Which Utilities Top the Smart Grid Deployment List?

Rick Nicholson and H. Christine Richards of IDC Energy Insights published an article in the July/August edition of Intelligent Utility detailing their assessment of which utilities are leading the pack towards a Smart Grid.

 Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), Austin Energy, Edison International (NYSE: EIX), Oncor, PG&E Corporation (NYSE: PCG) and CenterPoint Energy (NYSE: CNP), all of whom are based in either California or Texas, top the list of utilitites leading the way. I personally thinked they missed Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative who aren’t just at the forefront of grid transformation but also leading the charge in consumer education.

Locally, National Grid (LSE:NG;NYSE:NGG), the nation’s second-largest utility, has applied to the U.S. Department of Energy for $200 million in stimulus funding to develop an “end-to-end” smart grid deployment that will include approximately 200,000 customers in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

According to National Grid, the project will demonstrate the benefits of combining “smart” and “green” technologies from end-to-end (transmission to consumer) including demonstrations of clean energy technologies such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and solar and wind power as well as energy storage technology. The result will be one of the most technologically advanced smart grid deployments in the U.S. This initiative will provide an increased understanding of the interface between the next generation of green energy supply and the smart grid to pave the way for the broader roll out of these technologies in the states where National Grid operates.

Regardless of whether they get the grant money or not, I hope National Grid stays in the game; they have a chance to lead this initiative and really make a difference.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

NIST Releases Long Awaited Standards Report

The National Institute of Standards and Technology released its draft of standards on Thursday, laying out a roadmap and initial plans for utilities, vendors and service providers to adopt smart grid technology.  The report also laid out priority areas for development and specific initiatives such a cyber security to focus on in coming years.

From the report:

NIST developed a three-phase plan to accelerate the idenfication of standards while establishing a robust framework for the longer-term evolution of the standards and establishment of testing and certification procedures.  In May 2009, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu chaired a meeting of nearly 70 executives from the power, information technology and other industries at which they expressed their organizations’ committment to support NIST’s plan.

The report is a result of phase 1 of the plan and layouts a high-level reference model for the Smart Grid by identifying nearly 80 existing standards currently used to support Smart Grid development.  The report also identifies 14 high priority area and cyber security measures needed and action plans with specific timelines for completion.

The Smart Grid will ultimately require hundreds of standards.  Some are more urgently needed than others.  To prioritize its work, NIST chose to focus on standards needed to address the priorities idenfitied by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Policy Statment plus four additional items.  The priority areas are:

  • Demand Response and Consumer Energy Efficiency
  • Wide Area Situational Awareness
  • Electric Storage
  • Electric Transportation
  • Advanced Metering Infrastructure
  • Distribution Grid Management
  • Cyber Security
  • Network Communications

To view the report in its entirety, click here.  It will prove to be an important tool for any service provider, utility or manufacturer looking to develop Smart Grid technologies moving forward.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Green Fireplace: Warm Up with an Eco-Smart Winter

September 22nd, 2009 marked the autumnal equinox – the official first day of autumn.  The morning was marked with a heavy blanket of fog over the city streets and a crisp thin veil of ice on the windows.

Fall is officially here, and not a moment too soon after an incredibly scorching summer. Shifting gears, any eco-savvy person knows that a whole new set of rules come into play once the season begins its cold long descent into winter.

While normally aware of Mother Nature inspired do’s and don’ts, I have to admit my guilty winter pleasure has to be the fireplace.  Fireplaces are a terrible eco-gremlin, not only using burning natural resources, but release smoke and fumes into your home and atmosphere. Fortunately, there are a few things we can do to make sure our fireplace use is as green as possible.


Many people think that there are ways to use a conventional fireplace so that it’s as eco-friendly as possible.  Some of these so-called “green” choice include using woods such as birch, hickory, sugar maple, and red oak to produce more heat and less smoke. 

But the truth is, switching out one type of wood for another is still use of a natural resource that otherwise could have been spared. The act of switching out one type of wood for another does nothing to reduce deforestation. 

The use of a conventional fireplace still leads to harmful smoke, fumes and other indoor air pollutants – definitely something to consider if you have pets or children.  Traditional open fireplaces burn very inefficiently and produce hundreds of chemical compounds, including carbon monoxide, organic gases, particulates, and some of the same cancer-causing agents found in tobacco smoke.

Minor spillage of these pollutants occurs regularly, primarily when starting or stoking the fire. However, the larger concern is when the fire smolders late at night, producing high levels of CO and a weak draft that is dangerous and sometimes even fatal. 1


Whether or not you have a fireplace, you can still create the same effect with faux fireplace that doubles as an energy-efficient heater.  A fireplace heater lets you fill your home with a mesmerizing, soft glow without the hassle of burning ash and buying wood.

