For 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 ERCOT Tagged reliability
By: Laura Sanchez, EDF Climate Corps 2016 Fellow
Like many booming cities, Texas’ capital is experiencing overwhelming demand for affordable housing. Austin’s Mayor Steve Adler highlighted the affordable housing crisis shortly after taking office in January 2015, and urged the use of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) to help encourage affordability. PACE enables commercial, industrial, and multifamily property owners to improve the water or energy efficiency of their buildings – without having to worry about steep upfront costs. Investing in these types of upgrades can reduce a property’s operating costs, as well as tenants’ utility bills.
That’s why I spent this past summer with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), as an EDF Climate Corps Fellow with Texas PACE Authority, the PACE program administrator in the state. In June 2016, Mayor Adler created a committee of housing experts to determine how to leverage PACE for affordable housing. Alongside the committee, I worked to size up the opportunity, benefits, and challenges of using PACE to help pay for upgrades to affordable multifamily-housing properties.
After conversations with officials and program administrators from over 30 public for-profit and non-profit entities, we found there are significant opportunities – in Texas and nationwide – for the affordable multifamily-housing sector to leverage PACE. We are proud to present a new whitepaper that can serve as a guide to unlocking water, energy, and cost savings. Read More
Also posted in Energy Efficiency Tagged PACE
This year has seen historic flooding across the South. In addition to the devastating rains that recently hit Louisiana, severe floods pummeled Texas earlier this year. In both cases, the states’ National Guards were first responders, rescuing families, delivering meals and supplies to survivors, and providing local agencies with high-water trucks, boats, and helicopters.
As the frequency of extreme weather events like these increases, it is imperative that the National Guard can continue devoting resources to critical, first-responder services. But in Texas, those services could be threatened by the state’s dwindling water supplies.
A new study from CNA Analysis & Solutions, funded by Environmental Defense Fund and in collaboration with the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG), shows many Texas defense facilities are in water-stressed counties. Over time, this could result not only in higher water costs, but also power production constraints, since it requires a lot of water to produce and move electricity from traditional energy sources like coal and natural gas. Both of these challenges pose a direct threat to the budget and operating capabilities of the TXARNG. Fortunately, the analysis also indicates these same areas have great potential for solar energy, which requires little to no water to meet power needs on-site.
By tapping into that potential and pursuing bolder energy efficiency initiatives, TXARNG could ease pressure on the electric grid and reduce utility bills, all while safeguarding residents and precious water supplies. Read More
What 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
Also posted in ERCOT, Natural gas
It’s been an interesting time for water in Texas. Beyond the incredibly wet and cool spring we’ve been having, Memorial Day saw the second year in a row of record-breaking floods.
And a few weeks ago, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) asked for comments on the draft 2017 State Water Plan. The TWDB is the state agency responsible for water planning, and every five years it produces a strategy that “addresses the needs of all water user groups in the state – municipal, irrigation, manufacturing, livestock, mining, and steam-electric power.”
In the five years since the last state water plan, Texas has gone from one extreme to the other in terms of water: from the throes of a devastating drought to historic flooding that resulted in some reservoirs being full for the first time in 15 years.
In this climate of feast or famine, we need to better understand our water supplies and conservation efforts, both of which have a strong tie to our energy choices. That’s why Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) weighed in on Texas’ draft water plan. Not only does the state significantly overestimate the amount of water needed to make electricity, but a more comprehensive view of energy in relation to water demand and supply would benefit the 2017 State Water Plan and future plans. Read More
In terms of clean energy, Texas is incredibly resource-rich. And as our wind progress shows, we have begun to maximize that potential: A new report from the American Wind Energy Associations shows the Lone Star State leads the nation with over 24,000 wind energy employees.
How did Texas arrive at the forefront of the wind energy economy? One factor that undoubtedly played a vital role: the creation of an ahead-of-its-time policy tool that required the identification of Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ), as well as the construction of transmission lines to move energy from the CREZ to electric customers.
Since West Texas has plentiful wind but not as many people, this initiative aimed to transport that wind energy to populous cities throughout the state. The rules allow the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) to designate an area with abundant renewable energy as a CREZ, and then approve new transmission lines or improvements to existing ones. In 2008, the PUCT exercised this authority and the resulting power lines – completed in 2014 – stretch nearly 3,600 miles, moving clean, renewable energy across the state while improving the overall reliability of the electric grid.
However, despite these successes, the PUCT recently proposed to dismantle the rules related to CREZ and the approval of new transmission lines, which would be a significant affront to the state’s thriving wind industry – including the revenue and jobs that come with it. Right now, there are no proposals to expand the designation of CREZ and develop additional power lines to those zones. But with the rapidly changing energy landscape, it makes more sense for state leaders to maintain CREZ capabilities in their toolkit, rather than undoing a successful energy development policy. Read More
Also posted in Solar, Wind