Texas Clean Air Matters

Rooftop solar and EVs save water and cut pollution in Texas – and data can help us go further

By Beia Spiller, Senior Economist

Thanks to improvements in technology, it’s easier than ever to be green.

Solar panels and electric vehicles (EVs) are two prime examples of technologies that can help people minimize their environmental footprint, without sacrificing comfort or having to radically change their daily behavior. But the question still remains: How much of an environmental benefit do these technologies actually produce? And, are there actions that owners of these technologies can take to minimize their pollution footprint even more?

A new paper by my colleagues and me, recently published in Energy Economics, attempts to answer these two questions for households in Austin, Texas. These homes are part of Pecan Street Inc., a living smart-grid laboratory with the largest customer energy-use database on the planet. Using detailed household-level data from 2013-2015, we were able to track solar panel performance and EV use and charging patterns, and match these actions to two important environmental impacts: water use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Our paper confirms that, in Texas, residential solar panels uses less water and pollutes the air less than using the central-grid power (based on its electricity sources during those years), and driving an EV instead of a gasoline vehicle generally reduces the household’s water and emission footprint, even though EVs charge from the grid. Moreover, our analysis demonstrates how carefully examining energy-use data can help us make sure we’re maximizing clean energy’s benefits. Read More »

Also posted in Pecan Street, Solar / Comments are closed

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