The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages 90 percent of Texas’ electric grid, has been busy. In the last two months of 2014, the agency released two very lengthy reports examining the future of a lower-polluting power grid in light of upcoming EPA clean air protections, in particular the Clean Power Plan. As the media described it, the reports did not provide the rosiest of outlooks for costs to Texans or electric reliability. But I think they are looking at the reports the wrong way.
The electric grid is changing. Innovative technologies – many of which are created right here in Texas – are lowering electricity bills and increasing energy independence. They are disrupting the way we produce and use electricity and they are changing the way ERCOT looks at grid reliability – albeit not in these two reports.
Cleantech entrepreneurs are at the helm of deciding Texas’ (and, let’s face it, America’s) energy future. And there are quite a few market opportunities outlined in the reports, if you look closely. Here are a few hidden in the report, plus other trends to keep an eye on:
- Pollution control technologies are a must. Very soon power companies in Texas will install scrubbers and other devices to reduce multiple – not just one – pollutants, thereby making compliance with EPA’s subsequent regulations easier and more cost-effective.
- Coal is out. Power companies in Texas will start complying with EPA’s clean air protections beginning this month. By 2029, the state will only need to cut 200 megawatts of coal-fired power to comply with the proposed Clean Power Plan, which would set the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants.
- Opportunities for customer-focused clean energy have never been riper. Energy resources, like energy efficiency and demand response (which pays people to conserve energy when the electric grid is stressed), are gaining ground every day in Texas, and so is the demand for them. They have proven to be vital resources on the power grid that help reduce electricity costs for Texas homes and businesses.
- Solar is the future of Texas. One of the biggest takeaways from the report is that ERCOT did not take into account distributed solar resources in its forecasts. However, it does note that solar will play a huge role in Texas’ energy future – much of which will occur on our own rooftops.
- Storage is essential. Like rooftop solar, energy storage was left out of ERCOT’s equations, but there is ample opportunity to integrate more wind and solar energy on the power grid and smooth out reliability concerns with this innovative technology.
Smart utilities in Texas have already installed pollution control technologies, retired inefficient, water-intensive coal plants, and integrated more clean energy resources. And they are creating jobs to support these projects. This is the Golden Age for entrepreneurs in the electricity sector. Looking ahead in the new year, I, for one, am excited to see the rapid transformation to a healthier, lower-carbon electricity system and to discover the next big technology that comes out of Texas.
This commentary originally appeared on the CleanTX Blog.