Monthly Archives: January 2014

Why Do Latinos Support Action on Climate Change?

Source: Mom's Clean Air Force

Your abuela or your friend’s abuela may not mention “carbon pollution” or “greenhouse gas emissions” much, but don’t let that fool you into thinking Hispanics are not aware of or unconcerned with what is happening to our planet. In fact, polling confirms that Latinos overwhelmingly support action to curb climate change. A recent poll for the Natural Resources Defense Council by Latino Decisions shows that 80 percent of Latino voters somewhat-to-strongly favor Presidential action to fight carbon pollution.

Why? Family values.

The reasons are similar to those held by many interested in protecting the planet for future generations. The poll proves that Latinos are concerned about air quality, health effects of a worsening environment and teaching a cultural legacy of environmental stewardship and conservation. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Car Standards, Climate Change, Environment, GHGs, Renewable Energy| Tagged , | Comments closed

Freezing, Scorching, or Not, Texas Needs More Demand Response

MaritaHeadshotAs we thaw out this week from our most recent arctic blast, Texas’ inexperience with ice and snow has been met with Internet memes and jokes. But dealing with extreme temperatures causes serious strain on our current energy system and exacerbates our “energy crunch,” signifying that the available supply of electricity barely meets the demand for that power.

However, as is typical of Texas, last week our weather was quite pleasant – in the 70s – and strains on the system due to weather events weren’t too much of a concern. Yet the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state agency charged with managing the flow of electricity for most of Texas, alerted an emergency situation despite mild temperatures. To avert disaster, ERCOT initiated demand response, “ask[ing] customers to raise thermostat settings to 78 degrees, typically a summer response intended to reduce demand from air conditioners.” A single malfunctioning power plant caused the problem. ERCOT declined to identify the plant involved. Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, ERCOT, Extreme Weather, Smart Grid, Utilities| Tagged , , | Comments closed

Is Texas the Next Global Leader in Water? It’s Up to State Leaders to Decide.

Source: WATR News

Source: WATR News

The Texas Comptroller, Susan Combs, recently released the Texas Water Report: Going Deeper for the Solution, which proposes a sort of revolution to solve Texas’ water woes. As Combs notes, Texas is a global energy leader, but the state should be a global water leader too. And her initiative couldn’t come fast enough. Texas, already prone to cycles of drought, is facing new water pressures, including population growth and a changing economy, which only make it harder to preserve our diminishing water supply. To rouse the state’s water recovery plan, the report prioritizes water-saving technological innovations (while stressing the need for conservation) and lauds various Texas cities for water management practices. But the report misses some key elements that are essential to keeping our water flowing. In the same way that new energy technologies have brought us closer to a cleaner, more reliable electric grid, innovations in the water arena can seamlessly reduce our water use and set the state on a sustainable path.

The report says conservation is not enough, and it’s right. However, efficiency is the most significant first step and conservation achieved through technology is a welcome counter to the infrastructure-heavy plans typically heard at the Capitol and in the State Water Plan. (What good is a new reservoir, if there’s no water to put in it?) Some of the technologies evaluated in the report include aquifer storage and recovery, inter-basin transfers, low-water fracking technologies and desalinization – what some call “game changers.” These technologies could potentially relieve our future water woes, but these projects are expensive and don’t alleviate our immediate or even mid-term water stresses. Read More »

Posted in Drought, Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus, San Antonio, Utilities| Tagged | Comments closed

EDF Is Going to Court to Secure Healthier Air for Millions of Texans

This post was co-authored by Tomás Carbonell, EDF Attorney, and Brian Korpics, EDF Legal Fellow.

Source: Texas Tribune Haze over Dallas Area

Source: Texas Tribune
Haze over Dallas Area

Last week, EDF took one more step toward protecting Texans from harmful levels of ozone pollution that have afflicted the state for far too long.

Ozone pollution, better known as “smog,” is one of the most severe and persistent public health problems affecting Texans.  Smog causes a range of health issues — including aggravation of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, decreased lung function, increased hospital and emergency room visits for respiratory conditions — and it is associated with premature mortality in urban areas.

According to the American Lung Association (ALA), Dallas-Fort Worth is the eighth most affected area in the country for smog.  ALA estimates the city is home to millions of people who are sensitive to ozone-related health problems — including 1.6 million people suffering cardiovascular disease; nearly 1.9 million children; nearly 650,000 elderly residents; and over 520,000 people with asthma. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Dallas Fort-Worth, GHGs, Natural gas, Oil, Ozone| Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

Clean Air and Sustainability Are Important Topics for Transportation Researchers

(Source: Texas Public Radio)

Source: Texas Public Radio

Air pollution and sustainability may not have been hot topics for transportation professionals in the past, but they were widely discussed during the 93rd Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), a conference that brings together transportation professionals from around the world. And as we have highlighted in the past, air emissions from the transportation sector are of particular concern in Texas, and many at the conference took note of the state’s progress.

For instance, one panel highlighted efforts to reduce costly cargo truck delays at various Texas-Mexico border crossings. These truck delays occur due to a myriad of reasons, including rush-hour transit times and customs issues, but a recently launched initiative known as the Border Crossing Information System, or BCIS, is aiming to shorten these delays through accurate monitoring and reporting of truck queues and, in turn, reduce harmful air emissions. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Goods Movement, Houston, Ports, Transportation| Tagged | Comments closed

Google Partners with Nest in Race to be Your Smart Home Provider

Marita Mirzatuny

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

On Monday, Google announced it is spending $3.2 billion to buy Nest Labs, the trailblazing company funded through its Google Ventures program and responsible for transforming “unloved” home products into beautiful, smart appliances. That’s a lot of money for a business with only two products: a thermostat and a smoke detector. Nest is not exactly reinventing the wheel, right? Well, actually they are.

