Groundbreaking Study Shows New Coal Plants are Uneconomic in 97 Percent of US Counties

wind-energy-pixabayBy: Ferit Ucar

At Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we understand that market forces can drive either a healthy environment – or harmful pollution. I recently wrote about how generating electricity often creates pollution, which comes with environmental and health costs that are usually not paid for by the polluters. That’s why EDF works to identify and correct market failures, like the failure to understand – as well as account for – all of the costs pollution imposes on society.

The Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) just released a useful tool in that pursuit: a study that aims to capture the full cost of new electric power generation – including environmental and public health costs – on a county-by-county basis in the United States. The study evolves traditional ways of estimating new generation costs by 1) incorporating pollution costs, and 2) breaking data down to the county level.

The results show economics are leading the U.S. to a cleaner energy economy, in which there is no role for new coal plants. Let’s break it down. Read More »

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What Do the 2016 Elections Mean for the Clean Power Plan?

cpp_supportmap_600President-Elect Trump has repeatedly claimed that climate change is a “hoax,” and has appointed notorious climate denier Myron Ebell to run the transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). During the campaign, Trump advocated for “scrapping” the Clean Power Plan – the nation’s first limits on harmful climate pollution from existing power plants, which are among the United States’ very largest sources of these contaminants.

Lost in this campaign rhetoric was the reality that states and companies across the country are already making cost-effective investments in transformative clean energy technologies that are rapidly reducing emissions of climate pollution across the power sector. These investments are helping deliver a more reliable and affordable electricity grid, yielding tremendous public health benefits by reducing emissions of soot and smog-forming pollutants, and driving job growth in communities around the country.

The Clean Power Plan builds on all of these trends and helps ensure they will continue for years to come, but the Trump Administration will be hard pressed to stop the progress underway in its tracks. Read More »

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Why Water Utilities Need an Energy Plan – and How Texas is Making Progress

water-tower-1420989568vmuWhen you prepare the Thanksgiving meal, do you ask each person to make a dish of their choosing, with no coordination for an overall cohesive meal? Probably not. Most likely, you plan, because you want everything to fit together.

Now imagine a water utility with different departments like water quality, finance, and administration. Most water utilities have high energy costs, so each department needs to manage and reduce its energy use – but typically there’s no plan to synchronize these efforts. With such a piecemeal approach, the utility may get overall energy savings, but it’s not maximizing the potential to meet ambitious efficiency goals or reduce power costs.

Enter the Energy Management Plan (EMP), a tool that sets up an organization-wide strategy for energy use. By creating a coordinated vision, an EMP establishes clear efficiency goals and gives departments the flexibility and direction for meeting them. That’s what this summer’s EDF Climate Corps fellow focused on at Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD), which supplies water to 2 million users in the Fort Worth area. The TRWD fellow found opportunities where an EMP could improve the utility’s energy efficiency and management, leading to potential savings and less wasted water. Read More »

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4 Ways to Enhance Texas’ Approach to Electric Reliability

power-lines-pixabayFor one scorching week in August, Texas broke electricity-use records on three different days. And the main grid operator met that exceptional demand every time.

That’s because the grid operator’s top priority is right there in its name: the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). ERCOT deploys many tools to ensure the lights stay on, including Reliability Must-Run (RMR) agreements, which keep open a power plant – like a coal or natural gas plant – that otherwise planned to stop or suspend operations. Recently, there has been concern that the use of RMRs may increase due to market conditions, specifically low electricity prices that are forcing uneconomic plants to retire.

RMRs serve a critical purpose. But as technology transforms the way we power our lives, we need smart policies that recognize the unprecedented array of new energy options. ERCOT currently is in the process of revising its rules, and Environmental Defense Fund has a few recommendations on how the grid operator can improve its approach to reliability agreements, so Texans can enjoy a healthier, cleaner, and more affordable energy future. Read More »

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Affordable Housing Can Save Money, Water, and Energy with this Innovative Finance Tool

By: Laura Sanchez, EDF Climate Corps 2016 Fellow

Like many booming cities, Texas’ capital is experiencing overwhelming demand for affordable housing. Austin’s Mayor Steve Adler highlighted the affordable housing crisis shortly after taking office in January 2015, and urged the use of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) to help encourage affordability. PACE enables commercial, industrial, and multifamily property owners to improve the water or energy efficiency of their buildings – without having to worry about steep upfront costs. Investing in these types of upgrades can reduce a property’s operating costs, as well as tenants’ utility bills.

That’s why I spent this past summer with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), as an EDF Climate Corps Fellow with Texas PACE Authority, the PACE program administrator in the state. In June 2016, Mayor Adler created a committee of housing experts to determine how to leverage PACE for affordable housing. Alongside the committee, I worked to size up the opportunity, benefits, and challenges of using PACE to help pay for upgrades to affordable multifamily-housing properties.

After conversations with officials and program administrators from over 30 public for-profit and non-profit entities, we found there are significant opportunities – in Texas and nationwide – for the affordable multifamily-housing sector to leverage PACE. We are proud to present a new whitepaper that can serve as a guide to unlocking water, energy, and cost savings. Read More »

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Talking TERP– The Texas Approach to Clean Air (Part 2)

Photo courtesy of: Texas House of Representatives

Photo courtesy of: Texas House of Representatives

(In Part 1 of our series on the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, we provided an overview to the unique approach that Texas has taken to incentivize clean air under a voluntary program that “pays” participants to modernize their older engines and equipment. Today, in Part 2, we’ll consider whether the program has been a good investment in clean air for the state.)

What would you do with $2.4 billion dollars?

In Texas, we dedicated those funds to a program that would reduce emissions – the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP). That’s a serious investment in clean air by the Lone Star State (consider, for example, the cost of the Dallas Cowboys football stadium that came in at a mere $1.2 billion).

This year marks the program’s fifteen year anniversary, so it seems timely to take a look at whether TERP has returned a good investment for the State of Texas.

What makes an investment “good”? A standard answer is that a good investment is one that achieves your goals, whether they are financial, health-related, or some other goal. TERP was created with five statutory objectives, summarized in the Texas Health and Safety Code: Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, TCEQ| Comments are closed
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