ERCOT Report Confirms Texas Well-Positioned to Comply with Clean Power Plan, but Press Release Misleads

power-plant-pixabayIn Texas, we are graced with world class clean energy at rock bottom prices.  This means we are well positioned – more than any other state in our nation — to drive clean energy up while driving pollution and costs down. That’s excellent news when it comes to the Clean Power Plan, the carbon pollution standards finalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August.

Texas’ primary grid operator today released an updated Analysis of the Impacts of the Clean Power Plan and there are some bright spots. To start, the report by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) includes a scenario for Clean Power Plan compliance that is virtually identical to the one we included in our report, Well Within Reach: How Texas Can Comply With and Benefit from The Clean Power Plan. Hopefully, this means ERCOT recognizes the expanded role energy efficiency can play in meeting our state’s electricity needs, and sees there is a realistic pathway to meeting the Clean Power Plan’s goals. ERCOT’s analysis also confirms that compliance with the plan will keep Texans’ 2030 electric bills below 2002 prices, when Texas first opened the electric market to competition.

Plus, the report shows that renewable energy is projected to grow significantly in Texas – to 21 percent of installed capacity by 2030, regardless of the carbon standards. Only a two percent increase of renewables – coupled with an additional eight percent of generation fired by Texas-produced natural gas – is needed to meet the requirements of the Clean Power Plan.

However, there are some big Texas-sized energy solutions that the ERCOT press release altogether failed to address, even though they are in ERCOT’s full report.

When looking at ERCOT’s scenario that includes energy efficiency, which was not mentioned in the release, it is clear the Clean Power Plan is within Texas’ reach through multiple paths. For example, demand response, a cost-effective tool that rewards people for conserving energy when the grid is stressed, can play a key role in preserving reliability – and the Clean Power Plan gives Texas the flexibility to use this cost-effective, common-sense practice to comply. It’s not too late to start maximizing energy efficiency and demand response to ensure Texans’ electricity bills go down, lights stay on – and we act to protect our kids’ health, our fragile water supply, and our economy from dangerous climate change.

Furthermore, ERCOT is concerned with maintaining reliability under the Clean Power Plan, but the final version of the standards specifically addressed this issue by including a “grid reliability safety valve” and allowing an unprecedented seven years to comply. Moreover, the Clean Power Plan gives states tremendous flexibility to deploy proven, cost-effective strategies to reduce harmful carbon pollution, tailored to the individual circumstances and needs of their state.

The ERCOT press release includes the most extreme cost scenarios, which are easily avoidable with the flexibility the Clean Power Plan provides. Texas should seize the opportunity to forge solutions that are made in Texas and move forward with a strategy to achieve these clean air safeguards in the most cost-effective way possible.

Finally, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard ERCOT claim that EPA clean air standards will cause reliability problems in Texas. In fact, in September 2011, ERCOT submitted a report to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in support of a motion to block the Cross State Air Pollution Rule – which limit the dangerous smog and soot emissions from power plant smokestacks – claiming, “With reduced generation in 2012 due to the impacts of the CSAPR rule, the ERCOT system will face an increased risk of energy emergency events and, consequently, an increased risk of rotating outages.”[1] Despite these “sky is falling” claims, Texas’s pollution emissions in 2012 and 2013 turned out to be well below the required emissions limits and no emergency events or rotating outages occurred. In other words, they went well beyond the required clean air standards and there were no reliability issues.

I have said before that I believe ERCOT to be the best grid operator in the country, and I am glad to see ERCOT’s report include an achievable electricity generation mix in line with our own forecasts. My only hope is to see a press release that captures the reality of how well-positioned Texas is to achieve these clean air standards, as well as the opportunity at hand to mobilize Texas-made solutions to protect our families’ health from pollution.

 

[1] Declaration of Warren P. Lasher, Manager of Long-Term Planning and Policy, ERCOT ¶ 35 (EME Homer City v. EPA, D.C. Circuit Case No. 11-1302, Doc. #1329866).

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  • By October 17 Energy News | geoharvey on October 17, 2015 at 6:39 AM

    […] ¶ Texas’ primary grid operator, ERCOT, released an updated Analysis of the Impacts of the Clean Power Plan and there are some bright spots. ERCOT’s analysis confirms that compliance with the plan will keep Texans’ 2030 electric bills below 2002 prices, when Texas first opened the electric market to competition. [Environmental Defense Fund] […]

  • […] Texas’ primary grid operator, ERCOT, released an updated Analysis of the Impacts of the Clean Power Plan and there are some bright spots. ERCOT’s analysis confirms that compliance with the plan will keep Texans’ 2030 electric bills below 2002 prices, when Texas first opened the electric market to competition. [Environmental Defense Fund] […]