Author Archives: Marita Mirzatuny

Central Texas Poised To Become Regional Clean Energy Leader

Source: http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/hill-country

Source: http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/hill-country

With the recent release of the National Climate Assessment, the threat of climate change has never been clearer. Addressing this will require a fundamental transition away from fossil-fuel sources of energy in favor of renewable energy technologies like wind and solar power. Electric utilities vary in their progress towards delivering a future powered by clean energy. Notably, Central Texas, with its combination of energy know-how, creative thinking, and technology entrepreneurship, is home to many utilities leading the way in clean energy resources and smart grid technology.

Austin & San Antonio are leading the pack

Although Texas has a deregulated, competitive electricity market where most energy companies compete for customers, the San Antonio-Austin-Hill Country corridor is mainly comprised of public electric utilities, like municipals and cooperatives that are community-owned. For years, Austin and San Antonio’s municipal utilities have benefited from an engaged customer base that cares about the transition to a clean energy economy. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Texas| Comments closed

Can Texas Keep the Lights On? Clean Energy Holds the Answer.

rp_Final-Images-EDF-6524-200x300.jpgOn Tuesday, I had the pleasure of participating on a panel hosted by the Texas Tribune that centered on the future of Texas’ power grid and electric reliability. Joining me was John Fainter, president and CEO of Association of Electric Companies of Texas, Inc; Trip Doggett, president and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas; and Doyle Beneby, president and CEO of CPS Energy, San Antonio's municipal utility. The panel, entitled Keeping the Lights on in Texas, took place at and was broadcasted from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. It's a worthwhile watch and I'm encouraged that Texas Tribune is dedicated to investigating Texas' energy issues.

For about an hour, we discussed a variety of aspects in the current and future energy landscape of the Lone Star State. In particular, I focused on the exciting shift to give people power over their electricity use, save money, and help the environment with every flip of the switch.

Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Renewable Energy, Texas| Comments closed

UPDATE: Demand Response Helped Texas Avoid Rolling Blackouts in the Face of Polar Vortex

Source: KXXV

Source: KXXV

Good news for clean energy in Texas!

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), Texas’ power grid operator, presented a report to its Board of Directors this week confirming what we already knew: demand response is a worthwhile investment that strengthens Texas' power grid.

Demand response is an innovative tool used by utilities to reward people who use less electricity during times of peak, or high, energy demand. In effect, demand response relies on people, not power plants, to meet the demand for energy. And on January 6th when the Polar Vortex hit Texas, it did just that. Read More »

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Demand Response Is the Best Cure for Texas’ Ailing Grid

Source: North America Power Partners

Source: North America Power Partners

The Texas Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has, yet again, kicked the can down the road on securing reliable energy to power the state’s growing population. The PUC, the state agency charged with managing electricity rates, meets to securely plan for the future, yet they continue to delay planning meetings. This will benefit no one in the short or long-run. To secure reliable power and safeguard against threats of blackouts, the PUC needs to keep pace with the times and leverage technologies that require little to no water, generate negligible carbon emissions, and can respond to the call for electricity.

Last week, the PUC decided to postpone indefinitely an important meeting, originally scheduled for May, to discuss Texas’ recent blackout scares. The PUC has been in a heated debate over Texas’ electricity market structure, and in the midst of backlash from stakeholders, they have decided to push the decision onto the Legislature in 2015. This is not necessarily in the best interest of the state. Texans were asked to conserve energy several times this winter after colder temperatures forced heating units to ramp up. This request to turn down thermostats for threat of rolling blackouts came at the same time the state power grid operator assured Texans that reliability is on the upswing. But it’s time Texas faces the facts. Read More »

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Gigafactory Proves that Tesla is Ahead of the Clean Energy Curve, But Does Texas Stand to Benefit?

Source: Texas Public Radio

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, speaking to Texas Legislature in 2013. Source: Texas Public Radio.

Disruptive technologies tend to follow a certain trajectory. First, they are outliers, often ignored, and typically on the cusp of never entering the market. But, for the successful ones, a tipping point is ultimately reached, after which the technology goes viral and changes the status quo it was designed to replace. In the new energy revolution, Tesla is one such company that has surpassed the tipping point and threatens to change the way we produce, distribute, and consume electricity.

It isn't just Tesla's sleek and beautiful electric vehicles that will be key to disrupting the status quo. At a current price point of around $80,000, most people en masse won’t be able to afford a Tesla, even though the company has plans to develop more affordable models. But what makes Tesla unique, besides the strange genius of CEO Elon Musk, is the potential diversification of its offerings, highlighted recently by the company's announcement to build the GigaFactory, a $5-billion battery factory that will employ 6,500 workers.

Set to open in about three years, the new GigaFactory will be large enough to manufacture more lithium-ion batteries than the entire industry produces now, and due to its sheer scale, is expected to reduce the cost of batteries by almost one-third. Read More »

Posted in Electric Vehicles, Energy Storage, Smart Grid| Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

New Database from Pecan Street, WikiEnergy, Promises to Reveal Important Energy Insights

Source: Trace3

Source: Trace3

As our society moves deeper into the realms of big data, at times it can seem overwhelming that our actions can generate millions of data points. Therefore, what we do with that data becomes crucial in the new energy landscape, as big data promises to improve our lives by unlocking innovation.

