Texas Clean Air Matters

Schooling Demand Response in Texas Academia

By: Corina Solis, graduate of Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

2014-training-yale-cropThe Alamo Colleges began participating in local utility company, CPS Energy’s Demand Response Program in the summer of 2013. This Demand Response Program is one of CPS Energy’s strategies to achieve its 2020 goal of saving 771 megawatts of energy. The Alamo Colleges participated in the program in order to take advantage of a significant rebate opportunity, which was a maximum of $120,600 in 2013 and is $130,650 in 2014. Rebates are based on the level of participation, and in 2013, the Alamo Colleges earned rebates totaling $103,000. Through a self-funding strategy, all of this money went back to the Alamo Colleges to pay for faculty and staff salaries.

As an extra benefit, while saving all of this money, the Alamo Colleges trim their carbon footprint each time they participate in demand response. Last year, the Alamo Colleges prevented 2,250 lbs. of CO2 from going into the atmosphere from its demand response participation. This year, the Alamo Colleges are contracted to prevent up to five and a half tons of CO2 from escaping into the atmosphere, which would otherwise take 140 tree seedlings ten years to naturally take out of the atmosphere. Read More »

Posted in Demand Response| Tagged | Leave a comment

Money to Burn? Questioning Public Health Priorities at the TCEQ

Source: flickr.com/photos/earthworks

Flaring in Eagle Ford Shale
Source: flickr.com/photos/earthworks

The Texas Tribune recently published a piece debunking some of the science behind the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) position on the national health standard for ozone – one of the most ubiquitous and harmful air pollutants on the planet. As outlined in the agency’s latest newsletter, TCEQ’s Director of Toxicology, Mike Honeycutt, questions the benefits of a stronger standard, even though public health experts across the country have been calling for a more protective standard for years. What’s more disappointing than the agency’s apparent anti-health position, however, is the lack of attention to other legitimate air pollution issues in Texas.

It would seem that the agency must have a surplus of staff, as well as unlimited resources to establish such an aggressive position on a standard that hasn’t been proposed yet. The reality is that there are so many more important things that the agency could and should be doing to serve and protect Texas citizens from real air pollution threats, including:  Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Dallas Fort-Worth, Environment, Flare emissions, Natural gas, Ozone, TCEQ| Leave a comment

Point – Counterpoint: Heartland Institute Gets It Wrong on Wind

Source: AWEA

Source: AWEA

On the heels of a recent Forbes blog post where I call out Texas' Comptroller for playing favorites in her biased scrutiny of Texas' wind industry, comes another Forbes piece by James Taylor from the Heartland Institute. Confusing correlation with causation, Taylor claims wind energy causes higher energy prices. However, an increase in electricity prices cannot automatically be accounted for by pointing the finger at wind energy. That’s simply playing fast and loose with the facts.

This is the same tired slant we have heard from Heartland Institute time and time again. Not surprising – when pundits want to cherry pick data to make their argument strong, it doesn’t always work.

First there are many, many factors that determine energy rates, not just one type of resource. In an analysis of utility rates, economists Ernst Berndt, Roy Epstein, and Michael Doane identified 13 reasons why an electric utility’s rates may be higher or lower than the average. They include things like the average use per customer, age of the electricity distribution system, generation resource mix, local taxes, and rate of increases prior to any implemented renewable portfolio standard (RPS). So faulting renewables for high energy prices is a bogus claim. Furthermore, there is no data showing a nationwide pattern of renewable energy standards leading to rate increases for consumers. The report states: “American consumers in the top wind energy-producing states have seen their electricity prices actually decrease by 0.37 percent over the last 5 years, while all other states have seen their electricity prices increase by 7.79 percent over that time period." Further, 15 studies from various grid operators, state governments, and academic experts have examined the impact of wind energy on wholesale electricity prices and confirmed that wind energy reduces electricity prices. Read More »

Posted in Green Jobs, Renewable Energy, Wind| Tagged , | Leave a comment

Bill Would Obstruct Clean Air Act Protections

Air quality signboard indicating an ozone watch - Harris County Courthouse Annex 19 - Gulfton, Houston.

