Source: Earth Techling
As we highlighted a few weeks back, Texas is on a new path to accelerating its clean, renewable energy economy. The opening of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) now enables more West and Panhandle wind turbines to fuel the state’s major metropolises, and the completion of the project couldn’t come soon enough.
A number of companies are looking to grow and invest in Texas, thanks to its plentiful, clean wind power. Google, Microsoft and BBVA Compass are leading the charge and signing long-term agreements to purchase Texas wind energy. These contracts lock in considerable revenue for the state and guarantee Texas’ ranking as the number one wind-producing state in the nation. In fact, West Texas wind has outpaced the growth of coal, natural gas and all other fuel sources that supply the grid, according to a recent report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
In September, Google added to its growing stock of renewable energy by purchasing the entire output of a 240-megawatt wind farm (enough energy to power 84,000 homes) outside Amarillo to power its Oklahoma data center. Late in November, Microsoft signed a 20-year contract to purchase all of the energy from a 110-megawatt wind farm outside Fort Worth to power its San Antonio data center. And BBVA Compass recently signed a 10-year agreement with Choice! Energy Services, a Houston-based retail energy broker, to power its Texas branches exclusively with wind and solar energy. Read More
This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.
Over the past two years, Texas’s changing energy landscape has been a focus of EDF’s work. In our Texas’ Energy Crunch report from March 2013, we highlighted that Texas has a peak capacity constraint – meaning that the power grid becomes strained when, for example, everyone is using their air conditioning units on hot summer afternoons. This challenge, coupled with increased climate change and drought, signal the need to prepare by adopting a smarter grid and cleaner resources.
The Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUCT) and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) have been engaged in this conversation and various proposals have been laid on the table to determine what Texas’ energy future will look like. EDF maintains the position that, whatever reforms are made, customer-facing, demand-side resources – defined here as demand response (DR), renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage – must play a key role to ensuring reliability, affordability, customer choice and environmental improvements.
Energy-Only Status Quo or Capacity Market or…?
Texas’ current energy-only market structure pays power plants only for the energy they produce. This is beneficial in that generators are not overcompensated, but the downside is that energy companies aren’t incentivized to build in Texas and energy management providers (DR companies) are not viewed as equal players. Energy prices are low due to an upsurge in cheap, abundant natural gas and wind – and without a guarantee for a high return on investment, companies will not take the risk of constructing costly new power plants. Read More
This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.
As we approach the end of 2013, Texas’ power grid is soon to embark on a new clean energy path. While most people don’t get too excited about electrical transmission and distribution lines, the much awaited Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission project– set to come online in a few weeks and roll out through 2014 – could be the exception.
Approved by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) in 2008, CREZ is a 3,600 mile transmission line that will connect remote West Texas wind energy to the eastern cities that need its power – 18,500 megawatts of power to be exact. This is enough power to energize 3.7 million to 7.4 million homes and increase available wind power supply by a whopping 50 percent.
Much like some other wind-rich regions in the country, wind in the West and Panhandle regions of Texas was partially unused, or curtailed, because local communities could not use all of the available supply and the state’s current, outmoded electric grid could not efficiently deliver the abundant energy to high-demand eastern cities. This ‘congestion’ bottleneck forced wind farms to lower prices and, at times, pay the utilities to take their electricity. Read More
Also posted in Wind
Tagged CREZ, Texas, Utilities
On Thursday, November 7, the Environmental Protection Agency opened its doors across the country to solicit public comment on the Carbon Pollution Standards for existing coal-fired power plants. The EPA seeks to implement common sense, realistic limits on the air pollution emitted from fossil fuel power plants, the single largest source of climate pollution in the United States.
To date, the coal industry has had free license to pollute carbon without limitation, leading directly and indirectly to harm human health and the environment.
These rules will bring a breath of fresh air to Texans and other Americans across the county.
Sadly in a few states, such as Texas, officials are acting to protect the owners of a few dirty coal plants and undermine the economic and health benefits that EPA will realize with the new measure.
Christi Craddick, member of the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency charged with regulating mining, published an editorial in the Abilene Reporter-News stating the proposed EPA standards will cause “detrimental effects on U.S. competitiveness in world markets, halt America’s energy boom and manufacturing renaissance and cost the U.S. economy.” Craddick cites no evidence to support her claims. Read More
Recently, we highlighted some of the impressive clean energy research projects currently under development in universities across the state of Texas. These research initiatives form the foundation to Texas’ position as leader in the clean energy economy and a producer of a burgeoning workforce. And this clean energy workforce requires a variety of skill sets that can be learned at different points along the educational spectrum.
In 2010, I produced a Texas Green Jobs Guidebook that highlights the job diversity within the clean energy sector—from solar panel installation to air quality enforcement. Universities train engineers, architects and city planners, but the clean energy workforce also requires a level of technical skill that is best taught at the community college level. In many ways, community colleges play a vital role in training the individuals that will put the clean energy future into action, and schools in Texas understand the growing need for skilled technicians.
Houston Community College recently launched a new solar energy program that trains students to install solar panels. Their education includes understanding proper placement and trouble-shooting and is, in fact, the first program in the area that is certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Read More
Source: Architect Magazine
The Solar Decathlon, a competition that challenges colleges across the nation to design and construct efficient, affordable and attractive solar powered-home, is taking place October 3-13 at Orange Country Great Park in Irvine, California. The bi-annual event, organized by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), awards the team that excels in combining cost-effectiveness, consumer appeal and energy efficiency into a state of the art home. But like many competitions, the real winners are those that pursue the challenge long after the bout ends, and this decathlon is no exception. Year after year, students graduate and form the next wave of clean energy entrepreneurs, engineers and architects looking to advance energy efficient homes.
