Author Archives: Jim Marston

EDF Energy Innovation Series Feature: Desalination – Here Comes the Sun. And Freshwater.

EDF-EIS-emailHeader-2EDF's Energy Innovation Series highlights innovations across a broad range of energy categories, including smart grid and renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency financing and progressive utilities, to name a few. This Series helps illustrate that cost-effective, clean energy solutions are available now and imperative to lowering our dependence on fossil fuels.

Find more information on this featured innovation here

WaterFX can turn virtually any water source into clean, drinkable water. And all they need is a sunny day.

This is great news for drought-stricken states like California and Texas, where water is becoming an increasingly scarce resource. In Central California, for example, the drought has essentially cut off thousands of farmers this year; they have no water, and their land now lays fallow.

Part of what’s draining this precious resource is our energy use. Taking into account the acquisition, treatment, and movement required to ensure water comes out the faucet when we turn it on, it is no surprise that water is among the country’s greatest users of electricity. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Innovation Series, Energy-Water Nexus| Comments closed

Chairman Nelson Cannot Ignore Texas Wind’s Benefits and Condemn Its Cost

Wind technicians working atop a turbine in Sweetwater, Tex. Source: NY Times

Wind technicians working atop a turbine in Sweetwater, Tex.
Source: NY Times

Earlier this month, Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) chairwoman Donna Nelson called for the federal government to end its renewable energy tax credit for Texas wind and for the end of state policies that have resulted in Texas’ clean energy economy boon. The chairman’s appeal is so devoid of a factual basis it is hard to conclude that this is anything other than part of an orchestrated campaign by fossil fuel interests to stop the growth of renewable energy. Like the other attacks on clean energy, this is more politics than substance.

The federal and state policies that Chairman Nelson wants to eliminate have been great for Texas. Texas ranks first in the nation for wind-related jobs, employing over 8,000—and many of those jobs are keeping agriculture-heavy West Texas and Panhandle communities afloat amid the devastating multi-year drought. Plus, 60% of all wind projects under construction across the country in the first quarter of 2014 were in Texas. And studies (including one produced by the Texas PUC) have shown that electricity prices are lower when more wind energy is installed on the power grid.    Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Renewable Energy| 1 Response, comments now closed

America's Coal-Producing States Weigh their Options

A coal train rolls through a town in West Virginia, which produces more coal than any other state except for Wyoming.

A coal train rolls through a town in West Virginia, which produces more coal than any other state except for Wyoming.

Nobody was surprised to hear political foes of President Obama and leaders from several coal-dependent states blast EPA’s proposal to limit carbon pollution from America’s power plants.

The Clean Power Plan, released June 2, represents a big change in the way America will generate and use energy in the coming decades. We understand: Big changes are scary.

So it’s interesting to ponder which political leaders in states dependent on coal-fired power will, in the end, seize this historic opportunity.

Who will use the flexible policy tools offered in the Clean Power Plan to diversify their energy economies and unleash innovation to help their states grow? Who will show political courage? Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Colorado, Methane, Texas| Tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Transition to Clean Energy will make the U.S. Military More Efficient, Effective, and Safe

http://www.theburdenfilm.com/

http://www.theburdenfilm.com/

When most of us think about military operations, we think of tanks rolling across a desert, large aircraft carriers on the ocean, or long lines of Humvees in convoys. These vehicles, and their missions, take a lot of energy and are part of the large category of “operational energy use.” In fact, 75% of all military energy use is operational.

This operational energy use has created a massive dependence on fossil fuels, resulting in some unintended consequences, which:

  • Cause ships, planes and vehicles, like tanks, to cease operations during refueling. This takes time and keeps the vehicle from completing its mission. Fuel convoys are also prime targets for ambushes and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
  • Bind the military to a volatile commodity with changing prices and an unstable future.
  • Exacerbate climate change, an issue that U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently called a “threat multiplier.” According to Secretary Hagel, climate change will influence resource competition and “aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions.” These stressors will increase the frequency, scope, and duration of future conflicts and, by extension, U.S. military interventions around the globe.  Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid| 2 Responses, comments now closed

EDF Energy Innovation Series Feature: Intelligent Energy Storage That Makes “Cents”

EDF-EIS-emailHeader-2EDF's Energy Innovation Series highlights innovations across a broad range of energy categories, including smart grid and renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency financing and progressive utilities, to name a few. This Series helps illustrate that cost-effective, clean energy solutions are available now and imperative to lowering our dependence on fossil fuels.

Find more information on this featured innovation here

America’s electricity grid was one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century. But it is showing its age.

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that if just nine of the 55,000 electric-transmission substations were knocked out, the entire country could plunge into a months-long blackout. Power outages caused by severe weather events already cost the U.S. between $25 to $70 billion a year. And Americans are using more energy than ever – 2.3 quadrillion thermal units more in 2013 than in 2012, which is greater than the total energy consumed by Maine, Montana, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Delaware, and Rhode Island combined.

Fortunately, we know how to protect ourselves from this vulnerability: move away from a highly-centralized energy generation and transmission system to one that looks more like the Internet, with decentralized energy production and smart technologies that allow us to use power most efficiently.

