Texas Clean Air Matters

A little flexibility can go a long way to maximize renewables

By Jamie Fine, Director, Energy Research & Sr. Economist, Clean Energy

Greentech Media’s Power & Renewables Summit takes place November 13-14, 2018 in Austin, Texas. The conference will gather industry views on how renewable integration, decarbonization and sector electrification are impacting electricity systems.

In the last month, a new report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change heightened the urgency of climate threats and the need for decisive actions to avoid them. The report “describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040.”

As I and other renewable energy insiders plan our talking points for Greentech Media’s “Power & Renewables Summit” in Austin next month, this report should serve as inspiration. The need for a clean, resilient energy economy just got a lot more salient. Read More »

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3 reasons Texas’ electric grid survived a summer that pushed its limits

As the hot summer approached, state leaders expressed concern about potential blackouts and brownouts. Yet, thoughtful planning, a functional electricity market, and clean energy helped ensure the lights stayed on.

Power outage concerns­­

Hotter temperatures and continued population and commercial growth drove record electricity demand this past summer. Additionally, in early 2018, Luminant (now Vistra) shut down three large coal plants – all inefficient and highly-polluting – with a combined capacity of 4,200 megawatts (MW).

The shutdown of these power plants and other changes in the electricity market initially led the state’s electric grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), to forecast a reserve margin of 9.3 percent for summer 2018. The reserve margin is a measure of whether the Texas grid has extra energy capacity to satisfy periods of strong customer demand, and ERCOT traditionally had targeted a 13.75 percent margin. Potential outages remained a concern even after ERCOT updated its final projections and the reserve margin rose to 11 percent.

As it turned out, even when ERCOT set a new system-wide demand record (73,308 MW) in July, no electricity shortages occurred. ERCOT didn’t initiate any Energy Emergency Alerts, and it didn’t issue any appeals for customers to conserve electricity. Read More »

Also posted in ERCOT / Comments are closed

Texas’ electricity market is working. But these companies want to change the rules to benefit themselves.

Texas’ two largest natural gas electricity generators are pressing state officials to implement a self-serving policy change that would significantly impact how wholesale electricity is priced in Texas.

Calpine Corporation and NRG Energy are pushing for “marginal losses” – a way of accounting for electricity that is lost on transmission lines as it moves from power plants to homes and businesses – when figuring the price that power plants get paid for electricity as retailers and public utilities buy it to serve their electricity customers.

The proposal is a penalty system that would benefit a few electricity generators at the expense of the rest of the state. Moreover, it has the potential to stifle the growth of clean energy and cause Texas to forgo the nearly $5 billion in energy cost savings that is projected to result from that growth. Read More »

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A changing climate causes psychological harm. Here’s one way Texas can act.

“I’m sorry I’ve been so out of touch.” Months after Hurricane Harvey, my friend reached out to me to let me know that she has been suffering from depression and nightmares. She and her elderly relative were evacuated out of their flooded home in Houston during the storm, marking their door with a Sharpie the date and time that they had been rescued.

Texas recently passed the year anniversary of Harvey, and this is just one of the thousands and thousands of stories of people traumatized by living through the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history. That’s not to mention the trauma of those affected by the hurricanes, wildfires, and many other extreme weather disasters that have taken place over the past several years.

The psychological harm of surviving a natural disaster has been documented for decades. But with climate change, those natural disasters are no longer purely natural – they are getting more intense, frequent, and/or destructive depending on the event. Protecting Texans’ mental health and avoiding the costly effects of trauma is yet another reason Texas should invest in clean energy solutions, a low-hanging fruit for avoiding the worst of climate change. Read More »

Also posted in Climate Change / Comments are closed

Tesla: Inventor of the Modern

On September 12, 2018, Environmental Defense Fund will host Dick Munson for a Q&A and book signing for his new book Tesla, Inventor of the Modern. Please join us in Austin at 301 Congress Ave., Suite 1300, from 11:30 am – 12:30 pm.

Nikola Tesla gave us the electric motor, long-distance electricity transmission, radio, robots, and remote control — the very foundations of our modern economy. Perhaps less well known is that he also was a clean-energy pioneer, and he remains an inspiration to today’s solar and battery entrepreneurs, including Elon Musk, who views him as a hero and contributed $1 million to help restore Tesla’s laboratory on Long Island.

Tesla marked his clean-energy leadership with a 1900 article in The Century — then the nation’s largest-circulation periodical. Published 118 years ago, “The Problem of Increasing Human Energy, with Special References to the Harnessing of the Sun’s Energy” was one of the earliest, detailed looks at capturing power from the sun and wind.

At his core, Tesla appreciated efficiency and hated energy waste, complaining that we “do not utilize more than 2 percent of coal’s energy” to make electricity. “The man who should stop this senseless waste would be a great benefactor of humanity,” he declared. Read More »

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Closing the information gap on Texans’ energy burdens

As summer approaches in Texas, it may be hard to recall that just this January, temperatures hovered at or below freezing for as long as 64 straight hours. Texans used the most electricity ever over the course of one hour, setting a record in energy use as people reached for their thermostats and cranked the heat. For some in the state, however, this was simply not an option.

People in the lowest income brackets regularly have to choose between keeping their homes at a comfortable temperature and other everyday necessities, like putting food on the table – especially in a state like Texas with extreme temperatures. Low-income households that heat with electricity spend four times more on utility bills, as a percent of their income, compared to the average American. This “energy burden” (the percent of a person’s income spent on energy) highlights the devastating reality that many people face, as well as presents an opportunity for cleaner, smarter energy to help lower electricity bills.

Enter the Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute, or TEPRI, a nonprofit organization seeking to first understand the burden that energy costs place on low-income households, and then propose practical, equitable solutions. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is proudly partnering with TEPRI to advance this mission, starting with conducting a sociodemographic study to provide a detailed understanding of Texans with low incomes and their relationship to energy. Read More »

Also posted in Energy Efficiency / Tagged | Comments are closed