Conventional fireplace are often limited to a large home that can accommodate the space and chimney necessary to install a traditional fireplace.  With an electric fireplace heater, it’s possible to have a fireplace no matter what size or type of home you’re in. 

Electric fireplace heaters are perfect if you live in a small home or apartment and prefer the stylish addition of a fireplace.  Fireplace heaters make it possible for these types of spaces to still enjoy the warm glow of a fireplace. 

The look of an electric fireplace heater is surprisingly realistic since it includes light bulbs to simulate the gentle smoldering of a fire down to the glowing embers.  With portable fireplace heaters, you can get the coveted architectural element of a fireplace, without the cost – plus its portability allows you to move it whenever you decide to rearrange your décor.

Eco-Smart Winter is brought to you by Shireen Qudosi.  For additional eco winter ideas, visit http://www.heater-home.com

1    Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, by Steven Bliss. John Wiley & Sons,    2006. ISBN-10: 0471648361, ISBN-13: 978-0471648369, Hardcover: 320 pages

Abby’s Blog: Kid’s Helping the Earth – New Bedford Waterfront Festival

Believe it or not, America’s largest commercial fishing port is right over the state line in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Today you can go and learn everything you could ever want to know about the industry at this celebration of the city’s working waterfront. There will be talks on topics such as port preservation and sustainable and community supported fisheries. There’s also harbor tours, live music, cooking demonstrations, scallop shucking and net mending contests. Today, on Sunday Sept. 27.  11 a.m.-5 p.m. Free. 


posted by Abby, age 6

How to Love and Live in Your Eco-Inspired Home

Long before the mod designs of today’s sustainable homes, there the “Glass House”. Built in New Canaan, Connecticut in 1949 by Philip Johnson for his personal use.  It was a ground breaking project in its time and still continues to astonish those of us today who cannot fathom living in a see-through house.

While most people love the concept of a glass house, they have one major problem with it – privacy. But there’s a simple solution – curtains. Lightweight curtains would provide both shade during summer months as well as privacy, without compromising the structure’s aesthetic appeal.

But what a lot of people also don’t realize is those eco homes aren’t cookie cutter houses. On the contrary, they can be built with a lot more forethought and personalized design than traditional real estate.  Just ask Michelle Kaufman of MK Designs.

When Michelle Kaufman and her husband moved to California, they decided to fill the market for clean green homes after their own difficulty in finding one.  Clients can design their own custom home and choose the features that work for them.  According to Michelle, “the real challenge, and the critical area for a successful project, is the implementation and the production.”  Fortunately, through many years of being in the business, Michelle and her team have been able to iron out this wrinkle.

Regardless of whether or not you’d choose to live in a glass house, our mutual love of aesthetic and design are instantly drawn into Johnson’s minimalist creation. A balanced sense of proportion and a design that connects with the environment is what ultimately has paved the way for modular and prefab. 

Yet no matter what your home is like, you can get it be more sustainable – and contrary to what some may think, sustainable doesn’t mean living a “bare bones” lifestyle. A sustainable lifestyle can be chic and creative while still be eco-conscious. 

With fall at our doorstep and winter around the corner, the number one consideration is learning to reduce heating costs.  Insulating your home, using an energy-efficient space heater, and good old fashioned bundling up will certainly help you do your part in reducing energy consumption. But for extreme green, try installing a geothermal heating system, with loops deep in the ground around your home, and a heater exchange to collect relative heat from the ground.If you’re already in a DIY renovation mode, then consider installing windows and skylights that’ll let more light come in – thus reducing your dependency on electrical lighting.  There are also a number of window designs that not only let more light in, but also help keep in the heat. 

But if you’re a quick-fix type, there are still versatile ways you can prep your home for winter and reflect your stellar taste – especially if you’re a notorious coveter of wooden floors. 

If you’ve got wooden floors (hopefully bamboo), try covering them with rugs during the winter. The use of rugs is a quick DIY insulation that gives you a chance to add a new style element in your living space. Far from perhaps over bearing eclectic themes too strong for certain tastes, some eco-inspired pieces are also designed for the utilitarian thinker. For the military-mined eco-enthusiast, there’s Rebekah Rauser’s Redeploy Rug that combines the necessary military durability of surplus blankets with organic fluidity.  Made of 100% wool Russian army blankets and with topographic pattern, the Redeploy adds a unique dimension that makes the piece not only necessary but stylish.

Ultimately, no matter which route you choose, the goal is to create a home that is both functional and stylish, while still doing its part for the environment.

Eco winter ideas is brought to you by Shireen Qudosi.

1 http://www.canadianhomeworkshop.com/home-reno-and-design/green-renovations/five-ways-to-make-your-home-more-sustainable/a/21292

Sustainable Furniture: Will We Pay for It?