That’s exactly what Green Charge Networks (GCN) is doing. Over the past few years, this Silicon Valley smart grid company has been building an intelligent energy storage system called GreenStation™ that reduces stress on the electric grid, reduces greenhouse gas pollution, and, the company says, offers customers a five-year return on investment. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Innovation Series, Energy Storage, Smart Grid| Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

Fossil Fuel Industry's Tired Battle Against Clean Energy is Also a Losing One

Source: Alternative Energies

Source: Alternative Energies

The assault on successful renewable energy legislation continues, long after the facts have proven that state renewable policies deliver clean, affordable, and reliable energy solutions that the majority of Americans support. Apparently, the fossil fuel industry and its so-called “free market” allies didn’t get the memo.

There’s a great line in the opening scene of Ridley Scott’s 2000 blockbuster Gladiator where a soldier says to his general, as they are about to slaughter an overmatched foe, “People should know when they’re conquered.” The general replies, “Would you? Would I?”

So I can’t really blame the fossil fuel industry for fighting old battles in an effort to undo approaches that have increased investment in renewable energy in states around the country, created thousands of jobs, and continue to lower energy costs with each passing day. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid| Comments closed

Fossil Fuel Industry and Koch Brothers Align to Kill Extension of Wind Energy Tax Credits

Jim Marston, Environmental Defense, Austin, TXIt seems that every year, renewable energy advocates are forced to respond to some false claims made by oil or coal interest groups trying to mislead the public and legislators into believing that solar and wind energy are not worth supporting.  Even though wind power is a clean, renewable, homegrown form of energy that is good for people, business and the environment, fossil fuels are simply hardwired into this country's DNA.  So it is not surprising that fossil fuel companies defend their subsidies and tax breaks and don’t want clean energy competitors to cut into their support.  

Around this time last year, renewable energy advocates were announcing good news – the production tax credit that helped spark remarkable growth in America's wind energy industry had been extended through 2013.  And it amounted to more than just a one year bump.  Because the extension applied to projects begun in 2013, rather than completed in 2013, the credit could be applied to more projects over a longer period of time.  Read More »

Posted in Climate, Renewable Energy| Tagged , , | 6 Responses, comments now closed

A Good Day for Clean Energy as President Obama Doubles Down on Renewables

obamaThis commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog

Today president Obama took an important step toward supporting a clean energy future by directing the Federal Government to consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.  This is more than double the current level, making this a significant moment in President Obama’s second term.

Renewable energy has become cost-competitive over the years and the quality of innovative clean technologies has dramatically improved.  These are clean, efficient, homegrown resources that we can count on now, and President Obama’s public support of renewables in this announcement will serve to further drive their competiveness in the market.

This memorandum also directs agencies to update their building-performance and energy-management practices, “by encouraging the use of the consensus-based, industry-standard Green Button data access system (Green Button) and the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Energy Star Portfolio Manager.”  Recommendations under this section ask agencies to install smart energy and water meters, participate in demand response where possible and make the data collected from smart meters publically available in order to better manage energy performance and allow for benchmarking. Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy| Tagged , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

So Now Trump Wants to "Fire" Clean Energy in Scotland?

This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog. 

DonkeyHotey/flickr

DonkeyHotey/flickr

It’s easy for Americans to laugh at Donald Trump when he goes off on a rant, like when he joined the birthers during the last presidential election. But when Trump starts picking fights with other countries, and wind energy, it’s just embarrassing. As environmentalists and global citizens we feel the need to offer the world an apology for Trump’s attempt to blackmail Scotland, as the country attempts to spur economic growth, cleaner air and a safer climate.

Several years ago, the real estate tycoon took his personality parade to Scotland, where he fought local environmentalists for approval to build a luxury golf resort on a pristine section of the nation’s northeast coast.  Now, because it will affect the view from his golf club, Trump’s begun  a fierce legal battle over Scotland’s plans to install offshore wind turbines near his property.

To fully appreciate Trump’s hypocrisy, it’s worth exploring some of the story’s background.  Back in 2007, when Trump sought approval for construction of the Trump International Golf Links, he promised more than 900 high-end condos, 500 luxury homes, a huge hotel and two 18-hole golf courses.  The project, Trump said, would attract over a billion dollars of investment and generate more than 4,000 full time construction jobs and 1,200 full-time jobs. Read More »

Posted in Climate| Tagged , , | 3 Responses, comments now closed

EDF Energy Innovation Series Feature: Treehouse's One-Stop Shop for Solar

EDF's Energy Innovation Series highlights innovations across a broad range of energy categories, including smart grid and renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency financing and progressive utilities, to name a few. This Series helps illustrate that cost-effective, clean energy solutions are available now and imperative to lowering our dependence on fossil fuels.

Find more information on this featured innovation here.

Few people walk into a car dealership and ask to see all of the 2.0 liter engines or only the 200 horsepower cars. Those technical specs are important, but most people shop by model, price or features.

Yet homeowners that want to install solar panels often find themselves buried in a mound of technical details that are not only confusing, but intimidating. And expensive. Austin-based sustainable living retailer Treehouse is changing that and proving that energy innovation is sometimes less about technology and policy and more about thinking like customers.

"The solar industry has done a great job educating people about the benefits of solar energy," said Treehouse founder and president Jason Ballard. "But it's done a bad job of making solar easy to buy." Read More »

Posted in Energy Innovation Series, Texas| Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed