Selected category: Electric Vehicles

Wheels in motion for VW to compensate Texas for dirty air

Texas is set to receive $209 million as part of the legal settlement for Volkswagen’s decade-long scheme to cheat on diesel emissions tests in the United States and elsewhere. That is because the German automaker sold more than 40,000 non-compliant vehicles in the state, resulting in Texans breathing dirtier air.

The money is for projects that reduce smog-forming nitrogen oxides. It is in addition to civil penalties and other legal settlements, which include an agreement for the company to invest in zero-emission, all-electric vehicle technology and infrastructure.

For Texas, the road to cleaner air began in early October. Here are three steps the state needs to take:

  1. Secure funding

Before Texas can receive its share of the money, it must become a beneficiary of the trust, which was set up to compensate states for the emissions-cheating scandal. This first step is also the easiest. It is a paperwork exercise in advance of the hard decisions. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean school buses, Drayage, Goods Movement, Ozone, Ports, TCEQ, Transportation| Comments are closed

Help Texas Make Best Use of Volkswagen Settlement Funds

The Texas Clean Air Working Group (TCAWG) and the city of Austin will hold a workshop on Monday (June 26th) to discuss how Texas can use funding from the Volkswagen settlement to reduce smog-forming pollution and increase the use of zero-emission, all-electric vehicles. More information and registration instructions available here.

In July 2016, Volkswagen agreed to pay $14.7 billion in penalties to resolve a decade-long case stemming from a scheme to cheat on diesel emissions tests. The automaker had imported almost 600,000 vehicles that emitted illegal levels of harmful pollutants.

The agreement, coupled with a May 2017 settlement, will provide almost $5 billion for projects that promote cleaner air and the development of zero-emissions vehicles and infrastructure.

As its portion of the agreements, Texas is eligible to receive $209 million for projects that reduce smog-forming nitrogen oxides over the next decade. The state also is eligible to receive a share of $1.2 billion that was set aside for zero-emission vehicles and infrastructure.

To access these funds, Texas must submit a plan that describes how it would spend the money and reduce emissions. The state also must show how it would engage the public when choosing projects.

Accordingly, TCAWG and the city of Austin will hold a workshop for all interested stakeholders. The session will provide participants with the opportunity to learn more about available and emerging technologies and to discuss the benefits of several potential projects.

With careful and strategic planning, Texas has the opportunity to maximize these dollars to transform transportation in the state while creating jobs and reducing pollution.

The workshop will be June 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez, in conjunction with the Smart Cities Connect Conference.

Admission is free, but registration is required. The full agenda and registration instructions are available here.

Also posted in Air Pollution| Read 1 Response

Can Texas Keep the Lights On? Clean Energy Holds the Answer.

rp_Final-Images-EDF-6524-200x300.jpgOn Tuesday, I had the pleasure of participating on a panel hosted by the Texas Tribune that centered on the future of Texas’ power grid and electric reliability. Joining me was John Fainter, president and CEO of Association of Electric Companies of Texas, Inc; Trip Doggett, president and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas; and Doyle Beneby, president and CEO of CPS Energy, San Antonio's municipal utility. The panel, entitled Keeping the Lights on in Texas, took place at and was broadcasted from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. It's a worthwhile watch and I'm encouraged that Texas Tribune is dedicated to investigating Texas' energy issues.

For about an hour, we discussed a variety of aspects in the current and future energy landscape of the Lone Star State. In particular, I focused on the exciting shift to give people power over their electricity use, save money, and help the environment with every flip of the switch.

Read More »

Also posted in Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, ERCOT, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Solar, Texas Energy Crunch, Utilities, Wind| Tagged | Comments are closed

GigaFactory Proves that Tesla is Ahead of the Clean Energy Curve, But Does Texas Stand to Benefit?

Source: Texas Public Radio

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, speaking to Texas Legislature in 2013. Source: Texas Public Radio.

Disruptive technologies tend to follow a certain trajectory. First, they are outliers, often ignored, and typically on the cusp of never entering the market. But, for the successful ones, a tipping point is ultimately reached, after which the technology goes viral and changes the status quo it was designed to replace. In the new energy revolution, Tesla is one such company that has surpassed the tipping point and threatens to change the way we produce, distribute, and consume electricity.

It isn't just Tesla's sleek and beautiful electric vehicles that will be key to disrupting the status quo. At a current price point of around $80,000, most people en masse won’t be able to afford a Tesla, even though the company has plans to develop more affordable models. But what makes Tesla unique, besides the strange genius of CEO Elon Musk, is the potential diversification of its offerings, highlighted recently by the company's announcement to build the GigaFactory, a $5-billion battery factory that will employ 6,500 workers.

