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
Also posted in Smart Grid Tagged Google, Nest
Cowboys, frontier grit, accented English, and wild, wide open spaces are just a few of the similarities shared by Texas and Australia. Both places also have an energy-water problem. But, the good news for Texas is that it’s not too late for us to learn from Australia’s mistakes – and a few successes, too.
In July 2014, Australia abandoned its carbon price, which gave Australia, a country with one of the highest per capita emissions of any developed country in the world and uses even more coal than the United States, the largest carbon-price system in the world outside of the European Union. (That is, until California’s program took effect in January 2013—California has the first-ever economy-wide carbon market in North America, potentially linking to other sub-national, national and regional markets around the world.) Since then, the Australian government has been in talks to significantly scale back its renewable energy target (RET), and the months-long squabbling without resolution is threatening the country’s renewable energy sector.
Texas, whose drought started in October 2010, is now in its worst drought on record. And some Texas leaders are taking a similar, short-sighted path as Australia when it comes to rolling back successful clean energy initiatives – ones that could also save scarce water supplies. Currently in the midst of its biennial legislative session, Texas is considering bills that would scrap the state’s successful wind renewable portfolio standard and prevent the state from complying with the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP), which establishes the nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution. Read More
By: Charlene Heydinger, Executive Director, Keeping PACE in Texas
Today marked a milestone for Texas’ clean energy economy. Travis County voted to adopt the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, making it the first county in Texas to do so. This means Austin and the surrounding area will soon reap the economic and environmental benefits from giving energy-intensive, thirsty Texas a reprieve with water efficiency and clean energy.
What is PACE?
PACE, enacted during the 2013 Texas Legislature with support from both sides of the aisle, has the potential to unlock a considerable amount of private funding for clean energy projects in the state. Specifically, it is an innovative financing program – completely free of government mandates and public funding – that enables commercial, industrial, multi-family, and agricultural property owners to obtain low-cost, long-term loans for water conservation, energy-efficiency, and renewable energy projects. Participants will then repay these loans for clean energy projects through their property tax bill. Read More
At Environmental Defense Fund, we advocate for policymakers, utilities, and other decision makers to design programs and support policies that enable everyone to benefit from a clean energy future, especially low-income families who are disproportionately affected by pollution from power plants. Recently, in Texas, a new innovation caught our eye that brings this concept to life.
This post is an interview with Gridmates CEO George Koutitas, who is harnessing the Internet, crowdsourcing, and generosity to bring light and warmth into homes that otherwise wouldn’t have power.
What is energy poverty? In the U.S. and Texas, how many live without electricity or struggle to pay for their electricity bill each month?
In the U.S., approximately 48 million people are at or below the poverty line and may be suffering from energy poverty, meaning they cannot afford to pay for electricity and other utilities. In Texas, more than 4.6 million people are living in energy poverty. These are low-income families and, in some occasions, they owe a $5,000 accumulated debt to utilities. This debt often leads to energy service disconnections, leaving families without heat and power. Thankfully, in 2014, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provided energy assistance to roughly 6.9 million households nationwide, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Read More