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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Texas Public Utility Commission defends competitive markets, customer interests

The Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) might not be a household name, but electricity customers across Texas have plenty of reason to be thankful for its latest actions.

Recently, the PUC has made some key decisions to protect Texas’ competitive electricity markets and make sure all Texans have access to affordable and clean electric energy.

As we move toward the hot summer months and ERCOT projects record demand and potential grid alerts, these policy moves will hopefully be paired with further support of tools like distributed energy resources to ensure a reliable and resilient grid.

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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 »

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