Set to open in about three years, the new GigaFactory will be large enough to manufacture more lithium-ion batteries than the entire industry produces now, and due to its sheer scale, is expected to reduce the cost of batteries by almost one-third. Read More »

Also posted in Legislation, Smart Grid| Tagged , | Comments are closed

How Electric Vehicles Are Strengthening the Texas Power Grid and Improving Air Quality

Source: SAE

Source: SAE

San Antonio’s Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) brings Texas the latest example of an intelligent, demand-side resource that can play an active role in the power grid and offset the use of fossil-fuel power plants. Late last month, SwRI announced that its innovative vehicle-to-grid system got the green light from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid operator, to participate in the state’s electricity market. This system is able to control the charging and discharging for a fleet of electric delivery trucks, meaning that when the supply of electricity struggles to meet demand, the intelligent vehicle charging system can simply stop charging (thus lowering demand). This technology will significantly increase grid reliability, thanks to its quick response time, and effectively deter the need for firing up another dirty power plant.

In order to avoid a blackout, the supply of electricity to the power grid must equal the electric demand from customers. Conventionally, this balance is maintained by power plants that remain on stand-by, ready to respond at a moment’s notice. Every hour of the day, ERCOT precisely controls these power plants to keep the grid balanced. In the process, a power plant has to rapidly increase or decrease its power output, which decreases its efficiency and increases its carbon and pollution footprint, much like an a car revving its engine. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Demand Response, ERCOT, Smart Grid| Tagged | Comments are closed

Today’s Transportation Plans Drive Tomorrow’s Emissions Reductions

Skeptics do not deter Renault and Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn from sticking to his prediction that electric cars will make up 10 percent of the market by 2020. Speaking Tuesday at an industry breakfast in New York, Ghosn – known as “Mr. 7-11” for the late nights he works –maintained his documented “bullish” stance on the future of these zero-emissions vehicles, with Nissan helping to lead the charge with on-schedule production of the Leaf, the world’s first mass-produced electric car.


As if lending support to Ghosn’s prediction, China intends to have 5 million electric vehicles on its roads by 2020. The country already has plans for battery charging stations along six major highways in Shanghai and Zhejiang, providing further proof of the necessity of public-private partnerships to propel green transportation technology.

Seeing immense opportunity in such countries, Nissan didn’t wait around. Ghosn once said, "If you're going to let developing countries have as many cars as they want – and they're going to have as many cars as they want one way or another – there is no absolutely alternative but to go for zero emissions. And the only zero-emissions vehicle available today is electric . . . so we decided to go for it.”

We applaud efforts like these from innovators and visionaries doing their part to drive clean technology forward. While some believe it “bold and crazy,” we believe it is indeed possible to green the entire transportation system, which includes an eventual transition from fossil-fueled power plants to renewable-energy power plants. The realities of climate change leave us no choice but to be smart by reducing carbon dioxide emissions, along with other emissions contributing to harmful air pollution.

Cleaner Transportation, Cleaner Air in Texas

One of the comments Ghosn made during Tuesday’s speech involved the concept of having strong roots, and that “you cannot be global unless you are strong local.” Along those lines, I thought it important to highlight some of our “local” efforts to clean up harmful Texas air emissions through various transportation initiatives:

  • EDF is proud to have played an important role last year in helping the Houston region obtain $3.1 million in funding related to diesel emissions reduction. Each year, diesel engines emit 7.3 million tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 333,000 tons of soot. This pollution is linked to thousands of premature deaths, hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks and millions of lost workdays. Some of the funds will repower marine vessels operating in the Houston-Galveston and Corpus Christi areas. Engines on tug boats and harbor crafts will be repowered with new, cleaner engine technology. Other funds will offset the costs of burning cleaner fuel when the ships are close to shore in the Port of Houston.
  • At a Drayage Truck Fair last year, EDF joined representatives from the Port and the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC) offering information about programs available to help truckers obtain low-interest loans toward the purchase of newer, cleaner vehicles. More than 3,000 drayage trucks help move containers to and from the Port of Houston, making trucking one of the largest sources of port pollution. Just this year, 32 trucks have been disbursed and 70 other applications are currently under review. Programs like these can significantly help reduce emissions from older, dirtier diesel truck engines.
  • Our efforts to increase awareness about state funds for replacing aging, dirty school bus engines helped lead to more participating schools. Through the end of the 2011 calendar year, 7,086 buses had been retrofit, 650 buses had been replaced, and several other projects (e.g., clean fuels and idle reduction) had been successfully implemented in Texas. We told parents that if their children were riding to school in buses built before 2007, the air they were breathing inside the bus could contain more than five to ten times higher the diesel pollution found outside the bus. We highlighted the fact that money was available to make these older school buses cleaner at no cost to the districts themselves.
  • This year EDF released the report, “The Houston Barge System: A Review of Operations and Opportunities,” outlining the combustive as well as evaporative emissions associated with barges operating in the Houston region, while also identifying opportunities for establishing emissions reduction targets. The information from this study will help determine the most effective and efficient pollution control strategies for the maritime freight industry and should be used as a guide to develop policies that improve Texas air quality.

Through these and other ongoing initiatives related to transportation, EDF continues to help improve air quality providing further support for that bold, crazy concept: greening the entire transportation system.

Also posted in Clean school buses, Houston| Comments are closed
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    Confluence of SJR, Old, and Middle rivers

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