Author Archives: Jim Marston

Market Forces are Driving Coal’s Demise and Cleaning Up the Grid in Texas

power lines unsplash croppedWhat do economists and environmentalists have in common? When it comes to Texas’ energy future, more than you may think.

According to a new study from the Brattle Group, a reputable, national economics consulting firm with extensive experience in Texas’ electricity sector, market forces are leading to coal’s rapid decline in the Lone Star State. Moreover, rapidly-growing cleaner electricity sources like natural gas and renewable energy will be able to entirely meet Texas’ additional power needs – without increasing electric bills. We couldn’t agree more.

That said, we’re confident the impacts are going to be even more powerful in terms of Texas’ wind, solar, and energy efficiency. And the latest report from Texas’ main grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), continues to support that expectation. Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, Natural Gas, Renewable Energy, Texas| Comments are closed

Good Policy Gone Bad: How Nevada Killed Jobs and Clean Energy Competition

Road_Closed_sign_along_Nevada_State_Route_317_south_of_Caliente,_NevadaIf you want a good example how bad government can kill good jobs and clean energy innovation, take a look at what’s happening in Nevada, where a decision by Governor Brian Sandoval’s appointees, pushed by NV Energy Inc., essentially killed the thriving local solar energy industry.

In December 2015, Gov. Sandoval’s Public Utilities Commission (PUCN) approved a new net metering rule for people with rooftop solar systems that significantly increases monthly fees they pay their utility and significantly decreases the value of unused energy they sell back to the grid. Under the new rule, rooftop solar owners do not receive payments for the benefits they provide the electric grid and it will simply take too long to recoup a solar investment so that, for most, solar will no longer be a smart financial move. Solar companies are already running for the border.

And if killing jobs wasn’t enough, PUCN’s new rule is retroactive, essentially pulling the economic rug out from under the 17,000 Nevadans who have already invested in solar systems based on existing rules. In some cases, people who have invested tens of thousands of dollars are immediately underwater; it may take them decades to see a financial return on their investment. That is, unless Nevada decides to grandfather all existing solar customers for 20 years (a vote by the PUCN is scheduled for tomorrow). Read More »

Posted in Electricity Pricing, Solar Energy, Utility Business Models| Read 9 Responses

10 Clean Energy Trends that Prove 2015 was a Transformative Year

Back in September when the New York Times declared 2015 “the year humans got serious about climate change,” we knew they were on to something. But as we near the end of 2015, it’s hard to believe we’ve accomplished as much as we have in just 12 months.

This momentum culminated in representatives of 195 nations agreeing in Paris to act together on world knowledge of climate change. This historic agreement will aim to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, report transparently, and review and strengthen standards every five years. EDF President Fred Krupp stated, “It sends a powerful, immediate signal to global markets that the clean energy future is open for business.”

Though history proves “hindsight is 20/20,” historians just might look back at 2015 as the year everything changed for clean energy. Here’s a look at some of the top trends that fueled climate action by governments, investors, corporations, individuals, cities, utilities, market analysts, real estate professionals, and cleantech leaders in 2015. [Click through the following slideshow to see the trends.] Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Energy Innovation, Energy Storage, Utility Business Models| Comments are closed

What One Conservative Texas Think Tank Doesn’t Want You to Know about the Clean Power Plan

monkey-557586_640 pixabay

Every time I open my hometown newspaper and see a negative op-ed on America’s first nationwide limits on power plant carbon pollution – the Clean Power Plan – I think, “Oh boy. Some new industry water-carrier opposing commonsense efforts to improve public health.”

Now, to be sure, Texas is not the only state where groups have been telling lies and fearmongering in the press about these new clean air standards. But at least here in Texas, there seems to be one group in particular that’s leading the pack of spreading misinformation: Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). They’ve been regurgitating the same tired, anti-science, anti-health nonsense for years.

A conservative think tank based in Austin, Texas, TPPF claims it is trying to protect people’s wallets – which is true if by ‘people,’ you mean its members. Just take a look at its donor list, which includes out-of-state interests like the Koch Brothers and Big Tobacco, as well as major coal players like The American Coalition for Clean Coal and Texas coal-burning electric generators.

The truth is, they don’t want Texans to realize the pollution standards are good for our health, water supply, and economy. Here are a few other things they’d prefer you didn’t know about the Clean Power Plan: Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Clean Power Plan, Climate, Energy Efficiency, Solar Energy, Texas, Wind Energy| Read 2 Responses

Three Technologies that will Keep Energy Costs in Check

Jay Godwin photo - 07/31/2015 Location: The Mueller community in Austin, Texas. Caption: Mueller resident Dennis Mick is a Pecan Street program participant. He has solar collectors on his roof and an electric car in his garage. Information about his energy use can be accessed through mobile apps and on the web.Many American households and businesses saw energy costs soar this summer with July being the hottest month in Earth’s hottest year on record.

Utilities rely on “peaker plants” during these record-setting heat waves to avoid blackouts. Such plants are more expensive and often more polluting to operate, and utilities pass the higher costs straight on to their customers.

Fortunately, this energy equation is changing. Innovative pricing and smart energy systems are gradually taking hold across the United States, already allowing homes and businesses to save energy and cut costs. It’s just the beginning of what I call our next energy revolution.

Here are three technologies on the market today that are fueling this trend: Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, General, Renewable Energy, Time of Use| Read 1 Response

How Energizing Renewables can Spur Carbon Pricing

Photoy Jürgen from Sandesneben, GermanyTo avoid the worst effects of climate change, we must do more to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, we still do not have a price on carbon, one of the most prevalent greenhouse gases in the world and the biggest contributor to climate change. Despite knowing that a carbon price creates broad incentives to cut emissions, the current average price of carbon globally (which is below zero, once half a trillion dollars of fossil-fuel subsidies are factored in) is much too low relative to the hidden environmental, health, and societal costs of burning a ton of coal or a barrel of oil.

Policies that comprehensively reform the energy sector—a sector designed around fossil fuels—are necessary even as the price of renewable energy declines. The cost of solar photovoltaics, for example, has declined 80 percent since 2008. Prices will continue to fall, but not fast enough to make a dent in the climate problem.

Policymakers are more likely to price carbon appropriately if renewables are competitive with (or cheaper than) fossil fuels. But reducing the cost of renewable energy requires substantial investment, and thus a carbon price. The best hope of resolution is through controlled policy experiments designed to drive down the cost of renewable power sources even further and faster than in the past five years. Read More »

Posted in Cap and Trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Electricity Pricing, Energy Storage, General, Renewable Energy| Tagged , | Comments are closed
  • Vice President, Clean Energy
    Jim Marston is the founding director of the Texas office of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), located in Austin, where he has served since its beginning in 1988. He is also a leader of the Pecan Street, Inc., a partnership that includes Austin Energy, the University of Texas, the Chamber of Commerce, and several large high/clean tech companies aimed at making fundamental changes in the nation's electricity grid.

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    EDF Energy Exchange - Accelerating the clean energy revolution

    EDF's energy experts discuss how to accelerate the transition to a clean, low-carbon energy economy.

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