Texas Clean Air Matters

Report shows Texas leadership on solar and wind is helping safeguard our power grid

Last summer, Texas’ electric grid was put to the test by scorching temperatures that sent power demand soaring and raised the specter of potential brownouts. Thankfully, the grid did what it was designed to do and pulled through without any major issues.

This week, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas released its projection for how we’ll fare this summer. Thanks to massive growth of solar and wind resources made possible by Texas’ competitive electricity market, the outlook is much improved.

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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 »

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Texas Leaders Can Use Clean Energy to Increase Investments and Create Jobs. Here’s How.

GA_Washington_DC4It’s that time again. Texas leaders are meeting in Austin for the 85th Legislative Session and the next five months will be an interesting wrestling match over human rights, voting rights, bathroom rights, and local rights.

But what about our economic rights? A new report Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) issued to the Texas Legislature, Texas’ Clean Energy Economy: Prioritizing Jobs, Investments, and Growth, shows the Lone Star State’s evolving electricity landscape has created enormous economic growth and jobs. The report explores the policies put in place years ago that has allowed Texas’ power market to become cleaner and more affordable, and it outlines the state’s impressive job growth in energy efficiency, wind, and solar power.

The report urges our leaders to develop and implement a bold, comprehensive Texas energy plan to create well-paid jobs, drive innovation and investment, make us more energy independent, and protect our water supplies, while improving the health of Texans and the environment. Read More »

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This Year’s Super Bowl is Energy-Efficient. Shouldn’t Texas Be?

nrg stadium flickrThis weekend, thousands of people will descend upon Houston to watch the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons duke it out at the Super Bowl. But the game won’t be the only thing on display.

In 2014, Houston’s NRG Stadium became one of the first major sports venues to use LED energy-efficient lights. The system uses 60 percent less power than the previous lighting array, translating to significant energy savings. What if Texas took a page from NRG’s book to lead the country in saving energy?

Texas recently kicked off its 85th Legislative Session. Now is the time for state leaders to seize on energy efficiency as a win-win-win path, creating local jobs while helping Texans save money and water, and reducing electricity waste and pollution. Read More »

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Lowering Desalination’s Energy Footprint: Lessons from Israel

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Kate Zerrenner and Leon Kaye of Triple Pundit standing in a desalination pipe at Sorek.

There’s an old expression that whisky is for drinking and water is for fighting over. The Legislative Session is upon us again in Texas, and count on water being an issue, as it always is in this drought and flood-prone state.

To start, this Session will see the approval of the 2017 State Water Plan (SWP), which is done in five-year cycles. In the five years since the last plan, Texas has gone from the throes of a devastating drought to historic flooding, which resulted in some reservoirs being full for the first time in 15 years.

Moreover, as more people move to Texas and climate change advances, there will be greater strain on the state’s water supplies. According to the SWP, Texas is already in a tighter situation than it was just five years ago: Surface water and groundwater availability will be 5 percent lower in 2060 compared to predictions in the 2012 plan, and existing water supplies are expected to drop by 11 percent between 2020 and 2070. Where are we supposed to get the water we need? Read More »

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Why Strategic Choices – and Water – Could Make People More Energy-Efficient

At my household, a new year means a new energy and water-use baseline. By that I mean, every month, I look at how much electricity and water I used in comparison to the same month the previous year – so I can try to be as efficient as possible. But I work in the energy field, and I know that’s not a typical New Year’s tradition. Most people don’t examine the trends of their energy-use or spend much time thinking about how to reduce it.

So, what motivates the “average” person to take action and be more energy-efficient? It depends.

A recent study by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) looked at the psychology behind individuals’ energy efficiency behavior, and how that information could be used to design more effective programs.

The study came away with some fascinating findings that show electric utilities need to be strategic in the way they create, as well as communicate about, their efficiency programs. Moreover, it led me to believe showing how energy efficiency relates to water – the quality and availability of which many people care about – could help encourage people to be more mindful about their energy use. Read More »

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