This year, the University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College have joined forces to create Team Texas. The last time a Texas university participated in the Solar Decathlon was in 2007, when the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University competed as two separate teams.
This year Team Texas has submitted ADAPT, a house that reflects the nature of the two universities’ homestead, El Paso. Its design maximizes the use of solar energy, an abundant resource in the Southwest, and is meant to feel natural on a mountain plateau, high desert or green farmland. ADAPT embraces the belief that “a home is not just a location or state of mind but a place where the heart is”. Read More
On Saturday, the Austin-American Statesman ran a review I wrote on Asher Price and Kate Galbraith’s new book, The Great Texas Wind Rush: How George Bush, Ann Richards, and a Bunch of Tinkerers Helped the Oil & Gas State Win the Race to Wind Power. Not only is it a great read and a thorough history of Texas’ wind industry, it mentions EDF multiple times; our own Mark MacLeod and Jim Marston played prominent roles in the grand negotiation that established Texas’ Renewable Portfolio Standard during the state’s electric utilities deregulation in 1999.
Today, Texas leads the nation in wind power, but it was not always so. The book charts how the early days of wind turbine mishaps and misfortunes ushered in the present state of affairs, with wind providing over 9% of state’s overall electricity in 2012 and up to 28% of the state’s power when the wind is at its best. The authors craft the story well, pulling from legendary tales of the Wild West, romantic literary and artistic accounts from the likes of Cormac McCarthy and Woody Guthrie and the gubernatorial regimes of Ann Richards and George W. Bush. To entice you to pick up a copy, here are some excerpts, including a quote from Jim Marston who, rightfully so, has the last words in the book.
Starting with the early days of the “tinkerers”, Galbraith and Price, both energy and environmental reporters from the Texas Tribune and the Austin-American Statesman, respectively, feature many characters, including Marcellus Jacobs: Read More
This post originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.
As we’ve highlighted in previous posts, water and energy regulators often make decisions in silos, despite the inherent connection between these two sectors. Texas is no exception.
Two very important and intertwined events are happening in Texas right now.
First, the state is in the midst of an energy crunch brought on by a dysfunctional electricity market, drought, population growth and extreme summer temperatures. An energy crunch signifies that the available supply of power barely exceeds the projected need (or demand) for electricity. Texas’ insufficient power supply makes the whole electricity system vulnerable to extreme weather events. An especially hot day (with thousands of air conditioning units running at full blast) could push the state over the edge and force the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the institution charged with ensuring grid reliability, to issue rolling blackouts.
Second, Texas is still in the midst of a severe, multi-year drought, forcing state agencies to impose strict water restrictions throughout the state. The drought has already had a devastating impact on surface water and many communities are facing critical water shortages.
Although Texas has always had to deal with extreme weather events, we can anticipate even more intense weather as climate change advances. The new climate ‘normal’ makes extreme heat waves, like the historic 2011 Texas summer, 20 times more likely to occur. These extreme weather events heighten the urgency of the energy-water nexus. Read More
Also posted in Climate change, Demand Response, Drought, Energy efficiency, Environment, ERCOT, Extreme weather, TCEQ, Texas Energy Crunch, Utilities, Water
Tagged Drought, energy, Energy Water Nexus, ERCOT, Texas, Texas Energy Crunch, TWDB, Water
On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed lawsuits filed by Attorney General Greg Abbott and a group of power companies that could have undermined the Clean Air Act and hurt efforts to reduce climate pollution.
The Clean Air Act requires that large sources of pollution, including greenhouse gases (GHGs), obtain permits when they are constructing or making a major change to their facility. These permits require facilities to use modern emission control technologies to cost-effectively reduce their pollution.
Some states, including Texas, didn’t have the authority to issue these clean air permits for greenhouse gases under their state laws, so the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took the limited actions challenged here to ensure that sources in these states could get the permits they needed to begin construction. Every state – except Texas – worked with EPA to make sure sources could get the permits they needed (either under state or federal authority).
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has been quoted as saying, “What I really do for fun is I go into the office, [and] I sue the Obama administration,” took the EPA to court over the agency’s efforts to ensure sources in Texas could get the permits they needed to construct. All of this despite the fact that most facilities in Texas were already working to reduce their emissions and comply with the new federal standards. On Friday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed that the Clean Air Act unambiguously requires large GHG sources, like coal-fired power plants, to obtain permits. As a result, the court dismissed Texas’ lawsuit, finding that EPA’s actions didn’t cause Texas any injury. Much to the contrary, they were necessary to ensure GHG sources could obtain permits that they otherwise could not obtain at all. Read More
Also posted in Air Pollutants, Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Climate change, coal, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, Texas Permitting
Tagged Clean Air Act, EPA, GHGs, Greg Abbott
This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.
Back in March, I wrote about the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC’s) state-by-state attack on renewable energy. The attacks contribute to ALEC’s growing reputation as a “shadowy right-wing front group,” funded by the likes of Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy, the largest private-sector coal company in the world. ALEC’s legislative efforts were aided by the Heartland Institute, a “free-market think tank” and notorious climate change denier.
ALEC has a clear motive: to serve the interests of dirty fossil fuel power plants and block progress towards greater use of clean, homegrown energy.
I’m happy to announce that ALEC and the Heartland Institute’s efforts to roll-back individual state’s renewable energy goals decisively failed in legislatures spanning from West Virginia to Kansas. In total, 26 bills designed to remove renewable energy standards (RPS) for eight states were denied, according to a report from Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy.
Now, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin will continue on the path towards a clean energy future. Even better, some states increased their energy guidelines, namely Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland and Minnesota.
This news comes as a resounding victory for the climate, consumers, and Americans who care to see the U.S. progress into the global $ 2 billion clean energy economy. Read More