The 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
Hilary Sinnamon, clean air and transportation consultant, contributed to this post.
A key component of one of the most significant health protection measures adopted in the past several years will take effect in the New Year – and Texas is positioned to reap significant benefits.
Large ocean-going ships, like container vessels, tankers, and cruise ships are often called floating smokestacks because they have historically burned fuel hundreds to thousands of times dirtier than all other mobile sources, including cars, trucks, trains and construction equipment. That’s why the North American Emissions Control Area (ECA), approved by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2010, requires these vessels to reduce harmful emissions by switching to cleaner fuels when transiting within 200 nautical miles of U.S. and Canadian coastlines. This means healthier air for communities across Texas and the rest of the country, as these measures are estimated to reduce millions of pounds of harmful air pollutants and save tens of thousands of lives. Read More
The New York Times recently came out with an article that I could not ignore. It looked at how Attorneys General across the country have been supported by campaign donations from a “secretive energy alliance” that includes some of the nation’s top fossil fuel power companies. Texas Attorney General and Governor-elect Greg Abbott received the most—a whopping $2.5 million, compared to the $577,000 for the next largest beneficiary of the polluters’ largess.
Abbott has been quoted as saying, “What I really do for fun is I go into the office, [and] I sue the Obama administration.” True to his word, Abbott has sued the federal government 30 times (27 since Obama took office), including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) eight times, spending at least $2.58 million of taxpayers' money and more than 14,113 in state employee staff hours in the process—all with little success. But, of course, those $2.5 million in campaign funds had no effect on his actions. He's doing it for fun. Read More
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
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled a proposal to update our national air quality standards for ground-level ozone, more commonly known as smog, from the current 75 parts per billion level to 65 to 70 parts per billion. Smog is a dangerous air pollutant linked to asthma attacks and other serious heart and lung diseases. That’s why EPA is also seeking comments on establishing a health standard of 60 parts per billion, a level that would provide the strongest public health protections for Americans according to scientific record. But despite the overwhelming scientific evidence of the health benefits of a more protective ozone standard, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), publicly opposes it.
Sixty to 70 parts per billion is the health-based range recommended by the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, an independent panel of the nation’s leading scientists. The panel of scientists formed its recommendation based on an examination of bedrock scientific evidence and the requirement under the law to protect those most vulnerable.
In deconstructing TCEQ’s position on ozone, one can focus on a few key elements that stray from the mainstay of accepted public health principles:
Source: CPS Energy
While many are prophesizing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) as doomsday for the electricity sector, Texas utilities are telling a different story. The CPP will limit – for the first time ever – carbon emissions from existing power plants. One utility in particular, CPS Energy in San Antonio, “has already embraced a low-carbon strategy that anticipates this rule,” making it the most well-positioned utility in the state, if not country.
Homegrown energy, literally
CPS Energy has excelled using its commitment to create local, clean energy jobs. In its Request for Proposal (RFP) for a 400 megawatt (MW) solar energy plant, the utility included a specification for the creation of local solar jobs. And it worked. Most recently, the utility announced the launch of the Mission Solar Energy Plant – a 240,000 square foot manufacturing plant that will employ upwards of 400 San Antonians. To assist with future expansions, CPS also helped create a program at Alamo Colleges to train its future workforce for clean energy jobs and, admirably, almost one out of every five employees is a veteran. Read More