A panel of sustainable energy experts discussed revolutionizing and building resilient energy and power systems within Glendale and its surrounding communities during a panel at Glendale Central Library on April 27.
The Carbon Conversations discussion panel welcomed Ted Flanigan, founder and president of EcoMotion and previous Glendale Water and Power commissioner, to open the meeting with an overview of shaping the future energy usage in the city.
Flanigan was joined by Nicholas Ryu, San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments Natural Resources manager, Monica Campagna, Glendale Environmental Coalition member and Michael Reed, associate geography professor at Glendale Community College.
Flanigan relayed to students and community members in the audience the best sustainable energy practices for municipalities such as Glendale. The ideas presented during the panel were a part of an EcoMotion report commissioned by city officials last year that offers various ways to meet the city’s goal of completely clean energy usage by 2035.
The ideas in the EcoMotion report, which gathers best energy practices from across the nation and world and covers topics surrounding energy efficiency, load management and distributed energy resources.
“Everyone was joking around about our report, I think it ended up being around 162 pages, which was full of good ideas for Glendale. We looked at programs across the country, in South Africa, England, Japan,” Flanigan said. “We interviewed experts from the leading organizations in the country in our [energy] space … all trying to find out — what are the most progressive utilities doing? What are utilities doing to accelerate their de-carbonization.”
Some best practices outlined during the meeting touched on utilizing energy efficient services like Ohm Connect, which is a consumer-facing service that alerts homeowners to turn off their power during costly power plant activations.
When more energy is consumed than predicted by utility companies, fast-acting power plants are activated to supplement the energy demand and it is “terrible for the planet and our pocketbooks. [The power plants are] very expensive to operate, and they use fossil fuels inefficiently. On average, they produce two to three times the carbon emissions that a typical power plant generates,” according to the Ohm Connect website.
“Participants get paid. A typical participant makes $300 to $500 a year by turning appliances off or allowing Ohm Connect to turn things off. The awareness that’s been raised by this program, results in typically another 5% to 10% in energy efficiency savings,” Flanigan explained.
Another aspect of best practices that Flanigan mentioned is the potential from Vehicle Grid Integration, which “refers to technologies, policies and strategies for electric vehicle charging which alter the time, power level, or location of the charging, or discharging, in a manner that benefits the grid while still meeting drivers’ mobility needs,” according to the state energy commission.
The VGI concept is a key tool for achieving the states decarbonization and electric vehicle adoption goals.
“Most of the time my car is just sitting there, and I would be happy to be plugged in and have the utility call on me when it needs capacity, or when I go on a long trip, I can have the utility not call on me,” Flanigan said.
Essentially, VGI allows electric vehicle owners to send excess energy in a car’s battery back to a utility company when it needs more energy. When an electric vehicle is connected to a bidirectional inverter charger, it could give excess energy back to the energy grid during peak usage hours and charge during low usage hours, essentially making the car owner money during the power exchange, Flanigan explained.
The final section of the best practices analysis outlines an initial plan that ultimately calls for full support from the City Council, city staff and the Glendale community.
“The plan doesn’t just call for giving incentives for solar and storage and efficiency — it calls for a movement,” Flanigan said. “I talked about Ohm Connect, recognition and rewards being a part of the movement … Glendale infrastructure [upgrades] is critical and the plan fulfills the August solar mandate by 2030.”
The initial plan integrates concepts ranging from small energy efficiency opportunities and larger clean energy usage efforts, such as a shift to solar energy reliance, combined with full community support to shift the way that Glendale operates and consumes energy.
“The movement [is about] getting people fired up. … We have to find a way to figure out a way to get people fired up and excited to do that. It’s not just about saving money, it’s got to be about feeling good and that you are a part of a community movement,” Flanigan said.
The initiative has a working title of “Solar 100” and is estimated to have a total cost of $395-$437 million, which includes a $158 million estimated cost for consumers and $237 to $279 million for utility costs. Though the amount may seem high, Flanigan said that benefits to the community outweigh the projected costs.
“What would that do for our community? … We’re locking in long-term savings, we have local control by controlling our own resources within city limits, we create jobs by spurring economic development, we clean the air and meet our carbon goals. … It’s all very doable,” he said.
First published in the May 6 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.