From The New York Times: Once a laggard in the green scene, the $8.3 billion furniture industry is catching up. From individual furniture makers to national retailers, green furnishing options are popping up in many stores and price ranges to appeal to eco-friendly consumers and conform to stricter environmental laws.

The Sustainable Furnishings Council, a nonprofit that promotes green practices in the furniture industry, has grown to over 300 members since it was created three years ago. And green trends were highlighted at the two largest furniture shows in High Point, N.C., and Las Vegas this year.

There’s good reason: Half of U.S. consumers said they would pay 5 percent or more for green products, according to a recent survey from The Boston Consulting Group. And almost three-fourths of those surveyed said it’s important for companies to have good environmental track records.

On top of that, Congress last year banned the import, export and sale of illegally harvested timber and wood, holding the furniture business accountable for its wood sourcing.

The U.S. is the world’s largest importer of furniture products, said Linda Kramme, manager of the Global Forest & Trade Network, but there are no estimates showing how much furniture specifically is made from illegal wood. A recent Environmental Investigation Agency report estimated 10 percent of furniture, pulp and paper used in the U.S. are at high risk of coming from illegal sources — an officially protected rain forest, for example.

”We, in the home furnishings industry, are shockingly responsible for illegal logging,” said Susan Inglis, the executive director of the Sustainable Furnishings Council.

PROS: The No. 1 reason to buy green furniture is its healthier for the planet. But it may also be healthier for you. Many green furniture pieces are treated with natural, nontoxic finishes, sealants, stains and paints that won’t emit harmful chemicals into the air you breathe.

Some eco-conscious companies are also socially conscious, including Harden Furniture and Lee Industries. So the furniture you buy might be made in a developing country, but the employees work for fair wages and in safe conditions.

CONS: The selection of green furniture isn’t as wide as standard pieces, especially at lower prices, but that’s changing. Also, buying green furniture and getting rid of your old stuff creates more waste.

COSTS: If you’re used to decorating with ready-to-assemble furniture, expect to pay more for green designs, in general. However, national retailers like Williams-Sonoma Home, Pottery Barn, West Elm or Crate & Barrel offer eco-friendly furniture for the same price as their standard lines.

Higher-end green lines, like those found in ABC Carpet & Home, will also run about the same as standard upscale options.

”There is a little bit of a premium if you want to do everything to the highest level,” says Annette Stelmack, an interior designer in Denver.

Price tags on the unique, artisan pieces can easily run from the thousands to the tens of thousands of dollars.

TIPS: Buy furniture made of wood that comes from forests that are harvested to reduce the negative impacts of logging and to encourage forest growth. Consider furniture made of wood from salvaged sources such as old barns, factories or warehouses.

Look for certifications from the Forest Stewardship Council, Tropical Trust Fund, American Tree Farm System, Canadian Standards Association-Sustainable Forest Management, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. These organizations monitor how wood is grown, logged and transported.

Consumers should also consider buying furniture made from recycled or organic materials. Look for sofas made from recycled polyester or coffee tables created out of recycled metal. Or, choose a chair with wool or soy-based upholstery fillings.

Buy local. Pieces that are transported over long distances add to energy consumption and air pollution.

Take care of the furniture you have. Cheap and easy-to-assemble furniture is easily thrown away, creating more waste. Buying second-hand and antique furniture or accepting hand-me-downs are ways to save the planet and keep furniture from ending up in landfills.

You can find a green manufacturer, retailer or interior designer near you on the Sustainable Furnishings Council’s Web site at www.sustainablefurnishings.org.

Kim’s note:

In New England you can go to Circle Furniture, who carries great brands like Lee and Maine Cottage (personal favorite) among many others in their eco line of furniture products.  I am working on the interior design of the house with them right now and am really impressed by their knowledge and their commitment to living clean on the inside of your home. I am working on a series on hidden VOCs in furniture and the impact on indoor air quality and your family’s health in a LEED home, so check back for that and of course furniture pictures!

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter :  newscaster

Upcycled Jewelry Designs

We are always throwing away…I mean recycling…outdated electronics.  What about coming up with a more creative way to use these items.  That is exactly what the designer of Upcycled Jewelry designs does.  This designer runs a business that manages bank owned or foreclosed properties. He repairs the properties – fixing broken windows, kicked in doors and sometimes doing complete clean outs. Before hauling everything to the dump – he separates out every ounce of metal for recycling and salvages all electronics. What can’t be saved – he uses for his artwork. Computer boards, remote control circuit boards, old xray/slide film, broken window glass is all cut into different geometric shapes, sanded down and then polished to create unique earrings, necklaces and pendants.  Be sure to check out his store on etsy.com – there are some really great pieces!

Posted by: Becca