As the Texas legislative session begins ramping up, I am reminded of smart policies from sessions past that holistically benefit Texas, had bipartisan support, and brought unlikely allies together. As we head into the session, it’s important to remember that no matter which side of the aisle you are on, clean energy solutions make sense for Texas – economically and environmentally.
This week, Environmental Defense Fund and R Street Institute, with support from Google, hosted a breakfast roundtable at the Texas Capitol to highlight one of those bills. The panel highlighted the potential for Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) and other commonsense, market-driven financing policies to be game-changers for accelerating the deployment and adoption of clean energy resources and water conservation practices across the state of Texas.
PACE, an innovative financing tool that allows people to repay loans for clean energy projects (like rooftop solar and energy efficiency upgrades) through their property tax bill, has the potential to unlock a considerable amount of private funding for clean energy projects in the state. This agreement simultaneously offers building owners cheaper financing options and lenders secure repayment terms. With benefits for all, it’s no wonder the PACE bill passed last legislative session with support from both sides of the aisle, environmental groups, and industry alike. Read More
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages 90 percent of Texas’ electric grid, has been busy. In the last two months of 2014, the agency released two very lengthy reports examining the future of a lower-polluting power grid in light of upcoming EPA clean air protections, in particular the Clean Power Plan. As the media described it, the reports did not provide the rosiest of outlooks for costs to Texans or electric reliability. But I think they are looking at the reports the wrong way.
The electric grid is changing. Innovative technologies – many of which are created right here in Texas – are lowering electricity bills and increasing energy independence. They are disrupting the way we produce and use electricity and they are changing the way ERCOT looks at grid reliability – albeit not in these two reports.
Cleantech entrepreneurs are at the helm of deciding Texas’ (and, let’s face it, America’s) energy future. And there are quite a few market opportunities outlined in the reports, if you look closely. Here are a few hidden in the report, plus other trends to keep an eye on: Read More
The New Year is a time for reflection, beginning with a look back on the previous 12 months and all that they brought. A quick scan of the U.S. climate and energy news in 2014 will tell you it was a very big year.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the U.S. and China struck a historic climate deal, and Tesla broke ground in Nevada on the largest advanced automotive-battery factory in the world – a move that’s expected to slash the cost of lithium ion batteries by a third. At the same time that these important national and international advancements were grabbing headlines, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and our partners were working together to incrementally transform the U.S. electricity system by rewriting outdated regulations, spurring energy services markets, and modernizing our century-old electric grid.
The U.S. is on the verge of a revolution in the way we make, move, and use energy. And, having spent years working on governmental and regulatory matters related to our power system and lessening its impact on the environment, I can honestly say there has never been a more exciting time to be in this field. Here are a few of the moments that were near and dear to our hearts over the past year, developments I see as a sure signal 2015 will be another epic year for clean energy. Read More
Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Energy Storage, Illinois, Investor Confidence Project, New Jersey, New York, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models
Well, it didn’t take long before the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) released, at the request of Texas’ very political Public Utilities Commission, another report about the impacts of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) rules designed to protect public health.
This time ERCOT, which manages 90 percent of Texas’ electric grid, looked at the impact of seven EPA clean air safeguards on the electric grid, including the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), the Mercury Air Toxics Standard (MATS), the Regional Haze program (all of which go back before the Obama administration), the proposed Clean Power Plan, which would set the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, and others. What was surprising to learn, though, is that after power companies in the state start complying with EPA’s other clean air protections, the proposed Clean Power Plan poses a minimal incremental impact to the power grid. We would only have to cut 200 megawatts of coal-fired generation, which equates to less than one coal-fired power plant. Read More
At a time when the oil and gas industry claims that methane emissions from their well sites are coming down, here’s a study that adds scientific weight to the argument that emissions may actually be HIGHER than they claim.
A new study by researchers at the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, published today in Environmental Science and Technology, took a look at two key processes in oil and gas production – pneumatic controllers and liquids unloading – and concluded that average methane emissions from pneumatic controllers are 17 percent higher than the estimates industry has been citing, and total emissions from these devices may be more than twice as high as they’ve been saying. According to the UT study, together, pneumatic controllers and liquids unloadings account for 40 percent of total methane emissions from oil and gas production.
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, over 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming pollutant. Unnecessary venting and leaking of methane – the key ingredient in the natural gas that we use to heat our homes, cook our food, and power many of our industries – waste a precious national energy resource. Colorado and a few other states are already taking steps to reduce this waste through sensible regulations that cover oil and gas producers, and within two weeks the federal Environmental Protection Agency will announce what it intends to do about this problem. This latest UT study is further evidence that methane leakage is a national problem and national regulation is urgently needed to reduce this powerful pollutant and set a level playing field for the over 6,000 oil and gas production companies in business in the United States today. Read More
The holidays are upon us. As we prepare to gather with our friends and family, eat too much, and lounge around watching football, many people use this time to reflect on what they are grateful for. Being able to pay one’s electricity bill probably doesn’t make most people’s list, but for many Americans, it might.
The average household spends $1,945 annually on electricity, and homes with the lowest 20 percent of income spent nearly six percent of their income on energy bills. For many households, the cost of energy remains unaffordable. To put it in perspective, compared to middle- or upper-class homes, low-income households spend about twice the percentage of their income on energy. Yet, as Greentech Media points out, “many [energy management] solutions are tailored to the biggest homes, those awash in thousands of square feet of central air with a pool pump. Other solutions are tailored for middle-class homes, such as aggressive rebates for more efficient appliances. Many apartment-dwellers, however, do not own their major appliances."
The future of smart home, energy-saving technologies is often more focused on affluent, early-adopters who benefit from innovative ways to save energy because they can afford the newest gadgets. Thankfully, these people are using their buying power to lead the way, as more demand will bring prices down for everyone. While it is important for all of us to conserve and better manage energy use, low-income individuals have the most to gain. Yet the technologies that can enable savings are often out of financial reach. Read More