Texas Clean Air Matters

3 reasons Texas’ electric grid survived a summer that pushed its limits

As the hot summer approached, state leaders expressed concern about potential blackouts and brownouts. Yet, thoughtful planning, a functional electricity market, and clean energy helped ensure the lights stayed on.

Power outage concerns­­

Hotter temperatures and continued population and commercial growth drove record electricity demand this past summer. Additionally, in early 2018, Luminant (now Vistra) shut down three large coal plants – all inefficient and highly-polluting – with a combined capacity of 4,200 megawatts (MW).

The shutdown of these power plants and other changes in the electricity market initially led the state’s electric grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), to forecast a reserve margin of 9.3 percent for summer 2018. The reserve margin is a measure of whether the Texas grid has extra energy capacity to satisfy periods of strong customer demand, and ERCOT traditionally had targeted a 13.75 percent margin. Potential outages remained a concern even after ERCOT updated its final projections and the reserve margin rose to 11 percent.

As it turned out, even when ERCOT set a new system-wide demand record (73,308 MW) in July, no electricity shortages occurred. ERCOT didn’t initiate any Energy Emergency Alerts, and it didn’t issue any appeals for customers to conserve electricity. Read More »

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Texas’ electricity market is working. But these companies want to change the rules to benefit themselves.

Texas’ two largest natural gas electricity generators are pressing state officials to implement a self-serving policy change that would significantly impact how wholesale electricity is priced in Texas.

Calpine Corporation and NRG Energy are pushing for “marginal losses” – a way of accounting for electricity that is lost on transmission lines as it moves from power plants to homes and businesses – when figuring the price that power plants get paid for electricity as retailers and public utilities buy it to serve their electricity customers.

The proposal is a penalty system that would benefit a few electricity generators at the expense of the rest of the state. Moreover, it has the potential to stifle the growth of clean energy and cause Texas to forgo the nearly $5 billion in energy cost savings that is projected to result from that growth. Read More »

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With hurricane season approaching, Texas should heed Harvey’s warning on climate change

The 2018 hurricane season is just around the corner – June 1st, in fact.

Initial predictions for this year’s season say we should expect it to be more active than average, which is unwelcome news to a state that is still reeling from Hurricane Harvey. And, while some areas are bracing for more hurricanes before they’ve even recovered from the last one, the majority of the state is already back in drought.

The weather rollercoaster that Texas has always ridden is getting more intense, thanks in large part to climate change. Not only is climate change real and happening, but Texas will be among the areas hardest hit economically by its effects. Put simply, our state can no longer afford not to act on climate change.

Over the past few months, we have been looking at issues related to Hurricane Harvey, like how the storm wreaked havoc on people’s health and how the state can better invest in coastal resilience.

With all of this in mind, the Texas Legislative Session is about six months away – and the Lone Star State should heed Harvey’s lessons. Read More »

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4 Ways to Enhance Texas’ Approach to Electric Reliability

power-lines-pixabayFor one scorching week in August, Texas broke electricity-use records on three different days. And the main grid operator met that exceptional demand every time.

That’s because the grid operator’s top priority is right there in its name: the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). ERCOT deploys many tools to ensure the lights stay on, including Reliability Must-Run (RMR) agreements, which keep open a power plant – like a coal or natural gas plant – that otherwise planned to stop or suspend operations. Recently, there has been concern that the use of RMRs may increase due to market conditions, specifically low electricity prices that are forcing uneconomic plants to retire.

RMRs serve a critical purpose. But as technology transforms the way we power our lives, we need smart policies that recognize the unprecedented array of new energy options. ERCOT currently is in the process of revising its rules, and Environmental Defense Fund has a few recommendations on how the grid operator can improve its approach to reliability agreements, so Texans can enjoy a healthier, cleaner, and more affordable energy future. Read More »

Also posted in Renewable Energy / Tagged | Comments are closed

3 Sure Signs of Texas’ Emerging Solar Market

solar flickr ricketyusAustin, my home for the past 35 years, is typically a pretty sunny place year-round. But summer is when I am reminded of the sun’s unwavering presence and strength.

Fortunately, Texas is beginning to put those rays to work, as evidenced by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) newest U.S. Solar Market Insight. Along with projected scenarios from the state’s main grid operator and a recent poll of Texas voters, the report confirms the Lone Star State’s solar power is on an unstoppable course. And the more we can take advantage of the sun’s energy, the less we have to rely on outdated, polluting coal plants – a good thing for our health and water.

Here are three reasons Texas solar is on the rise:

  • Texas solar is growing very quickly: The new Solar Market Insight report declares Texas to be the fastest growing utility-scale solar market in the country. In fact, by the end of 2016, SEIA predicts the state’s total installed solar capacity will more than double. And within the next five years, Texas’ solar market will be second only to California’s (although, considering California has one-fourth of the solar power potential of Texas, we could eclipse the Golden State in coming years).

Read More »

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Market Forces are Driving Coal’s Demise and Cleaning Up the Grid in Texas

power lines unsplash croppedWhat do economists and environmentalists have in common? When it comes to Texas’ energy future, more than you may think.

According to a new study from the Brattle Group, a reputable, national economics consulting firm with extensive experience in Texas’ electricity sector, market forces are leading to coal’s rapid decline in the Lone Star State. Moreover, rapidly-growing cleaner electricity sources like natural gas and renewable energy will be able to entirely meet Texas’ additional power needs – without increasing electric bills. We couldn’t agree more.

That said, we’re confident the impacts are going to be even more powerful in terms of Texas’ wind, solar, and energy efficiency. And the latest report from Texas’ main grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), continues to support that expectation. Read More »

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