By 2015, 340 million smart meters will be supplying data to utilities worldwide, reading and reporting energy from 15-minute to 1-second intervals. For a medium-sized utility, with a half-million meters, that adds up to 52 billion data points a year. Utilities are not necessarily equipped to interpret this information, and insights can be lost.

Enter the newest arm of Pecan Street, Inc: WikiEnergy. Read More »

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Austin Unveils Texas-Sized Rooftop Solar Array to Power Downtown Church

This commentary originally appeared on our Texas Clean Air Matters blog.

Source: Mary Parmer, www.facebook.com/episcopalaustin

Source: Mary Parmer, www.facebook.com/episcopalaustin

On Monday in the heart of downtown Austin, St. David’s Episcopal Church unveiled its new 146-kilowatt solar array. Covering the rooftop of an adjacent parking garage and earning the title of largest rooftop solar installation downtown.

The project’s unprecedented scale was made possible through a partnership with Meridian Solar and a new Austin Energy (AE) pilot program, testing how they can best integrate large rooftop solar with the utility’s grid. Church members had the idea to put solar panels on the parking garage ten years ago, but weren’t able to move forward until last year when low interest rates, improved technology, and government rebates all came together. Through their combined efforts, St. David’s, AE, and Meridian have taken a vital, first step towards a city powered by clean, local, rooftop power, also known as distributed generation (DG). Read More »

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

Secretary Moniz Deems Austin’s Pecan Street ‘Very Impressive’

This commentary originally appeared on our Texas Clean Air Matters Blog.

EDF's Marita Mirzatuny with Secretary Moniz at Pecan Street's Pike Powers Labratory

EDF's Marita Mirzatuny with Secretary Moniz at Pecan Street's Pike Powers Labratory

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of presenting a short summary of EDF’s Smart Power Initiative to Dr. Ernest Moniz, the U.S. Secretary of Energy. As a group of over 30 people piled into the Pike Powers Laboratory (including the lab’s namesake), the Secretary made his way in, beelined for some coffee, and sat down to hear all about Austin’s innovative and collaborative energy “ecosystem.”

Present was the Mayor of Austin, Lee Leffingwell, various cleantech entrepreneurs sponsored by the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), representatives from the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO), and the Governor’s office, among others.

Everyone had the opportunity to speak to the Secretary in a roundtable format about the work their particular company or group is doing to solve energy problems, and as EDF’s representative, I reported on our Smart Power work in Texas. Read More »

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

How Electric Vehicles are Strengthening the Texas Power Grid and Improving Air Quality

Marita Mirzatuny

This commentary originally appeared on our Texas Clean Air Matters Blog.

San Antonio’s Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) brings Texas the latest example of an intelligent, demand-side resource that can play an active role in the power grid and offset the use of fossil-fuel power plants. Late last month, SwRI announced that its innovative vehicle-to-grid system got the green light from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid operator, to participate in the state’s electricity market. This system is able to control the charging and discharging for a fleet of electric delivery trucks, meaning that when the supply of electricity struggles to meet demand, the intelligent vehicle charging system can simply stop charging (thus lowering demand). This technology will significantly increase grid reliability, thanks to its quick response time, and effectively deter the need for firing up another dirty power plant.

In order to avoid a blackout, the supply of electricity to the power grid must equal the electric demand from customers. Conventionally, this balance is maintained by power plants that remain on stand-by, ready to respond at a moment’s notice. Every hour of the day, ERCOT precisely controls these power plants to keep the grid balanced. In the process, a power plant has to rapidly increase or decrease its power output, which decreases its efficiency and increases its carbon and pollution footprint, much like an a car revving its engine. Read More »

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Freezing, Scorching, or Not, Texas Needs More Demand Response

This commentary originally appeared on our Texas Clean Air Matters blog.Final Images EDF-6524

As we thaw out this week from our most recent arctic blast, Texas’ inexperience with ice and snow has been met with Internet memes and jokes. But dealing with extreme temperatures causes serious strain on our current energy system and exacerbates our “energy crunch,” signifying that the available supply of electricity barely meets the demand for that power.

However, as is typical of Texas, last week our weather was quite pleasant – in the 70s – and strains on the system due to weather events weren’t too much of a concern. Yet the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state agency charged with managing the flow of electricity for most of Texas, alerted an emergency situation despite mild temperatures. To avert disaster, ERCOT initiated demand response, “ask[ing] customers to raise thermostat settings to 78 degrees, typically a summer response intended to reduce demand from air conditioners.” A single malfunctioning power plant caused the problem. ERCOT declined to identify the plant involved.

Much of this uncertainty and drama can be alleviated with demand response (DR), a novel approach to managing the grid system. Using smart power technology like smart thermostats, utilities can moderately adjust their customers’ energy use in real-time for a brief amount of time to meet the energy needs of all Texans. When energy demand is high, electric utilities can ask customers to voluntarily conserve energy in exchange for cost-savings and even payments. During the polar vortex earlier this month, CPS Energy, San Antonio’s municipal utility, saved about 77 megawatts (MW) of power through demand response programs – enough to power 32,725 homes.  Texas isn’t the only place where demand response is taking hold. Read More »

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