Air quality signboard indicating an ozone watch – Harris County Courthouse Annex 19 – Gulfton, Houston.

Earlier this year, close to 20 Texas counties received a grade of "F" from the American Lung Association for ozone pollution (up from 15 counties in 2013). Ozone is one of the most ubiquitous and harmful air pollutants on the planet and has been linked to premature deaths, increased asthma attacks and other severe respiratory illnesses, as well as increased emergency room and hospital admissions. And it poses an especially serious risk to children, seniors and those with lung diseases like asthma and bronchitis.

If realized, a stronger public health standard for ozone would prevent up to 12,000 premature deaths, avoid up to 21,000 hospitalizations and provide $100 billion in associated economic benefits.

Why then are Texas officials fighting tooth and nail against it?

U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, joined by fellow Texas Republican Reps. Lamar Smith of San Antonio, Pete Sessions of Dallas, Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi, Kevin Brady of the Houston area, John Carter of Round Rock and Sam Johnson of Richardson, introduced a bill that would serve to obstruct health protections promised in the Clean Air Act. This bill would deny Texas cities, the state and the country from their right to strong public health protections. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Ozone| Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Benefits of Clean Power Plan Are Measureable – Drop for Drop

Hallisburg Texas power plantSince EPA released its proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP) in June of this year, the plan has been a hot topic in every state. In Texas alone, the state has held a joint regulatory agency hearing and two days of legislative hearings. Unfortunately, in both cases, the general tone of testimony was that of Chicken Little. But I prefer to view the CPP as a fantastic opportunity and certainly don’t think the sky will fall because of it. In fact, our skies should be considerably brighter without all that carbon pollution clouding them up.

I’ve written before about the opportunity for Texas to amplify current trends and increase our energy efficiency and renewable energy to meet these goals. And there’s an added benefit to transitioning away from coal-fired power plants and toward cleaner energy choices, one that will be critical in a state like Texas that’s in the middle of a multi-year drought: water savings and relief for our parched state.

What if I told you that with the CPP, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which controls the power grid for roughly 80 percent of the state, could save more than 60,000 acre-feet (or nearly 21 billion gallons) of water per year by 2030? Read More »

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Climate Change, Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus| Leave a comment

Red River Rivalry: What Oklahoma Gas & Electric can Teach Texas Utilities

800px-Red_River_Shootout_2006Fall is in the air, the State Fair of Texas is in full swing, and the annual meeting of the University of Texas (UT) and the University of Oklahoma (OU) will occur at Dallas' Cotton Bowl this weekend. One of the greatest football rivalries in the Big 12, UT and OU have been battling it out since 1900. Even the governors of both states frequently place bets on the game, like the losing governor having to present a side of beef to the winning governor.

And, while Sooners and Longhorns may not easily take advice from each other, Texas utilities should take a few lessons from Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E). OG&E is Oklahoma's regulated utility serving over 800,000 customers in Oklahoma and western Arkansas.

Here in Texas, we are proud of many things from our "don't fence me in" ethos and wide-open landscapes to our self-reliance and abundant natural resources. Not too many states have the type of pride that Texas possesses (kitschy or otherwise). That pride extends to our innovative energy utilities as well, like Green Mountain Energy, Austin Energy, and CPS Energy in San Antonio, all of which are helping lead the state into the new energy sphere. Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, Smart Grid| Comments closed

Texas Comptroller’s New Report Should Not Play Favorites

lollie-pop flickrRecently, the Texas Comptroller, Susan Combs, decided to come out swinging against renewable energy, specifically wind, in a report entitled Texas Power Challenge: Getting the Most From Your Energy Dollars. It would be easier to take this report seriously if it applied the same pressure and scrutiny to the oil, gas, and coal industries, which have received subsidies and incentives hand over fist. But, no, the attacks seem to focus only on renewables.

