of greenhouse gases and local air pollution produced by traditional energy sources. As their use grows, state electric utility regulators are seeking to compensate DERs accurately for the benefits they offer, including reductions in pollution that contributes to climate change and harms human health. This report shows how regulators can calculate the types and amount of pollution avoided, and then monetize these benefits for use in policy.