Author Archives: Kate Zerrenner

Keeping PACE in Texas: Revitalizing Industry, Saving Water, Guiding Better Policy

Source: flickr/thegaventas

Source: flickr/thegaventas

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 »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus, Legislation| Tagged | Comments closed

What Do the ERCOT Reports Really Say about Texas' Cleantech Market?

Electric power linesThe Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages 90 percent of Texas’ electric grid, has been busy. In the last two months of 2014, the agency released two very lengthy reports examining the future of a lower-polluting power grid in light of upcoming EPA clean air protections, in particular the Clean Power Plan. As the media described it, the reports did not provide the rosiest of outlooks for costs to Texans or electric reliability. But I think they are looking at the reports the wrong way.

The electric grid is changing. Innovative technologies – many of which are created right here in Texas – are lowering electricity bills and increasing energy independence. They are disrupting the way we produce and use electricity and they are changing the way ERCOT looks at grid reliability – albeit not in these two reports.

Cleantech entrepreneurs are at the helm of deciding Texas’ (and, let’s face it, America’s) energy future. And there are quite a few market opportunities outlined in the reports, if you look closely. Here are a few hidden in the report, plus other trends to keep an eye on: Read More »

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Energy Efficiency, Environmental Protection Agency, ERCOT, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utilities, Wind| Tagged | Comments closed

Time to Salute Our Military as They Save the Kilowatts

U.S. Army Major General Dana J.H. Pittard, Fort Bliss commander, gives a speech during the ribbon cutting for the solar panel project at Fort Bliss, Texas housing communities, Feb. 26, 2013. Source:

U.S. Army Major General Dana J.H. Pittard, Fort Bliss commander, gives a speech during the ribbon cutting for the solar panel project at Fort Bliss, Texas housing communities, Feb. 26, 2013. Source: defenseimagery.mil

In light of yesterday’s commendable day, the Defense Energy Summit (DES) is hosting its second annual forum in Austin, TX, and EDF is a proud sponsor once again. One of the goals for this conference is to build the foundation for a new Defense Energy Center of Excellence (DECE), which would enable Central Texas and military communities to create a test bed of clean energy technologies and policies. The DECE will help the Department of Defense (DoD) with its energy defense policy, organizational structure, education and training, manufacturing, logistics, personnel, and financing.

Texas’ capital is a logical spot to house the DECE, as Texas is home to 22 military installations – including five bases within 90 miles of Austin. Plus, the DECE could tap into the brain power at Texas universities, which are already charging forward with innovative clean energy solutions.

Leading the Charge

Although the DoD is the single largest consumer of fuel in the United States, the military has taken a significant interest in its energy footprint for one primary reason: energy security.

Transporting fuel is one of the riskiest operations when fighting on the front lines. Last year alone, the U.S. military consumed roughly 90 million barrels of oil. By powering military bases and equipment with solar energy, as well as reducing demand through energy efficiency, the military can help protect the brave men and women serving in our armed forces. The DoD can then use those avoided fuel costs for other projects, such as research and development, to meet the needs of its most critical missions. Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Solar| Tagged , | Comments closed

Benefits of Clean Power Plan Are Measureable – Drop for Drop

Hallisburg Texas power plantSince EPA released its proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP) in June of this year, the plan has been a hot topic in every state. In Texas alone, the state has held a joint regulatory agency hearing and two days of legislative hearings. Unfortunately, in both cases, the general tone of testimony was that of Chicken Little. But I prefer to view the CPP as a fantastic opportunity and certainly don’t think the sky will fall because of it. In fact, our skies should be considerably brighter without all that carbon pollution clouding them up.

I’ve written before about the opportunity for Texas to amplify current trends and increase our energy efficiency and renewable energy to meet these goals. And there’s an added benefit to transitioning away from coal-fired power plants and toward cleaner energy choices, one that will be critical in a state like Texas that’s in the middle of a multi-year drought: water savings and relief for our parched state.

What if I told you that with the CPP, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which controls the power grid for roughly 80 percent of the state, could save more than 60,000 acre-feet (or nearly 21 billion gallons) of water per year by 2030? Read More »

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Climate Change, Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus| Comments closed

Sprung a Leak? Smart Water Meters to the Rescue

Source: freshserviceinc.com

Source: freshserviceinc.com

A few months ago I logged into my online utility account and noticed it was more than twice the amount I usually pay, all of the excess going to water. Given the kind of work I do, I scour my bill every month, comparing electric and water usage month-to-month and over the course of the year. We are water and electricity savers in our household, so what on earth could this spike be?

I immediately called the City of Austin, and they sent someone out to check the meter. Nope, nothing on that end. Then we brought in a plumber, who spent many hours and many of our dollars searching and found a leak in the toilet. By the time we went through all of that and got the toilet fixed, we had to pay our enormous bill plus the plumber’s bill. Why should I have to go through that rigmarole just to find a leak?

Wouldn’t it be easier if a smart water meter could send my utility and me a message the moment the toilet starts leaking?

Unfortunately, water infrastructure in this country is sorely in need of a reboot. The American Society for Civil Engineers gave the U.S. drinking water infrastructure a grade of a “D” in its 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, stating there are 240,000 water main breaks per year. And we’re still using antiquated “technology” in much of the sector. Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus, Smart Grid, Utilities| Comments closed

EPA’s State-by-State Carbon Limits Indicate Smart Policy, Not Arbitrary Rulemaking

EDF_FB_renewableEnergy_solar (1)In June, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced – for the first time ever – standards to limit carbon emissions from U.S. power plants, known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Currently power plants emit 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions, but under the proposed Clean Power Plan, the U.S. power sector will cut carbon pollution by 30 percent below 2005 levels.

Since this announcement, the usual suspects have attacked the CPP, calling its proposed state-by-state reduction standards arbitrary. Their claims couldn’t be further from reality. When EPA asked states for feedback on how to best craft this standard, states asked for two things: individual standards and flexibility. And that’s what they got. Anyone familiar with the proposed standards will know they are based on a consistent and objective methodology that takes into account each state’s unique energy portfolio and emissions, as well as built with maximum flexibility in mind.

At first glance, the climate-change-denying crowd dismissed the standards as arbitrary, because the limits vary from state to state. For example, Washington needs to reduce its emissions rate by 72 percent by 2030, while Kentucky only needs to cut its emissions rate by 18 percent over the same period. Texas lies somewhere in the middle with a 39 percent reduction required. So what gives? Read More »

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Climate Change, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Natural gas, Renewable Energy| Tagged | Comments closed
  • About the author

    Project manager
    Kate Zerrenner develops and implements strategies to promote energy and water efficiency and climate change solutions in Texas, as well as leads EDF’s multi-year campaign to influence and enact state and national energy and water efficiency policy, including breaking down financial, regulatory and behavioral barriers.

  • About This Blog

    Confluence of SJR, Old, and Middle rivers

    Advocating for healthier air and cleaner energy in Texas through public education and policy influence.

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