What’s worse is the Comptroller’s report is not based in fact. One of the main points of contention is the CREZ transmission lines that were built to ease the bottle-necked energy congestion in West Texas. Yes, this congestion was partly due to more wind energy on the power grid needing to make its way to cities in the East, but natural gas very much benefited from the added transmission lines as well. Even Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, a Republican ally of Combs', took her to task for this in a statement to the Texas Energy Report: Read More »

Posted in Renewable Energy, Wind| Comments closed

EDF Debuts Clean Energy Video and Raises a Glass to Austin and Pecan Street Inc.

Last night, EDF, CleanTX, Pecan Street Inc., and Google hosted one of the clean energy events of the season.

We brought everyone in the Austin clean energy community – from legislators to cleantech entrepreneurs to EDF members – together to celebrate the tremendous progress our great city has made as a clean energy leader over the years, serving as an incubator and hub for some of the most exciting and innovative companies in the clean tech sector. After all, it is the collective hard work and dedication of everyone that put Austin on the map as a global leader in the clean energy economy.

We also kicked off the evening with a screening of our new video that highlights what the smart grid is doing for American energy. Set in Austin’s Mueller neighborhood, one of the world’s largest green-built communities and Pecan Street Inc.’s testbed for energy innovation, this short film tells the dynamic story of a clean energy future from within the American home. It gives people who live in a connected community a chance to express what clean energy means to them personally, from independence and innovation to health and reliability. The heroes of the film are ordinary people from the community who are part of this quiet revolution.

Read More »

Posted in Pecan Street, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Solar, Wind| Tagged , | Comments closed

Solar in Texas: It's Really Happening this Time (Really)

iStock_Solar_InstallerEvery year, it seems, is predicted to be the “year for solar,” and for certain states this may ring true.

But in Texas, despite having a close relationship with the sun and its heat (2011 gave us 100 days over 100 degrees and no rain), we have yet to realize our potential for solar energy development, the highest potential of any state in the nation. Texas currently only has about 213 megawatts (MW) of solar energy installed (compared to over 237 MW in little ol’ Massachusetts). Recent developments, however, make me encouraged that the next few years will be the catalyst for finally fulfilling that potential.

Austin

A few weeks ago, the Austin City Council voted on an ambitious solar step forward, directing a “utility-scale solar target of 600 megawatts by 2017, a rooftop solar target of 200 megawatts by 2020, explicit language enabling third-party solar ownership, a floor price for the value-of-solar tariff…and a mandatory strategy to procure 200 megawatts of fast-response storage.” The resolution will require the municipal utility, Austin Energy, to obtain 60 percent of its electricity generation from renewables over the next decade, and to be completely carbon-free by 2030. Read More »

Posted in Renewable Energy, Utilities| 1 Response, comments now closed

Don’t Miss the Biggest Climate March Ever!

Thirteen of the 14 hottest years on record have all occurred since 2000. So when it comes to climate justice, are you going to sit on the sidelines or be part of the solution? If you want to act on climate change, join your fellow Texans at the “Shield the People Climate March” in Austin this Sunday, September 21. EDF will be out in force joining together with faith groups, labor unions, community associations, environmental justice organizations, and a broad coalition of people calling for action to reduce climate change pollution.

The Austin event is a local response to the “People’s Climate March” taking place on the same day in New York City, which is being billed as the largest climate march in history. The backdrop for this historic day of action is a special summit at the United Nations that will bring world leaders together to act on the climate crisis. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon even recently announced that he “will link arms with those marching for climate action.” World leaders, including President Obama, need to hear from the public loud and clear that we can’t afford to wait any longer. Read More »

Posted in Uncategorized| Comments closed
  • Confluence of SJR, Old, and Middle rivers

    About This Blog

    Advocating for healthier air and cleaner energy in Texas through public education and policy influence.

  • Get blog posts by email

    Subscribe via RSS

  • From Twitter

  • Meet The Bloggers

    Ramon AlvarezRamon Alvarez
    Senior Scientist

    Elena Craft
    Health Scientist

    Jim Marston
    Vice President, US Climate and Energy Program, Director of the Texas regional office

    Marita Mirzatuny
    Project Manager

    Marcelo Norsworthy
    Transportation Research Analyst

    Kate Zerrenner
    Project Manager

  • Categories

  • Archives