Monthly Archives: June 2013

Energy Capital Of The Nation Turns To Smart Power

Last week, the City of Houston announced that it would increase its purchase of renewable electricity to cover half of its energy use.  The city will use almost 623,000 megawatt-hours of electricity from renewable sources per year—equivalent to the energy used by 55,000 residential homes annually.  The purchase makes Houston the largest municipal buyer of renewable energy in the nation.  While Houston’s latest renewable energy purchase may seem at odds with its reputation as an oil and gas hub, it’s exactly the sort of common-sense decision we expect from a city that’s touted as the energy capital of the nation.

Houston is in good company among other Texas cities. The City of Austin already gets 100% of its electricity from renewable sources.  To make the switch, the city leveraged Austin Energy’s GreenChoice program, one of the nation’s most successful utility-sponsored and voluntary green-pricing programs.  The program is part of Austin’s Climate Protection Plan, which establishes a 35 % renewable portfolio goal for Austin Energy by 2020.  In San Antonio, the municipally owned CPS Energy has emerged as a leader in smart power. Through its New Energy Economy initiative, CPS Energy is growing its network of smart meters and expanding its installed solar capacity, among many other sustainable initiatives.  Today, CPS Energy uses more solar energy than any other Texas utility, while still having the lowest electric rates among the top 10 largest cities in the United States. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Energy Efficiency, Extreme Weather, Green Jobs, Houston, Renewable Energy, San Antonio, Solar, Wind| Comments closed

Latinos In Texas Especially Vulnerable To Impacts Of Climate Change

Para leer este artículo en español, haga clic aquí

Source: Texas Vox

This week, President Obama shared his vision for how the U.S. can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the effects of global warming.  This is the great challenge of our time and our moral responsibility compels us to take action now.  It is time to implement practical and sensible solutions to ensure that we leave a healthy planet for our kids and grandkids.

Climate change knows no boundaries; whether you live in an urban or rural area, close to the ocean or the mountains or somewhere in between, you are impacted by climate change.

The increased likelihood of extreme weather events may result in stronger, more intense hurricanes and the development of long-lasting droughts; both of which can increase food costs and decrease our government’s resources in the long term.

Public health is another concern, particularly for Hispanics, which account for 40% of Texas’ population.  Respiratory diseases, such as asthma, can be aggravated by changes in the weather. According to the National Institute of Health, Hispanics have an elevated rate of hospital admissions and emergency room visits due to these diseases.  Simply put, global warming puts our planet’s and family’s health at risk.

In Texas, we’ve seen our fair share of extreme weather and many of our industries and employment sources are being affected.  The ongoing drought that began three years ago continues to constrict water supplies around the state and is hindering the agricultural, recreational and energy sectors. The water crisis has reached critical limits in the Rio Grande Valley, where Hispanics account for 90% of the population. In some areas, economic losses could total $395 million.   Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Drought, En Español, Extreme Weather, Houston| Tagged | Comments closed

Demand Response: Power For The Grid Starts With The People

This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel entitled, Resource Adequacy & Demand Response: Ensuring Texas’ Future Reliability at the 7th Annual Platts Texas Energy Markets Conference in Houston, TX.  Following fellow panelists, “Trip” Doggett, CEO of ERCOT; Milton L. Holloway, President and COO of the Center for the Commercialization of Electric Technologies; and John W. Fainter, Jr. President and CEO of the Association of Electric Companies of Texas, I spoke about EDF’s work with the Pecan Street Research Institute  (Pecan Street) to test and deploy various smart grid consumer products.

One of the many cutting-edge research projects being conducted by Pecan Street is an examination of consumer behavior with regards to energy usage.  Trends in the data show that giving people the ability to control their energy use, and their energy generation, generally results in cost-effective, environmentally-conscious decisions. These shrewd decisions are becoming increasingly important as Texas faces a lack of energy resources to meet the state’s increasing need for more electricity.

With July just around the corner, the summer heat is ramping up in Texas, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is preparing for extreme temperatures to push the electric grid to its limits.  State regulators and ERCOT stakeholders are urgently seeking a solution to the looming Texas Energy Crunch.  The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) has already raised the maximum price in the electricity market a number of times, but this is a band-aid for the problem, not a long-term solution. Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, ERCOT, Pecan Street, Smart Grid, Texas Energy Crunch, Utilities| Comments closed

Microsensing: Air Pollution Measurements In The Palm Of Your Hand

The science behind air pollution in urban areas is clear: smog has been linked to premature deaths, increased asthma attacks and breathing problems, and increased hospital visits.  But most of us have no way of knowing about the pollutants that we’re exposed to on a daily basis. Expressways, waste facilities, and dry cleaners create highly-localized pollution that may not be detected by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regional air monitoring data.  Larger-scale air monitoring isn't designed to capture these types of traditional pollution sources, nor does it record local effects of unconventional emissions sources associated with  oil and gas development.  We have no real way to know when our local air pollution hits dangerous levels, and no way to avoid hazardous air in our communities.  Both Houston and Dallas rank among the most polluted cities in the United States, according to the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2013.  With well over 12 million Texans living in the Dallas/Houston metro areas, it’s crucial that concerned citizens have access to the right tools to monitor air pollution and take preventative measures when pollutants reach dangerous levels.

