Category Archives: Energy Efficiency

Efficiency is what Texas Can (and Should) Do Best

SPEERI have been involved in Texas’ energy sector for a long time, particularly from an environmental perspective.

I was there when the state’s metropolitan centers and their robust industrial sectors were challenged to reduce ozone-forming pollution. I was there when Texas deregulated its energy market to increase competition, improve choices for residents and businesses, and lower electricity prices. And now, I’m here to witness the state’s transition to a clean energy economy – one that harnesses more West Texas wind energy, rooftop solar, and natural gas (with the right controls in place) than any other time in history.

The one thing that ties all of these events together is efficiency – something Texas has led in the past.

Energy efficiency is Texas’ most cost-effective way to reduce energy use and carbon pollution from power plants. It also creates other benefits to the power grid, like improving reliability and lowering costs for infrastructure maintenance. Plus, saving energy saves water, which is critical in a state like Texas under the pressure of a multi-year drought. Read More »

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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 »

Also posted in 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 »

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

ERCOT Cites Very Little Burden in Complying with EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Source: Armin Kübelbeck, Wikimedia Commons

Source: Armin Kübelbeck, Wikimedia Commons

Well, it didn’t take long before the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) released, at the request of Texas’ very political Public Utilities Commission, another report about the impacts of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) rules designed to protect public health.

This time ERCOT, which manages 90 percent of Texas’ electric grid, looked at the impact of seven EPA clean air safeguards on the electric grid, including the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), the Mercury Air Toxics Standard (MATS), the Regional Haze program (all of which go back before the Obama administration), the proposed Clean Power Plan, which would set the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, and others. What was surprising to learn, though, is that after power companies in the state start complying with EPA’s other clean air protections, the proposed Clean Power Plan poses a minimal incremental impact to the power grid. We would only have to cut 200 megawatts of coal-fired generation, which equates to less than one coal-fired power plant. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, Coal, Demand Response, Environmental Protection Agency, ERCOT, MATS| Tagged | Comments closed

Energy Management Can Empower Everyone Regardless of Income Level

Source: Verizon

Source: Verizon

The holidays are upon us. As we prepare to gather with our friends and family, eat too much, and lounge around watching football, many people use this time to reflect on what they are grateful for. Being able to pay one’s electricity bill probably doesn’t make most people’s list, but for many Americans, it might.

The average household spends $1,945 annually on electricity, and homes with the lowest 20 percent of income spent nearly six percent of their income on energy bills. For many households, the cost of energy remains unaffordable. To put it in perspective, compared to middle- or upper-class homes, low-income households spend about twice the percentage of their income on energy. Yet, as Greentech Media points out, “many [energy management] solutions are tailored to the biggest homes, those awash in thousands of square feet of central air with a pool pump. Other solutions are tailored for middle-class homes, such as aggressive rebates for more efficient appliances. Many apartment-dwellers, however, do not own their major appliances."

The future of smart home, energy-saving technologies is often more focused on affluent, early-adopters who benefit from innovative ways to save energy because they can afford the newest gadgets. Thankfully, these people are using their buying power to lead the way, as more demand will bring prices down for everyone. While it is important for all of us to conserve and better manage energy use, low-income individuals have the most to gain. Yet the technologies that can enable savings are often out of financial reach. Read More »

Also posted in Pecan Street, Smart Grid| Tagged , | Comments closed

ERCOT Report on Clean Power Plan Misses the Big Picture

Source: Dpysh w

Source: Dpysh w

We knew this was coming. Everyone knew. The power sector is the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world, yet there are no limits on how much carbon power plants can emit into our air. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) for new and existing power plants is urgently needed, is well within Texas’ reach, and can ensure that Texas (more so than other states) forges a strong and prosperous clean energy economy.

But the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages roughly 90 percent of Texas’ power grid, issued a report this week that overestimates the challenges posed by the CPP to the state’s electric grid reliability. Furthermore, it failed to appropriately recognize key tools available to ERCOT and the state to meet the proposed CPP.

Here’s a breakdown of what the report missed: Read More »

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, Coal, Environmental Protection Agency, ERCOT, Natural gas, Renewable Energy, Solar, Wind| Comments closed
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