Selected category: Pecan Street

Home Is Where the Smart Is: First-of-its-Kind Study Reveals Importance of Smart Technology and Low-Water Clean Energy

By: Kate Zerrenner and Dustin McCartney, Senior Data Analyst, Pecan Street

Have you ever thought about how much water your dryer needs to dry your clothes? (And no, I don’t mean your washing machine.)

Every appliance in your home has a water intensity, or the amount of water needed to make and send the electricity that powers it. On the flip side, all water – like in your faucet, toilet, and irrigation system – has an energy intensity, the amount of electricity needed to treat, distribute, or heat the water. Chances are, you probably haven’t given much consideration to the water intensity of your home energy, or the energy intensity of your water. There hasn’t been any data at the household level – until now.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) recently teamed up with Pecan Street, Inc. to examine these combined metrics in a new study. Pecan Street, a research group running the most extensive energy-tracking in U.S. history, analyzed the energy and water costs of a group of Austin homes and their appliances.

By gathering granular data on how much energy and water households use, as well as their associated energy and water intensities, this study reinforces the need for smart technology to help us better understand and manage energy and water. Moreover, in order to safeguard water supplies, the analysis demonstrates the importance of powering our lives with low-water clean energy resources. Read More »

Also posted in Energy-Water Nexus| Comments are closed

3 Ways Texas’ Grid is Getting Smarter Thanks to DOE’s SunShot Initiative

rp_Pecan-Street-300x199.jpgLast week, GridWise Alliance released its 3rd Annual Grid Modernization Index (GMI), a ranking of every state’s progress toward modernization of our nation's electric system – and Texas impressively placed third. The Alliance, a leading smart grid coalition which includes Environmental Defense Fund, based its assessment on state policies, customer engagement, and investment in advancing grid operations.

As we move toward a smarter, more efficient electric system, Texas is emerging as a leader in grid modernization. And with three recent smart-grid grants from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Initiative, the Lone Star State could climb to the top of the GMI list.

Since 2011, the DOE has awarded millions of dollars through the SunShot Initiative to a variety of public and private entities. The goal is to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by the end of the decade, meaning it would cost the same to get your power from solar as from more traditional sources like coal. In the short amount of time since the program began, the solar industry is already 70 percent of the way there.

As the sixth largest electricity consumer in the country, Texas could greatly contribute to reaching this goal, especially with recent DOE support given to projects run by Austin Energy, Pecan Street, and GeoCF: Read More »

Also posted in Energy Storage, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Solar| Tagged , , | Read 2 Responses

Texas Is Nearly Out of This Drought – But We’re Not in the Clear

An abridged version of the below ran as an op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman today.

Flooding near Whole Foods in May 2015. Source: Instagram/Caleb Eike Smith

Flooding near Whole Foods in May 2015. Source: Instagram/Caleb Eike Smith

Unfortunately, a good rain washes away more than the drought; it washes away much of man’s interest in providing for the next one, and it washes the supports from under those who know that another dry cycle is coming and who urge their fellows to make ready for it.

— “More Water for Texas” by Walter Prescott Webb (1954)

As a native Austinite, I remember the historic Memorial Day Flood of 1981. I was a little kid and the storm was so intense I asked my Mom if I could sleep in her bed. I remember seeing pictures of grand pianos from Strait Music store and cars from the dealerships floating down Lamar Boulevard, and the original Whole Foods flooding. Austin has changed a lot in the intervening decades, and although many of the store fronts are different, the pictures taken of Lamar this Memorial Day were eerily similar.

In Texas we are used to cycles of drought and flood; we know extreme weather just as we know extreme personalities and politics. But the natural dynamics are changing in Texas, and we can no longer rely on the saving grace of a “rain bomb” to get us out of the next drought. Make no mistake, the next drought is just around the corner. The best way to help Texas conserve water now is to urgently pursue clean energy and better planning between the energy and water sectors. Read More »

Also posted in Energy-Water Nexus, Renewable Energy| Comments are closed

Report Signals Strength of Austin’s Cleantech Economy – So How Did we Become a Technopolis?

volts pecan stWhile growing up in Austin in the 70’s and 80’s, I did not fully appreciate one of the most important movements for the city was underway – the transformation of Austin into a hub of technological innovation. We can thank Dr. George Kozmetsky for that. While Dean of the College of Business at University of Texas in 1977, he founded the IC² Institute (which stands for Innovation, Creativity, and Capital) on the premise technological innovation can catalyze regional economic development by creating and leveraging synergies among the university, government, and private sectors. He understood the importance of collaboration and how communities working together across sectors can strengthen the economy.

More evidence of Dr. Kozmetsky’s leadership showed up last month when the Austin Technology Incubator and CleanTX Foundation, organizations born out of IC², provided the first ever Economic Impact Report for the Cleantech Sector in Central Texas. The report indicates the Austin Metropolitan Surrounding Areas have added $2.5 billion to the regional GDP with 20,000 jobs directly in the cleantech sector, and is expected to grow at 11 percent annually by 2020, almost twice the national growth rate. Furthermore, Clean Edge just named Austin as one of the top 10 metro areas for cleantech leadership in the nation.

These impressive cleantech numbers reflect an ecosystem that has flourished because of the technology foundation put in place three decades ago. Yet many people in the technology world in Central Texas today don’t know the critical and crucial role Dr. Kozmetsky played in its vision and development.  Read More »

Also posted in Green Jobs| Tagged , | Comments are closed

What the Water Sector Could Learn from the Electric Side

Source: Flickr/Hammer365

Source: Flickr/Hammer365

Each year, the nation wastes an estimated two trillion gallons, or about 14 to 18 percent, of its treated water through leaks alone. That’s a lot of water – enough to fill over three million Olympic-size swimming pools.

We know smart water meters are a critical component to better understanding our water use, but smart meters are only one part of the equation. What we really need is a smart water system.

A more intelligent system could not only help water providers and people better understand their use and how to adjust their behavior accordingly, but it could make the entire treatment and delivery of water more efficient. Plus, system-wide data could make daily water use and associated cost accessible – not an end-of-the-month billing surprise – enabling residents to make more informed decisions and utilities to waste less water.

Energy and water are connected, but they may need different solutions

The energy sector has learned a lot about the smart grid, and put a great deal of its research into practice. And, compared to the water sector, the electricity sector is pretty far along with its smart meter roll-out and understanding of all the information points across the system. For instance, in Texas, more than 3.5 million smart water meters have been installed, compared with approximately 17 million electric smart meters. But, while much of the smart electric grid findings are valuable in relation to the water sector, there are clear differences.  Read More »

Also posted in Energy-Water Nexus, Smart Grid, Utilities| Tagged | Comments are 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 Energy Efficiency, Smart Grid| Tagged , | Comments are closed
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