Michael Heimbinder, a Brooklyn entrepreneur, hopes to empower individuals with his small-scale air quality monitoring system, AirCasting.  The AirCasting system uses a mobile, Bluetooth-enabled air monitor not much larger than a smartphone to measure carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and other pollutants.  An accompanying Android app records and formats the information to an emissions map.  Alternatively, another instrument, The Air Quality Egg, comes pre-assembled ready to use.  Innovative air monitoring systems, like AirCasting or The Air Quality Egg, empower ordinary citizens to monitor the pollution they encounter daily and proactively address problematic sources of pollution.

This technology is part of a growing movement to enable the use of small sensors. In response to inquiries about small-sensor data, the EPA is researching the next generation of air measuring technologiesEPA experts are working with sensor developers to evaluate data quality and understand useful sensor applications.  Through this ongoing collaboration, the EPA hopes to bolster measurements from conventional, stationary air-monitoring systems with data collected from individuals’ air quality microsensors. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Barnett Shale, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency| Tagged | Comments closed

Improving Air Quality For Houstonians And Beyond

Para leer este artículo en español, haga clic aquí

How The Hispanic Business Community Can Play An Active Role In Reducing Emissions From Freight

The success of Texas has long been linked to the success of Hispanics.  Today, nearly 40% of Texans are Hispanic.  As the Hispanic community continues to shape the future of Texas (nearly 50 percent of our state’s youth is Hispanic), EDF is paying close attention to the ongoing air quality and public health challenges facing Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and other areas with significant Hispanic populations.  Nationwide, one in every two Hispanics lives in a county that frequently violates health-based ozone standards (see U.S. Latinos and Air Pollution).  This means that Hispanics, especially those within sensitive subpopulations, such as children and the elderly, are at greater risk of public health effects, such as asthma, lung cancer, stroke and premature death due to increased exposure to harmful air pollution.

There is good news though!  Hispanic businesses can make a significant difference in reducing air pollution through their logistics and freight transportation operations in key hubs, such as Houston.  Last month, I attended the International Summit & Business Expo, hosted by the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.  At the conference, we met with representatives of several companies who are eager to grow their businesses in the Houston area and the rest of the state.  Additionally, we discussed how they can play a leading role in reducing the health burden for Hispanics and all Houstonians by supporting clean air initiatives, such as participating in the Houston regional clean truck program, signing up for the SmartWay Drayage Program and setting efficiency and emissions reductions goals.

EDF has a track record of working with companies and organizations to reduce emissions from freight transportation, and we look forward to engaging new partners on our collaborative effort to ensure healthy air for our communities and a thriving business environment.

Posted in Air Pollution, En Español, Houston, SmartWay, Transportation| Tagged | Comments closed

Stronger Ozone Standards Will Secure Healthier, Longer Lives For Millions Of Americans

This commentary originally appeared on the EDF Voices blog.

Smog in Los Angeles

For some time, public health and medical experts have been clear that the Environmental Protection Agency’s  air quality standard for ozone, the primary ingredient in smog, isn’t doing enough to protect Americans from serious health risks.

Unfortunately, before EPA even proposed new health standards in response to rigorous science, the American Petroleum Institute (API) attacked with sky is falling claims that 97% of businesses in America would shut down.

This is quintessential beltway politics: fact free and designed to hide the real issues.  

As a health scientist, I think the facts matter.  And the bottom line is that EPA has a responsibility to adopt health standards anchored in science. So let’s take a closer look at what the science tells us.  

Ground-level ozone is the main component of smog and is the single most widespread air pollutant. Ozone is linked to premature deaths, increased asthma attacks and breathing problems, as well as increased emergency room and hospital admissions. This pollutant poses an especially serious risk to children, seniors and people with lung diseases like asthma and bronchitis. Read More »

Posted in Environmental Protection Agency| Tagged , | Comments closed

Alternative Fuel Fleets As Clean Air Strategy Focus Of Houston Conference

The Houston-Galveston Area Council’s (H-GAC) Clean Cities Coalition and Clean Vehicles programs will host a clean fleet conference on June 5th in Sugar Land, Texas.

Dedicated to helping transportation fleets conserve fuel and reduce air pollution through the use of alternative fuels, technologies, and retrofits, this year's conference features engaging discussion from industry, academic and governmental experts  on varied topics, such as:

  • Creating a Clean, Sustainable Fleet
  • Growth of Alternative Fuel Fleets and Infrastructure Networks
  • Transitioning Your Fleet to Alternative Fuels
  • On the Road: One Fleet and Multiple Fuels
  • Driving Ahead: Alternative Refueling Infrastructure
  • Texas’ Alternative Fuel Advantage

Dan Frakes, manager of Advanced Technology and Vehicle Fuels Policy for the Public Policy Center of General Motors, is the keynote speaker. Vic LaRosa, president of TTSI, an EPA SmartWay truck company at the Port of Houston, is speaking as well. Vic’s company is one of the partners in Houston’s hydrogen fuel cell electric hybrid truck demonstration project. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Goods Movement, Houston, Transportation| 1 Response, comments now 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