Earlier this week, I testified at a hearing of the Texas House Committee on Environmental Regulation, specifically on how Texas will respond to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP), the nation’s first-ever limit on carbon pollution from existing power plants. But before I went to the Capitol, my three-year-old daughter asked me where I was going. I told her I was going to work, and she asked me, “Mommy, what are you going to save?” I replied that I was going to save water, and she said, “Good job, Mommy.”
That’s exactly what the CPP could do for Texas: save millions of gallons of water each year by encouraging the state to switch from polluting power sources (like coal plants) to non-polluting sources (such as wind and solar farms) and increase no-water solutions like energy efficiency.
It’s no secret that Texas is currently in the midst of a multi-year drought – yet the vast majority of our electricity comes from sources that contribute to this prolonged drought, namely coal, nuclear, and natural gas. All of these energy sources require copious amounts of water to produce electricity. Read More
The story of Texas wind energy is a success, but it's an odd history.
In 1999, when Texas deregulated the energy market, a deal was struck to include a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), a requirement that power companies source a certain amount of their electricity from renewable energy by certain dates. Texas surpassed the original targets, as well as subsequently increased targets, eventually making Texas the U.S. wind leader. In fact, the wind industry’s success has been an integral part of the "Texas Miracle" of job creation, especially in West Texas, which hasn't seen an economic boom like this since before the Great Depression.
However, state Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) and other legislators think that, because Texas blew past its wind goals, we can call it a "mission accomplished" and repeal the RPS. Repealing Texas’ wind goals at this time, though, could undermine Texas’ wind industry, potentially eliminating thousands of jobs and halting millions of investment dollars Texas receives every year.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) recently released its annual U.S. Wind Industry Market Report for 2014. The report puts Texas on a pedestal, highlighting how the Lone Star State is home to 37 percent of newly installed wind capacity in 2014. Of the 12,700 megawatts (MW) under construction across the country, approximately 7,000 MW are in Texas. Unsurprisingly, Texas leads the country with over 17,000 wind industry jobs. In the list of the Top 10 Public Utilities and Public Utility Districts with Wind Capacity on System across the U.S., Texas’ own CPS Energy in San Antonio and Austin Energy rank first and third, respectively. Read More
The Texas Senate is poised to vote on House Bill 40, new legislation that threatens to gut municipal rules and oversight of oil and gas drilling. The bill, an over-the-top reaction to the Denton fracking ban, stacks the deck in favor of industry and if passed, will undo almost 100 years of local home-rule authority.
That’s a big problem for Texas cities, especially since there seems to be broad misconception about what HB 40 does and doesn’t do. Despite what supporters are saying, this is not a “narrowly tailored” bill, but instead, a complete restructuring of Texas government that will drastically impact a city’s ability to protect the health, public safety and property of Texans who live in areas with heavy drilling activity.
Here are the facts: Read More
By: Suzanne L. Bertin, Director of Regulatory Affairs at EnerNOC
With the blooming Texas bluebonnets signalling the end of winter and at least a few weeks before the blazing heat begins, spring might not seem the ideal time for the Texas Legislature to debate laws about keeping the lights on or electric grid reliability.
But with a history of extreme temperatures, a booming population and economy, and new federal clean air rules coming into effect, now is the time for the Texas Legislature to take a strong policy stance in favor of demand response, an energy management program too long neglected as part of Texas’ comprehensive energy portfolio. Simply put, demand response is an innovative tool that rewards people who use less electricity during times of peak, or high, energy demand. In effect, demand response relies on people and technology, not power plants, to meet the need for electricity. But energy market rules prevent demand response from reaching its potential in Texas, because they fail to fully recognize its value and pose barriers to its providing energy and reliability services.
Advanced Energy Management Alliance (AEMA) – a coalition which includes demand response providers, end-user customers, suppliers, and affiliated businesses operating in Texas – is joining with the Environmental Defense Fund to support bills that would expand the deployment of demand response in Texas and eliminate constraints that impede its growth. Read More
There is an assault on public health and environmental integrity underway in the Texas Legislature right now that’s the worst I’ve seen in my twenty-something years as an environmental advocate.
The Texas Legislature is currently considering a series of bills that would eliminate much of the important rules protecting not just air and water, but also public health and safety. Many of these laws have been in place for decades and are critical in a state where the energy industry and large polluting companies are a key part of our economy.
Here’s a run-down of some of the worst bills being considered at the Texas Legislature and the elected “leaders” sponsoring them:
Crime: State Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), author of Senate Bill (SB) 931, is proposing to undo the law that put Texas on the national – and international – map for wind energy: the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Set into law in 1999, the RPS set renewable energy, predominately wind, goals for Texas, launching a windfall of new investment in West Texas and the Panhandle. This is the same law that helped create 40 new businesses and 30,000 jobs in 57 West Texas counties, including Fraser’s own county.
Wind energy is a vital component of Texas’ economy and environment. Not only does it support thousands of jobs, predominately in rural West Texas, but wind energy also requires virtually zero water, saving an estimated eight billion gallons of water each year. This bill would also halt construction of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ), a 3,600 mile transmission line that will connect remote West Texas wind energy to the eastern cities that need its power. This project, one that the state has already invested in, would deliver enough power to energize 3.7 million to 7.4 million homes and increase the available wind power supply by a whopping 50 percent. Read More
It wasn't long after my husband connected our first smart home device, a Nest Learning Thermostat, that I noticed a change.
Each time he walked by this new gadget, he would stop and do a little dance. He was interacting with this new friend, and it was a purely emotional response. He even insisted we repaint our wall to better showcase the Nest Thermostat, though he never suggested that for our artwork. Not only was our home connected, but now our hearts were in it.
This was no ordinary smart device. The Nest Thermostat gave us a sense of power, control, and freedom. And it said “hi” to us with its shining light as we approached. The best thing was the money we were saving by lowering our electricity bill, because we could now make sense of how we were using our air conditioning. This also helped reduce our carbon footprint. Read More
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