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Selected tag(s): Texas Legislature

A Promise to Our Children to Save Water in Texas

Source: flickr/carolee

Source: flickr/carolee

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.

Virtuous cycle

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 »

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Energy-Water Nexus, Texas / Tagged | Read 2 Responses

Wind Energy: It’s What Texas does Best, if State Leaders Will Let Us

flickr-katsrcoolThe 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 »

Posted in Clean Energy, Texas / Also tagged | Comments are closed

What Texas’ Elected Officials Should Know About House Bill 40

HB40The 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 »

Posted in Natural Gas, Texas / Also tagged , , | Comments are closed

Renewables BuyBack Bill Pays Good Money For Clean Energy

Picture this: You live in Texas, the state with the most solar energy potential in the U.S.  Knowing this, you decide to install solar panels on your home’s rooftop because, in Texas, you can lease – rather than buy – the entire solar energy system.  The option to lease allows you to take advantage of a low monthly payment that will be offset by the savings on your energy bill, rather than face high upfront investment costs.

Now, while you are at work during the day, your panels are actually putting excess, unused energy back onto the grid, when electricity is most expensive.  And, that surplus of energy isn’t just wasted; it is used by your electric company to serve other customers.  In most states, electric companies buy this power back at a retail rate.  But, in Texas it’s not quite that simple.  In order to see any form of pay back, you have to be a lucky customer of one of only three retailers – TXU Energy, Reliant Energy and Green Mountain Energy – that offer “renewable buyback” rates in Texas.  If you happen to buy electricity from one of the other 50 retailers serving residential providers across the state, though, you could always switch over to a renewable buyback program.  But there is no guarantee that you will be paid a fair market value for the 25+ years your solar energy system is expected to last.

Making a long-term investment to protect against highly-fluctuating, unpredictable electric rates is a difficult decision, and making that decision without knowing whether you are guaranteed fair compensation is nearly impossible.  This is one of the key reasons why Texas lags behind the nation in solar adoption.  Fortunately, there is a solution in the works.  Senate Bill 1239 from state Senator Jose Rodriguez seeks to guarantee homeowners, schools and religious facilities at least a minimum buyback rate based on wholesale market energy prices, which were about 50 percent lower than retail rates in 2011, on average.  The bill has a similar impact for rural electric co-operative, municipal and independently-owned utility customers, ensuring that any homeowner, school or religious entity that installs a properly-sized solar energy system will be compensated comparable to the way a fossil fuel power plant is compensated in the wholesale market. Read More »

Posted in Renewable Energy, Texas / Tagged | Read 1 Response

When We Save Energy In Texas, We Also Save Water

Last week, the Texas Coalition for Water, Energy and Economic Security (TCWEES), of which EDF is a member, held a legislative briefing at the Texas Capitol titled Energy & Water, Dollars & Sense: Improving security and maximizing benefits to Texas businesses and residents. The briefing focused on the nexus of water and energy, and furthered the idea that where you save energy, you save water too. The briefing included a panel discussion and a question and answer session.

State Representative Lyle Larson from San Antonio welcomed attendees, a speaker that is well-suited to talk about water issues. Before becoming a state legislator, he served on San Antonio’s City Council, a city with one of the best water conservation programs in the country. Representative Larson started with an interesting point: In addition to the physical issues of water scarcity, we also need to resolve the psychological issues of water resources.

People simply do not think of water as a scarce resource, despite the multi-year droughts we’ve seen in Texas. Addressing water scarcity has been done in much the same way as system-wide power shortages: in a short term, reactive way, rather than a long term, proactive way. And we will never be able to meet our energy or water needs of our growing populations by being short-sighted.

Representative Larson said that water is the number one impediment to business no matter where you are in the world. Water-rich countries will take American jobs if we can’t address our scarcity, and water-rich states will take Texan jobs. We don’t deploy best management practices in this state when it comes to water. And calling for more water infrastructure is great, but conservation is going to save significantly more water than new infrastructure will. Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus, Texas / Tagged | Comments are closed

Moving The Electric Market Forward In Texas, Bit By Bit

Will the "slow and steady" approach win the race for the new energy economy?

The Texas legislature is more than halfway through its biennial 140 day sprint, and I doubt anyone’s surprised at the level of heated political rhetoric.  Still, somehow in the midst of this political morass, a few bills that would help modernize both our electric grid and energy markets have begun to move.  These bills may not make or break the clean energy industry but they can help break down outdated market barriers and get rid of unnecessary red tape.  That would go a long way toward bringing more solar power, energy efficiency and customer choice to the state.

While they may not make the market in Texas, they will make the market work.  New business models are helping customers make the investments they want in renewable energy and efficiency, and the continuing decline in technology cost makes these changes all the more critical.  For instance, Senate bill 981 offered by Chairman Carona, would free third party ownership models like those offered by SunEdison from the regulatory webs in Texas that have prevented an aggressive investment in new technology in most of the state.  It also would get rid of the outdated requirement for anyone with a solar panel on their roof to register as a wholesale power generator.

It’s remarkable that during a session filled with so much politics and rhetoric, a sensible bill to cut red tape in Texas that keeps new businesses from growing is making its way through the process.  The bill was passed by the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce late last month and will hopefully pass through the Senate quickly, heading to the House.  Another bill, SB 1501 from Sen. Watson would allow smart grid companies like Tendril, Incenergy (an Austin startup) and oPower to use one of the nation’s smartest grids to provide customers with detailed usage information that will reduce their electricity consumption.  The bill, which passed out of committee last week will bring innovative businesses and industries to Texas, and benefit electric consumers at the same time.  Its companion legislation, HB 2709 from Rep. Turner will be heard in the House Committee on State Affairs this Wednesday.

Speaking of the House, there have already been positive hearings on a few important bills, notably HB 340 from Rep. Pete Gallego and HB 774 from Rep. Anchia.  The first bill is similar to SB 981 but also includes an important provision that would ensure customers would get a fair rate from their utility on any excess renewable electricity they generate at their home, church or school.  Historically this has been an issue of heated debate between customers and their utilities, but Rep. Gallego and his staff deserve credit for working over the last few sessions to bring together a broad consensus.  Thanks to a series of meetings led by Rep. Gallego and TXU Energy that consensus seems to be very near and hopefully we’ll see the bill move forward in the process this week.

Rep. Anchia’s HB 774, which sets a goal for the state of building 1,500 MW of non-wind renewable energy received a very positive hearing in the House Committee on Energy Resources.  The bill’s companion in the Senate, Sen. Watson’s SB 330 has yet to be heard in the Committee on Natural Resources, nor has Chairman Fraser’s SB 492 solar omnibus bill.  As Chairman Keffer summed it up near the end of the Energy Resources hearing, the bill helps the state avoid “putting all our eggs in one basket” but the Chairman pointed out some political concerns relating to the bill.  Since the bill seeks to replicate our success with wind, one of both our current and former Governor’s favorite bragging points, its unclear why this issue would be politicized.

Another key bill is from Rep. Darby: HB 2961 would create a statewide solar program that would develop residential, commercial and utility scale solar in Texas.  The solar industry is one of the fastest growing and most dynamic industries in the world, with manufacturing plants being built in Tennessee, Michigan, Pennsylvania and a handful of other states.  So far Texas has failed to attract this dynamic industry, and HB 2961, which is up for a hearing this Wednesday, seeks to reverse that trend and bring new businesses to the state.

For the now the future of any of the bills that would jumpstart the development of solar power or other renewables is less clear.  That’s bad new for the businesses looking to come to Texas to grow, but at least there is some good news during a pretty difficult session.

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Texas / Tagged | Comments are closed