Texas Clean Air Matters

4 Ways to Enhance Texas’ Approach to Electric Reliability

power-lines-pixabayFor one scorching week in August, Texas broke electricity-use records on three different days. And the main grid operator met that exceptional demand every time.

That’s because the grid operator’s top priority is right there in its name: the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). ERCOT deploys many tools to ensure the lights stay on, including Reliability Must-Run (RMR) agreements, which keep open a power plant – like a coal or natural gas plant – that otherwise planned to stop or suspend operations. Recently, there has been concern that the use of RMRs may increase due to market conditions, specifically low electricity prices that are forcing uneconomic plants to retire.

RMRs serve a critical purpose. But as technology transforms the way we power our lives, we need smart policies that recognize the unprecedented array of new energy options. ERCOT currently is in the process of revising its rules, and Environmental Defense Fund has a few recommendations on how the grid operator can improve its approach to reliability agreements, so Texans can enjoy a healthier, cleaner, and more affordable energy future. Read More »

Posted in ERCOT, Renewable Energy / Tagged | Comments are closed

2 Ways El Paso Just Upped Texas’ Solar Game

SolarPanelArrayThe city of El Paso has many nicknames, but “The Sun City” is probably the most well-known. After two important energy updates this summer, West Texas’ largest city has even more reason to call itself that.

First, El Paso Electric, the public utility that serves nearly half a million customers, reached a major milestone: It is now officially 100 percent coal-free and has pledged to increase its solar investment. Second, the utility agreed to eliminate its proposal that would have resulted in different electricity prices for customers with solar panels at their homes. Such a pricing structure would have placed an unnecessary burden on El Pasoans with solar.

Sunny El Paso has incredible potential for solar power, and both of these developments are positive signs for the city’s clean energy future. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Read More »

Posted in Solar / Tagged , | Comments are closed

3 Sure Signs of Texas’ Emerging Solar Market

solar flickr ricketyusAustin, my home for the past 35 years, is typically a pretty sunny place year-round. But summer is when I am reminded of the sun’s unwavering presence and strength.

Fortunately, Texas is beginning to put those rays to work, as evidenced by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) newest U.S. Solar Market Insight. Along with projected scenarios from the state’s main grid operator and a recent poll of Texas voters, the report confirms the Lone Star State’s solar power is on an unstoppable course. And the more we can take advantage of the sun’s energy, the less we have to rely on outdated, polluting coal plants – a good thing for our health and water.

Here are three reasons Texas solar is on the rise:

  • Texas solar is growing very quickly: The new Solar Market Insight report declares Texas to be the fastest growing utility-scale solar market in the country. In fact, by the end of 2016, SEIA predicts the state’s total installed solar capacity will more than double. And within the next five years, Texas’ solar market will be second only to California’s (although, considering California has one-fourth of the solar power potential of Texas, we could eclipse the Golden State in coming years).

Read More »

Posted in Energy-Water Nexus, ERCOT, Solar / Read 2 Responses

Texas Wind is Thriving – and State Leaders Should Maintain Clean Energy Tools

wind turbines unsplashIn terms of clean energy, Texas is incredibly resource-rich. And as our wind progress shows, we have begun to maximize that potential: A new report from the American Wind Energy Associations shows the Lone Star State leads the nation with over 24,000 wind energy employees.

How did Texas arrive at the forefront of the wind energy economy? One factor that undoubtedly played a vital role: the creation of an ahead-of-its-time policy tool that required the identification of Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ), as well as the construction of transmission lines to move energy from the CREZ to electric customers.

Since West Texas has plentiful wind but not as many people, this initiative aimed to transport that wind energy to populous cities throughout the state. The rules allow the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) to designate an area with abundant renewable energy as a CREZ, and then approve new transmission lines or improvements to existing ones. In 2008, the PUCT exercised this authority and the resulting power lines – completed in 2014 – stretch nearly 3,600 miles, moving clean, renewable energy across the state while improving the overall reliability of the electric grid.

However, despite these successes, the PUCT recently proposed to dismantle the rules related to CREZ and the approval of new transmission lines, which would be a significant affront to the state’s thriving wind industry – including the revenue and jobs that come with it. Right now, there are no proposals to expand the designation of CREZ and develop additional power lines to those zones. But with the rapidly changing energy landscape, it makes more sense for state leaders to maintain CREZ capabilities in their toolkit, rather than undoing a successful energy development policy. Read More »

Posted in Renewable Energy, Solar, Wind / Read 1 Response

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. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Energy Efficiency / Read 2 Responses

It’s Time to Change the Conversation about the Clean Power Plan in Texas.

texas capWhen the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized America’s Clean Power Plan in early August, it marked the first time our country has put a limit on emissions from the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution: power plants. The standards represent a huge step forward for cleaner air and all of the benefits that come along with it.

Texas leaders immediately denounced the final plan, boldly proclaiming it would have catastrophic consequences, and vowed to fight the Clean Power Plan.

But if state decision makers stop to look at the facts, they will see that the Clean Power Plan is well within our reach. In fact, Texas can get to 88 percent of the way toward compliance simply through current trends alone, as shown in our new report out today, Well Within Reach: How Texas Can Comply with and Benefit from the Clean Power Plan. And, not only is compliance achievable, the plan actually provides Texas the opportunity to use it to grow the state’s economy. Read More »

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Solar, Wind / Tagged | Read 5 Responses