Texas Clean Air Matters

Rooftop solar and EVs save water and cut pollution in Texas – and data can help us go further

By Beia Spiller, Senior Economist

Thanks to improvements in technology, it’s easier than ever to be green.

Solar panels and electric vehicles (EVs) are two prime examples of technologies that can help people minimize their environmental footprint, without sacrificing comfort or having to radically change their daily behavior. But the question still remains: How much of an environmental benefit do these technologies actually produce? And, are there actions that owners of these technologies can take to minimize their pollution footprint even more?

A new paper by my colleagues and me, recently published in Energy Economics, attempts to answer these two questions for households in Austin, Texas. These homes are part of Pecan Street Inc., a living smart-grid laboratory with the largest customer energy-use database on the planet. Using detailed household-level data from 2013-2015, we were able to track solar panel performance and EV use and charging patterns, and match these actions to two important environmental impacts: water use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Our paper confirms that, in Texas, residential solar panels uses less water and pollutes the air less than using the central-grid power (based on its electricity sources during those years), and driving an EV instead of a gasoline vehicle generally reduces the household’s water and emission footprint, even though EVs charge from the grid. Moreover, our analysis demonstrates how carefully examining energy-use data can help us make sure we’re maximizing clean energy’s benefits. Read More »

Posted in Electric Vehicles, Pecan Street, Solar / Comments are closed

How a tech startup and nimble non-profit exposed toxic releases during the Houston flood

Bakeyah Nelson with the Air Alliance Houston checks air measurements with Entanglement Technologies' chief science officer, Mike Armen.

By Matt Tresaugue, Manager, Houston Air Quality Media Initiative

As Hurricane Harvey bore down on the Texas coast, Tony Miller, chief executive of a Silicon Valley startup, wondered how he could help.

His company, Entanglement Technologies, can measure levels of air pollution in real time, important information for emergency responders and people living near storm-damaged refineries and chemical plants.

On Aug. 31, Miller called Elena Craft, Environmental Defense Fund’s Texas-based senior health scientist, and the two quickly came up with a plan to monitor neighborhoods near industrial facilities in and around Houston. Miller was on the road the next day. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Extreme Weather / Comments are closed

Trump has put Harvey relief funds at risk

By Jeremy Symons, Associate Vice President, Climate Political Affairs

Rain continues to fall on Houston and surrounding areas at tragic levels. When the rains stop and the flood waters begin to recede — I hope that is very soon — the cost to rebuild will be massive. Pressure on Congress to act quickly will be intense. President Trump, however, has already put relief funds at risk.

Only ten days prior to Hurricane Harvey’s landfall, Trump issued a reckless executive order that affects all federal agencies and contractors involved in Harvey’s relief effort. As part of his agenda of imposing climate denial throughout his administration, Trump rescinded a policy directing federal agencies to consider worsening future flood conditions when planning federally funded projects. The “Federal Flood Risk Management Standard” was aimed at improving America’s preparedness and resilience against flooding, and ensuring taxpayer funds are used wisely, by using the best information and building federally-funded infrastructure to withstand floods, as well as preserving natural floodplains that can minimize the threat to surrounding communities. Read More »

Posted in Uncategorized / Comments are closed

Research competition invites students to solve real-world energy problems

Reviewing residential electricity data in Pecan Street's Pike Powers Lab.

By Maddie Venn, clean energy communications intern

Recently, it seems like everyone is competing to become the next big thing in the energy sector. Whether it’s electric vehicles, smart grid technology, or energy storage, innovation continues to pop up left and right as we work to build a smarter, cleaner electric grid.

If innovation and technology spark your competitive drive, here’s your opportunity to dive in and join a community of engaged researchers working to solve some of our most pressing energy concerns. Pecan Street is hosting its second student research competition, inviting the best and the brightest to use the organization’s extensive collection of energy-use data to help solve real-world problems.

Open to all full-time graduate and undergraduate students and with prizes totaling $10,000, the competition aims to connect Pecan Street’s well-established dataset with the innovation of young minds. As the grid gets smarter, data can help people play a more active role in how their electricity is made, moved, and used. Competitions like Pecan Street’s will get us there faster. Read More »

Posted in Uncategorized / Comments are closed

A Message to Texas Clean Air Matters Subscribers

EDF's Texas Clean Air Matters blog is changing how our blog subscriptions are managed. If you subscribe to our blog, please update your RSS feed URL to the following:

http://blogs.edf.org/texascleanairmatters/feed/

– Texas Clean Air Matters 

Posted in Uncategorized / Comments are closed

Houston students share stories about the air they breathe

In Bianca Ibarra’s neighborhood on Houston’s eastside, the smokestacks are simply a given, part of the landscape.

“It surrounds us,” she said. “When you leave for the first time as a kid, it’s a shock. You see that other places do not have this. We are living in one of the most polluted cities in the country.”

To help others understand that this is not normal or healthy, Ibarra, 18, produced “Houston, At What Cost?” The three-minute video details how air pollution damages hearts and lungs and offers ways for young people to help solve the problem.

Her work won the first video contest sponsored by Environmental Defense Fund for students from high schools near the heavily industrialized Houston Ship Channel.

Elena Craft, senior health scientist at EDF, said the contest provided students with a platform to talk about air pollution, a pressing concern in the eight-county Houston region, which has yet to meet federal standards for ozone, or smog. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Houston, Ozone, Particulate Matter / Comments are closed