EDF's Marita Mirzatuny with Secretary Moniz at Pecan Street's Pike Powers Labratory
Earlier this month, I had the privilege of presenting a short summary of EDF’s Smart Power Initiative to Dr. Ernest Moniz, the U.S. Secretary of Energy. As a group of over 30 people piled into the Pike Powers Laboratory (including the lab’s namesake), the Secretary made his way in, beelined for some coffee, and sat down to hear all about Austin’s innovative and collaborative energy “ecosystem.”
Present was the Mayor of Austin, Lee Leffingwell, various cleantech entrepreneurs sponsored by the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), representatives from the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO), and the Governor’s office, among others.
Everyone had the opportunity to speak to the Secretary in a roundtable format about the work their particular company or group is doing to solve energy problems, and as EDF’s representative, I reported on our Smart Power work in Texas. Read More
This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Voices Blog.
This post was co-authored by Lucía Hennelly, with contributions from Adrian Shelley, Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Presidential Executive Order calling for Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, which prompts us to ask: What would the environmental movement in the United States look like if there were genuine cross-pollination, collaboration, and feedback between large, national-scale organizations and locally-based, environmental justice organizations?
Last week, we at EDF had a chance to experience a small glimpse of what this would be like when we delivered comments at EPA’s public hearing on new carbon pollution limits for new power plants alongside other Latino representatives and environmental activists. Among these activists was Adrian Shelley, Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston.
Air Alliance Houston (AAH) is the region’s leading air quality and public health non-profit, working in the most diverse city in the United States. With a population that is more than one-third Latino, Houston is a majority-minority city seated in Harris County, the fastest-growing county in the country. It’s also ground zero for the environmental justice movement. The distribution of health risks is unequal, as air pollutants that pose a definite risk to human health are found in greater numbers in several East Houston neighborhoods adjacent to the Houston Ship Channel. Read More
Last Wednesday, I traveled to Washington D.C. to testify at a House Science, Space, and Technology hearing entitled Examining the Science of EPA Overreach: A Case Study in Texas. It was my first time testifying on Capitol Hill and I was grateful for the opportunity to connect with some of our Texas lawmakers on issues concerning the relationship between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Texas.
One item of discussion focused on the greenhouse gas permitting authority in the state and the fact that Texas’ legal actions have thwarted industrial facilities in the state from conducting business. A recent article in the Texas Tribune, titled “Anti-Regulation Politics May Have Hurt Energy Industry,” highlights the burden that a dual permitting process places on businesses seeking greenhouse gas permits.
The process, which requires industrial facilities, such as power plants and refineries, to apply to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for criteria air pollutants permits and separately to EPA for greenhouse gas permits, has proved onerous for industry. In the article, the Texas Pipeline Association says, “more than 50 planned projects since early 2011 have been significantly delayed by the [Texas] permitting process, putting 48,000 jobs at risk.” Read More
San Antonio’s Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) brings Texas the latest example of an intelligent, demand-side resource that can play an active role in the power grid and offset the use of fossil-fuel power plants. Late last month, SwRI announced that its innovative vehicle-to-grid system got the green light from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid operator, to participate in the state’s electricity market. This system is able to control the charging and discharging for a fleet of electric delivery trucks, meaning that when the supply of electricity struggles to meet demand, the intelligent vehicle charging system can simply stop charging (thus lowering demand). This technology will significantly increase grid reliability, thanks to its quick response time, and effectively deter the need for firing up another dirty power plant.
In order to avoid a blackout, the supply of electricity to the power grid must equal the electric demand from customers. Conventionally, this balance is maintained by power plants that remain on stand-by, ready to respond at a moment’s notice. Every hour of the day, ERCOT precisely controls these power plants to keep the grid balanced. In the process, a power plant has to rapidly increase or decrease its power output, which decreases its efficiency and increases its carbon and pollution footprint, much like an a car revving its engine. Read More
Right now, there are no limits on carbon pollution from power plants, even though these facilities were responsible for roughly 40 percent of all U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2012.
That’s why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is crafting greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations for new fossil fuel-fired power plants by setting a limit on how much CO2 the plants can emit. Later this year, EPA will issue proposed CO2 “emission guidelines” for existing fossil fuel-fired power plants using various Clean Air Act tools to protect human health and to clean up our air.
To achieve significant and cost-effective emission reductions from existing power plants, EPA should look to leading states that are already implementing successful measures to reduce emissions. These measures include investing in renewable energy, harvesting energy efficiency, and utilizing more efficient and lower-emitting fossil fuel-fired units. Read More