For the past 25 years, I have had the opportunity to work on clean energy and clean air issues for Texas. Throughout this time, I have come to believe the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages about 90 percent of Texas’ grid, is the best grid operator in the country. In my opinion, ERCOT has implemented the most competitive electric marketplace in the country, while stabilizing utility costs and maintaining reliability.
And now, Texas is being presented with an opportunity to continue leading on electricity. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just released its historic final standards on carbon pollution from power plants, the Clean Power Plan, and Texas is well-positioned to comply. Not only that, the plan could actually be one of our state’s most effective tools for economic development and water planning.
I’m hopeful ERCOT and other involved Texas decision makers will recognize the clean energy trends already underway and seize the potential benefits within our reach through the Clean Power Plan – making the best decisions for our citizens and economy. Read More
A solar furnace in the Pyrenees, France.
If you drive around the Lone Star State, you’re sure to see bumper stickers that say, “Texas: Bigger than France.” It references an ongoing debate about which “country” is bigger (something Texans feel very strongly about), but a closer look (aka, a quick Google search) reveals Texas and France are roughly equivalent in size. This, however, is where the similarities end – at least until recently.
Earlier this summer, France and the rest of Western Europe were in the grips of a record-breaking heatwave. Texans are certainly no strangers to crippling heat, even if we have been enjoying a relatively mild summer (so far) with regular spring and summer rains. But one year of El Nino climate patterns does not mean Texas is in the clear. Nor does it mean one abnormally hot summer in France is the last one they’ll see.
Global climate change predictions show that extreme heat and drought are on the rise, meaning both Texas and France increasingly need to consider water in their energy decisions. Why? Because as temperatures increase, so will our energy demand, which means an increase in demand for water, too.
Both France and Texas are facing some tough times ahead based on climate models, but their responses are very different. Read More
By: Peter Sopher, policy analyst, clean energy, and Sarah Ryan, clean energy consultant
Over the past century, the electric grid in the United States has experienced only minor changes. There is evidence, however, the power sector is changing. We are moving away from traditional coal generation and toward alternative, cleaner energy sources. And despite our state being primarily known for oil and gas, Texas is no exception.
In fact, Texas’ electricity sector has been trending cleaner over the past decades, driven by deregulation of the electricity market, the development of the massive highway of transmission lines built to carry West Texas wind to cities throughout the state – the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ), and technological progress. Basically, once the market was opened up to competition, the more economic options – which also happen to be cleaner – began to gain a foothold. And there’s no stopping this train.
Where we are and where we’re going
To start, the declining use of fossil fuels to power our lives is perhaps the most significant change in Texas. As shown in Figure 1 below, fossil fuels’ (coal and gas’) proportion of the state’s electricity generation mix shrunk from 88 percent in 2002 to 82 percent in 2013. Read More
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
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
Summer is in full swing and this weekend we celebrate the 4th of July. As we watch fireworks explode in the night sky above us on Saturday, we can be thankful the 2015 Texas Legislative session is over. We can also celebrate a small victory for Texas wind: the death of Senator Troy Fraser’s Senate Bill (SB) 931.
Since 2011, 40 percent of all new energy generating capacity installed in Texas has come from wind, and the state installed more than a third of the nation’s new wind capacity last year. Texas also leads the nation with 17,000 wind industry jobs. Of the 12,700 megawatts (MW) under construction across the country, approximately 7,000 MW are in Texas. Moreover, Texas receives more than 10% of its electricity from wind, and that number keeps rising.
Despite these impressive figures, Sen. Fraser sponsored SB 931 to repeal Texas' leadership-creating Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which helped the Lone Star State become the number one wind state in the country. The RPS is an economic tool to drive renewables growth that has helped Texas secure $28 billion in private capital investment since 2008. Read More
Also posted in Legislation, Wind
Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz recently met in a meeting with Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell to discuss how they could sabotage the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed (CPP). The CPP would place the nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants – the rules for which are expected to be finalized this summer.
The reason for the meeting is simple: Sen. McConnell is currently touting a “just say no” approach to EPA’s regulations, advocating states refuse to create a compliance plan, which is clearly to protect his coal-producing state. He also supports legislation to let states opt-out of the pollution reduction program. After the closed-door meeting, Governor Abbott announced he is siding with the Senator from Kentucky on the CPP.
What the press release didn’t say: By aligning himself with Sen. McConnell, Governor Abbott is hurting Texas. Read More