Category Archives: Renewable Energy

Disruptive is a Buzzword…but it’s true for Batteries

batteryFor more than 100 years, the U.S. power system relied on fossil-fueled power plants to meet our growing energy demand. Now, clean energy resources like renewables are quickly changing our energy mix. But what happens when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing? What about when power demand momentarily outpaces supply? That’s where batteries and energy storage come in, offering a fundamental, even disruptive change to the U.S. electricity system as we know it.

Batteries are energy game-changers

Today’s electricity system not only overproduces to be prepared for unforeseen problems, it also deploys dirty “peaker” plants that fire up during those few times per year when electricity demand is high (like during a heat wave) and the electric grid is stressed. With batteries, there’s no need for either overproduction or inefficient backup reserves, ultimately saving both utilities and customers money.

Batteries can provide bursts of electricity incredibly fast, often in milliseconds, and with far quicker reaction times than traditional power plants. As a result, energy storage helps the electric grid absorb and regulate power fluctuations, providing electricity fast, when and where it’s needed. Since the supply and demand of power must be carefully balanced, this ability helps prevent the grid from experiencing brownouts or blackouts. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Electric Vehicles, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Illinois, Smart Grid| Comments closed

Point – Counterpoint: Heartland Institute Gets It Wrong on Wind

Source: AWEA

Source: AWEA

On the heels of a recent Forbes blog post where I call out Texas' Comptroller for playing favorites in her biased scrutiny of Texas' wind industry, comes another Forbes piece by James Taylor from the Heartland Institute. Confusing correlation with causation, Taylor claims wind energy causes higher energy prices. However, an increase in electricity prices cannot automatically be accounted for by pointing the finger at wind energy. That’s simply playing fast and loose with the facts.

This is the same tired slant we have heard from Heartland Institute time and time again. Not surprising – when pundits want to cherry pick data to make their argument strong, it doesn’t always work.

First there are many, many factors that determine energy rates, not just one type of resource. In an analysis of utility rates, economists Ernst Berndt, Roy Epstein, and Michael Doane identified 13 reasons why an electric utility’s rates may be higher or lower than the average. They include things like the average use per customer, age of the electricity distribution system, generation resource mix, local taxes, and rate of increases prior to any implemented renewable portfolio standard (RPS). So faulting renewables for high energy prices is a bogus claim. Furthermore, there is no data showing a nationwide pattern of renewable energy standards leading to rate increases for consumers. The report states: “American consumers in the top wind energy-producing states have seen their electricity prices actually decrease by 0.37 percent over the last 5 years, while all other states have seen their electricity prices increase by 7.79 percent over that time period." Further, 15 studies from various grid operators, state governments, and academic experts have examined the impact of wind energy on wholesale electricity prices and confirmed that wind energy reduces electricity prices. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Texas| Tagged , | Comments closed

Germany's Energiewende Proves Electricity can be Clean and Reliable

electric-power-273644_640Since 2004, the year of the first major revision of Germany’s Renewable Energy Act (EEG), the country has added at least 35 gigawatts (GW) of solar and 35 GW of wind to its electric grid – enough to offset upwards of 35 coal plants. What’s more impressive is during the first half of 2014, close to 29 percent of Germany’s electricity came from renewable sources. For perspective, America’s renewables percentage, at about 14 percent, was half of Germany’s during this timeframe.

Meanwhile, the country has improved its status as a grid reliability leader, causing the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Energy Transition blog to conclude, “Clearly, installing the equivalent of 100 percent of peak demand as wind and solar capacity does not bring down the grid.”  Renewables International further asserts, “Renewables have not yet reached a penetration level that has detrimentally impacted grid reliability.”

This success runs contrary to the predictions of Energiewende’s critics, who have sounded the alarms about investing in “too much” renewable energy. Some of these concerns are more valid than others, but the truth is, most of these claims are blown out of proportion, fixable with solutions that are not overly complex, and/or based on no empirical data. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Smart Grid| Tagged | Comments closed

Benefits of Clean Power Plan Are Measureable – Drop for Drop

Hallisburg Texas power plantSince EPA released its proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP) in June of this year, the plan has been a hot topic in every state. In Texas alone, the state has held a joint regulatory agency hearing and two days of legislative hearings. Unfortunately, in both cases, the general tone of testimony was that of Chicken Little. But I prefer to view the CPP as a fantastic opportunity and certainly don’t think the sky will fall because of it. In fact, our skies should be considerably brighter without all that carbon pollution clouding them up.

I’ve written before about the opportunity for Texas to amplify current trends and increase our energy efficiency and renewable energy to meet these goals. And there’s an added benefit to transitioning away from coal-fired power plants and toward cleaner energy choices, one that will be critical in a state like Texas that’s in the middle of a multi-year drought: water savings and relief for our parched state.

What if I told you that with the CPP, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which controls the power grid for roughly 80 percent of the state, could save more than 60,000 acre-feet (or nearly 21 billion gallons) of water per year by 2030? Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Clean Power Plan, Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus, Texas| Comments closed

Red River Rivalry: What Oklahoma Gas & Electric can Teach Texas Utilities

800px-Red_River_Shootout_2006Fall is in the air, the State Fair of Texas is in full swing, and the annual meeting of the University of Texas (UT) and the University of Oklahoma (OU) will occur at Dallas' Cotton Bowl this weekend. One of the greatest football rivalries in the Big 12, UT and OU have been battling it out since 1900. Even the governors of both states frequently place bets on the game, like the losing governor having to present a side of beef to the winning governor.

And, while Sooners and Longhorns may not easily take advice from each other, Texas utilities should take a few lessons from Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E). OG&E is Oklahoma's regulated utility serving over 800,000 customers in Oklahoma and western Arkansas.

Here in Texas, we are proud of many things from our "don't fence me in" ethos and wide-open landscapes to our self-reliance and abundant natural resources. Not too many states have the type of pride that Texas possesses (kitschy or otherwise). That pride extends to our innovative energy utilities as well, like Green Mountain Energy, Austin Energy, and CPS Energy in San Antonio, all of which are helping lead the state into the new energy sphere. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Texas| Comments closed

North Carolina is well positioned for EPA’s Clean Power Plan

alternative-21761_640A majority of Americans endorse setting limits on carbon emissions from the nation's power plants, which account for the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. The United States is on the verge of doing just that with EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan.

Nationally, the plan will reduce carbon emissions from power plants 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. However, these carbon-reduction mandates vary from state-to-state, which will cumulatively lead to a nation-wide reduction of 30 percent.

In North Carolina, where I live, the plan requires the state to reduce absolute carbon emissions about 21 percent by 2030 from a 2012 baseline, according to an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Read More »

Also posted in Air Quality, Clean Energy, Climate, North Carolina| Comments closed