We knew this was coming. Everyone knew. The power sector is the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world, yet there are no limits on how much carbon power plants can emit into our air. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) for new and existing power plants is urgently needed, is well within Texas’ reach, and can ensure that Texas (more so than other states) forges a strong and prosperous clean energy economy.
But the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages roughly 90 percent of Texas’ power grid, issued a report this week that overestimates the challenges posed by the CPP to the state’s electric grid reliability. Furthermore, it failed to appropriately recognize key tools available to ERCOT and the state to meet the proposed CPP.
Here’s a breakdown of what the report missed:
- ERCOT appears to have looked at growing existing energy efficiency programs, rather than the full-scale of what Texas could achieve under the CPP. Energy efficiency, one of the main building blocks in the CPP, is the best means to lower electricity prices for Texans. The Brattle Group found in its report for the Texas Clean Energy Coalition that the potential for energy efficiency savings in Texas is significant – saving $2 – $5 for every $1 invested. Regardless of the CPP, failing to improve Texas’ efficiency efforts hurts Texans.
- The analysis forecasts a boom in solar generation, but it doesn’t take into account the full potential of residential and distributed solar energy, which will not only help Texas meet the CPP, but also help lower prices for homeowners and businesses.
- ERCOT fails to include energy storage technologies that help integrate more West Texas wind energy and solar power by providing backup power when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. Energy storage can also help provide electricity at a moment’s notice, enhancing electric grid reliability.
- The report does not recognize the real opportunity available to enhance system reliability through demand response, which rewards people for using less electricity, rather than turning on coal-fired power plants to meet electricity demand. Demand response helped ERCOT avoid rolling blackouts last winter, can respond quickly in times of need, requires little to no water, and improves air quality. This is the type of performance worth investing in.
The big picture
Obviously, grid reliability is a critical component of ERCOT’s mission, and the best way to secure reliable power for Texans is to harness more homegrown energy using innovative, clean technologies. Texas has the nation’s most competitive electric grid for a reason – ingenuity and smart planning.
Texas can own its future by designing its own plan to achieve the carbon reductions that are so urgently needed while protecting the grid all Texans rely upon (including the opportunity to achieve compliance with the CPP over a 10-year period). Texas can take a page from the numerous power companies in the state that are already proving a low-carbon energy system is dependable and low cost. With the CPP, Texas has another opportunity to lead the nation by harnessing more West Texas wind energy and lower-carbon fuels, tapping into the state’s solar energy potential, and building out its energy efficiency programs. But the benefits don’t stop there. Implementing the Clean Power Plan in Texas will also ensure healthier and longer lives for Texans.
This is the big-picture thinking Texas needs. And now is the time for Texas to tap into the ingenuity and smart planning our state is known for.