Welcome to the Smart Home

Google’s move is a starting shot in the race to become the go-to smart home provider, putting in place stepping stones to realizing a future in which our homes will become one ecosystem – integrated and functioning as a whole. Customers are looking for smart appliances that can notify you when they are wasting energy or not performing properly. Plus, these innovative technologies provide customers with more opportunities to engage with and benefit from other cost- and energy-saving solutions, like demand response, rooftop solar power and electric vehicles. This puts customers in the driver seat, giving them insight and control over their daily lives in ways never before imagined (even if just to use automated, “set-it-and-forget-it” functionality). Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Texas Energy Crunch| Tagged , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Common Sense Policies Can Protect Thousands of Houston Schoolchildren from Roadway Air Pollution

Source: Campaign for Clean Air

Source: Campaign for Clean Air

Recently, the Houston Chronicle published an article showing that over 80,000 schoolchildren at 127 schools are frequently exposed to air pollution due to their proximity to busy roadways. Houston, in particular, is vulnerable to the formation of unhealthy air pollution, given the city is home to one of the busiest ports in the country and some of the busiest roadways, and emissions from all those vehicles tend to pool around the streets locals use most. But what’s critical to note is that exposure to this kind of pollution is especially harmful for our young ones, as children breathe in more air per pound of body weight than adults. Now, with these staggering figures, it’s clear that something must be done to protect Houston children from the dangers of vehicle pollution.

In total, 127 Houston-area schools were found to be located within 200 meters of a roadway, the distance within which traffic-related pollution is most potent. The accumulation of these emissions, which contain nitrous oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), form ozone pollution under the right conditions—usually on warm, sunny days. With no shortage of vehicles emissions or sunlight, the city is definitely a hot spot for ozone pollution and Houstonians are faced with increased health risks. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Car Standards, Houston, Ozone| Comments closed

We Can't Expect a Reliable Energy Future Without Talking Water

Kate Zerrenner

This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.

It’s no secret that electricity generation requires substantial amounts of water, and different energy sources require varying amounts of water. Nor is it a surprise that Texas and other areas in the West and Southwest are in the midst of a persistent drought. Given these realities, it is surprising that water scarcity is largely absent from the debate over which energy sources are going to be the most reliable in our energy future.

Recent media coverage has been quick to pin the challenge of reliability as one that only applies to renewables. The logic goes something like this: if the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, we won’t have electricity, making these energy sources unreliable. But if we don’t have reliable access to abundant water resources to produce, move and manage energy that comes from water-intensive energy resources like fossil fuels, this argument against the intermittency of renewables becomes moot.

Moving forward into an uncertain energy future, the water intensity of a particular electricity source should be taken into consideration as a matter of course.  Read More »

Posted in Coal, Drought, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Solar, Wind| Tagged , | Comments closed

Cost Savings Aren’t the Only Benefit to Energy Efficiency

Kate ZerrennerI often refer to energy efficiency as being cost effective, and it is. It is always cheaper not to use energy or to get the same result while using less energy. But monetary cost savings are just one of the many benefits associated with implementing energy efficiency measures. Reduced pollution, improved health and reduced strain on our water supply are other notable benefits of energy efficiency, though they are not always taken into consideration when a utility proposes a new energy efficiency project.

At the state regulatory level, Public Utility Commissions or similar entities are required to do a cost-benefit analysis for each energy efficiency project or program that a utility proposes, in order to determine how cost effective it may be. This analysis is called an ‘energy efficiency cost test,’ and although the concept may seem straight forward, its application is based on a varying set of pre-defined criteria that are not always consistent. Furthermore, the subject of cost-effectiveness tests is sensitive in the utility sector, because it’s at the core of how energy efficiency programs are valued.

There are several different types of energy efficiency cost tests that differ slightly and are often customized to reflect a state’s values. Before diving into the options, it’s important to note that a cost-effectiveness test of some sort is a necessary measure as more and more states implement ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs. Customers need to know that the programs they’re paying for are delivering the promised benefits, and regulators need to ensure that the costs paid by the customers are justified. Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Environment, Utilities| Tagged , , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

Demand Response Helps Texas Avoid Rolling Blackouts in the Face of Polar Vortex

MaritaHeadshotAs we begin a new year, the outlook for 2014 looks bright.  But as the Polar Vortex has descended upon the U.S. over the last few days, we have been reminded of the past, specifically the winter of 2011 when Texas’ electricity grid stuttered under the extreme cold.

Monday, as a record-breaking cold snap whisked over the U.S., the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s grid operator, warned of possible blackouts, just as they did in 2011.  We were lucky this time, but in February of 2011 we were not, and blackouts occurred throughout the state.

ERCOT’s warning meant that the grid's power reserves “dropped below a comfortable threshold,” and the "system was just one step away from rolling blackouts” as the need for energy outpaced supply.  As these blackout threats loomed, two power plants succumbed to the cold and went down.  The loss in capacity amounted to about 3700 megawatts (MW), with 1800 MW lost due to the cold.  According to Dan Woodfin, ERCOT’s Director of System Operations, “if we had lost another unit it would have put us into an Energy Emergency Alert Three” – the stage that prompts rolling blackouts.  This is unnecessary and unacceptable. Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, ERCOT, Extreme Weather, Renewable Energy, Texas Energy Crunch, Wind| Tagged , , | Comments closed
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