Being an environmental advocate in Texas may seem like an uphill battle, and I make no bones about the fact it most certainly is. Plus, the Texas Legislature only meets for 140 days every other year, so the frenzy of activity during the Legislative Session (in local parlance, “The Lege”) is intense.
While my Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) colleagues may be able to make impressive strides in protecting their respective states against climate change, we in Texas must take pride in all of our legislative achievements, both big and not so much. It’s these small steps that add up to change in the right direction.
In addition to the many small steps that made up the 2015 Legislative Session, I say with great pride we also had a big win: On June 17, Governor Abbott signed Senate Bill (SB) 991 into law, requiring the General Land Office and the Texas Water Development Board to study the economic and geophysical potential of using solar and wind energy to desalinate brackish groundwater. From concept to law, SB 991 has involved the input and energy of numerous stakeholders – and it paid off. Read More
Earlier this week, I testified at a hearing of the Texas House Committee on Environmental Regulation, specifically on how Texas will respond to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP), the nation’s first-ever limit on carbon pollution from existing power plants. But before I went to the Capitol, my three-year-old daughter asked me where I was going. I told her I was going to work, and she asked me, “Mommy, what are you going to save?” I replied that I was going to save water, and she said, “Good job, Mommy.”
That’s exactly what the CPP could do for Texas: save millions of gallons of water each year by encouraging the state to switch from polluting power sources (like coal plants) to non-polluting sources (such as wind and solar farms) and increase no-water solutions like energy efficiency.
It’s no secret that Texas is currently in the midst of a multi-year drought – yet the vast majority of our electricity comes from sources that contribute to this prolonged drought, namely coal, nuclear, and natural gas. All of these energy sources require copious amounts of water to produce electricity. Read More
Cowboys, frontier grit, accented English, and wild, wide open spaces are just a few of the similarities shared by Texas and Australia. Both places also have an energy-water problem. But, the good news for Texas is that it’s not too late for us to learn from Australia’s mistakes – and a few successes, too.
In July 2014, Australia abandoned its carbon price, which gave Australia, a country with one of the highest per capita emissions of any developed country in the world and uses even more coal than the United States, the largest carbon-price system in the world outside of the European Union. (That is, until California’s program took effect in January 2013—California has the first-ever economy-wide carbon market in North America, potentially linking to other sub-national, national and regional markets around the world.) Since then, the Australian government has been in talks to significantly scale back its renewable energy target (RET), and the months-long squabbling without resolution is threatening the country’s renewable energy sector.
Texas, whose drought started in October 2010, is now in its worst drought on record. And some Texas leaders are taking a similar, short-sighted path as Australia when it comes to rolling back successful clean energy initiatives – ones that could also save scarce water supplies. Currently in the midst of its biennial legislative session, Texas is considering bills that would scrap the state’s successful wind renewable portfolio standard and prevent the state from complying with the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP), which establishes the nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution. Read More
Source: flickr/Paul Woolrich
We’ve almost made it to the midway point of the 84th Session of the Texas Legislature. As many already know, the Texas Legislature only meets from January to May every other year, so a lot has to get done in these few months.
This midway point is critical because it marks the deadline for Representatives and Senators to file bills, and it signals the rush to the finish line. Once we pass this point, the speed picks up substantially, as do the working hours and pressure.
Most bills that are filed will not make it to the Governor’s desk – for any number of reasons. But it is a good time to check in to see which climate, clean energy, and energy-water nexus bills have been filed this Session. Here’s a look at a few that are likely to rise to the top, and ones we hope will cross the finish line by June 1st. Read More
Each year, the nation wastes an estimated two trillion gallons, or about 14 to 18 percent, of its treated water through leaks alone. That’s a lot of water – enough to fill over three million Olympic-size swimming pools.
We know smart water meters are a critical component to better understanding our water use, but smart meters are only one part of the equation. What we really need is a smart water system.
A more intelligent system could not only help water providers and people better understand their use and how to adjust their behavior accordingly, but it could make the entire treatment and delivery of water more efficient. Plus, system-wide data could make daily water use and associated cost accessible – not an end-of-the-month billing surprise – enabling residents to make more informed decisions and utilities to waste less water.
Energy and water are connected, but they may need different solutions
The energy sector has learned a lot about the smart grid, and put a great deal of its research into practice. And, compared to the water sector, the electricity sector is pretty far along with its smart meter roll-out and understanding of all the information points across the system. For instance, in Texas, more than 3.5 million smart water meters have been installed, compared with approximately 17 million electric smart meters. But, while much of the smart electric grid findings are valuable in relation to the water sector, there are clear differences. Read More
As the Texas legislative session begins ramping up, I am reminded of smart policies from sessions past that holistically benefit Texas, had bipartisan support, and brought unlikely allies together. As we head into the session, it’s important to remember that no matter which side of the aisle you are on, clean energy solutions make sense for Texas – economically and environmentally.
This week, Environmental Defense Fund and R Street Institute, with support from Google, hosted a breakfast roundtable at the Texas Capitol to highlight one of those bills. The panel highlighted the potential for Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) and other commonsense, market-driven financing policies to be game-changers for accelerating the deployment and adoption of clean energy resources and water conservation practices across the state of Texas.
PACE, an innovative financing tool that allows people to repay loans for clean energy projects (like rooftop solar and energy efficiency upgrades) through their property tax bill, has the potential to unlock a considerable amount of private funding for clean energy projects in the state. This agreement simultaneously offers building owners cheaper financing options, and lenders secure repayment terms. With benefits for all, it’s no wonder the PACE bill passed last legislative session with support from both sides of the aisle, environmental groups, and industry alike. Read More