Selected category: Texas

Rooftop solar and EVs save water and cut pollution – and data can help us go further

Thanks to improvements in technology, it’s easier than ever to be green.

Solar panels and electric vehicles (EVs) are two prime examples of technologies that can help people minimize their environmental footprint, without sacrificing comfort or having to radically change their daily behavior. But the question still remains: How much of an environmental benefit do these technologies actually produce? And, are there actions that owners of these technologies can take to minimize their pollution footprint even more?

A new paper by my colleagues and me, recently published in Energy Economics, attempts to answer these two questions for households in Austin, Texas. These homes are part of Pecan Street Inc., a living smart-grid laboratory with the largest customer energy-use database on the planet. Using detailed household-level data from 2013-2015, we were able to track solar panel performance and EV use and charging patterns, and match these actions to two important environmental impacts: water use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Our paper confirms that, in Texas, residential solar panels uses less water and pollutes the air less than using the central-grid power (based on its electricity sources during those years), and driving an EV instead of a gasoline vehicle generally reduces the household’s water and emission footprint, even though EVs charge from the grid. Moreover, our analysis demonstrates how carefully examining energy-use data can help us make sure we’re maximizing clean energy’s benefits. Read More »

Also posted in Electric Vehicles, Solar Energy| Leave a comment

3 things my climate-skeptic dad taught me about clean energy advocacy

Kate Zerrenner and her dad.

As an advocate for the air, water, and economic benefits that clean energy provides, I find some of my most challenging – and maybe most rewarding – work is trying to engage climate-skeptic lawmakers at the Texas Capitol in Austin.

To facilitate that work, I use lessons I’ve learned from my dad, who lives in San Antonio and with whom I don’t often agree when it comes to our approach on the environment. In the spirit of the holidays, I want to thank him for all those conversations in which we didn’t see eye to eye. Little did I know then, he was teaching me the tools of my trade.

Here are three lessons my dad taught me that I use daily in my work as a clean energy advocate. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Equity| Leave a comment

New Texas Permian oil and gas flaring report reveals excessive gas waste and major gaps in operator flaring practices

As companies flock to West Texas’ Permian Basin to cheaply drill for and extract oil and gas, some operators are flooding the night sky with natural gas flares, polluting the air with unhealthy and climate-altering pollutants, and wasting copious amounts of this important, domestic energy resource.

The Permian Basin, which stretches across 75,000 square miles in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, is in the midst of one of the largest energy booms of the century. An estimated 60-70 billion barrels of recoverable oil is located in the area, which is worth roughly $3.3 trillion at current prices, according to IHS Markit. Oil isn’t the only resource in abundant supply. EIA estimates that operators in the Permian are producing 7.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. But a rush to produce higher value oil has some Permian drillers simply flaring the gas instead of investing in gathering and pipeline infrastructure.

A new EDF flaring report, released this week, has uncovered a wide discrepancy between flaring rates among the top 15 oil and gas producers working in the Texas Permian Basin. Some of the oil and gas producers studied in the report are wasting close to 10 percent of their produced gas due to flaring practices, highlighting the fact that the oil and gas industry continues to struggle to control natural gas waste. Read More »

Also posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

How clean energy just overtook coal in this competitive electricity market

Look around the U.S. and you’ll find plenty of examples of smart policy that is driving the adoption of cleaner, more efficient energy resources. In particular, California, New York, and Illinois are all leveraging policy to reduce carbon pollution and transition to a 21st century electric grid.

But in addition to those success stories, markets also are achieving significant clean energy results – and nowhere is that more evident than here in Texas.

In 2001, the Lone Star State transitioned to a competitive electricity market that (for the most part) puts the cheapest energy resources on the grid first. Since then, wind has grown from supplying less than 1 percent of the state’s electricity to over 20 percent for the first half of 2017. And as cheap natural gas remains plentiful and renewable costs keep falling, expensive coal is getting pushed out of Texas’ market. In fact, wind power capacity just overtook coal capacity. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing| Comments are closed

Historic buildings or energy efficiency? Texas gets both, with innovative financing.

When it comes to the history and DNA of a city, new buildings have nothing on century-old ones. Yet the reverse can be said in regard to water and energy efficiency. Older buildings reflect the culture and history of a community, but typically are highly inefficient.

Such was the case with the Butler Brothers Building in Dallas, a previously-abandoned 1910 structure that was often referred to as an eyesore. So when the real estate developer Alterra International decided to turn the building into a mixed-use complex with apartments, hotel rooms, and retail space, a lot of work was needed to improve its water and energy efficiency – work that required up-front capital investments.

Through the Texas PACE Authority’s “PACE in a Box” model, Alterra International was able to secure $23.9 million in PACE financing for upgrades that will slash carbon pollution, cutting energy use by about 40 percent and annual water use by almost 700,000 gallons.

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is a financing model that helps local governments and the private sector back energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades for homes and businesses. Texas is the only state that includes water in its PACE programs and could serve as a model for other water-strapped states. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Financing| Comments are closed

Research competition invites students to solve real-world energy problems

Reviewing residential electricity data in Pecan Street's Pike Powers Lab.

By Maddie Venn, clean energy communications intern

Recently, it seems like everyone is competing to become the next big thing in the energy sector. Whether it’s electric vehicles, smart grid technology, or energy storage, innovation continues to pop up left and right as we work to build a smarter, cleaner electric grid.

If innovation and technology spark your competitive drive, here’s your opportunity to dive in and join a community of engaged researchers working to solve some of our most pressing energy concerns. Pecan Street is hosting its second student research competition, inviting the best and the brightest to use the organization’s extensive collection of energy-use data to help solve real-world problems.

Open to all full-time graduate and undergraduate students and with prizes totaling $10,000, the competition aims to connect Pecan Street’s well-established dataset with the innovation of young minds. As the grid gets smarter, data can help people play a more active role in how their electricity is made, moved, and used. Competitions like Pecan Street’s will get us there faster. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Innovation| Comments are closed
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