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
San Antonio and Austin just called a cease-fire on a taco war over which city invented the breakfast taco. Both make excellent tacos: from the traditional chorizo and egg taco in San Antonio to a free-range egg and organic spinach taco in Austin. But this debate was about more than just tacos – it was about the history and culture of these two neighboring cities.
Only 80 miles apart, San Antonio and Austin have some significant differences. San Antonio is known as “Military City USA” largely due to its huge military bases, but it’s also known for other industries like biotech, military medical centers, and a dynamic business relationship with Mexico. The capital city’s economy, on the other hand, is based on high-tech, entertainment, state government, and the behemoth University of Texas at Austin. San Antonio is one of the largest Hispanic-majority cities in the country (at 63 percent in 2010), while Austin’s diversity comes in large part from people flocking to the Capitol from all over the state and country. As someone with roots in both San Antonio and Austin, I appreciate both – I’m an equal opportunity taco lover.
But both cities share an important commonality: exploding population growth. The population of the 13 counties that make up the Austin-San Antonio corridor is estimated to increase by 77 percent by 2050, to 6.8 million people. Extreme growth brings intense pressure on resources and services, particularly water in this drought-prone region. Both cities are standing up to that challenge through careful water conservation measures and by advancing clean energy. Read More
Symbiosis – in which different species have a cooperative or mutually beneficial relationship – is everywhere in nature: honeybees receive vital nutrients from flowers while delivering pollen (male) directly to the female parts of the flower; pilot fish gain protection from predators, while sharks gain freedom from parasites; and dogs protect their owners, while receiving food and shelter. Cited by some scientists as a major driver of evolution, symbiosis has played an important role in the mutual survival of certain species.
Two elements in nature that are also very symbiotic are energy and water: It takes water to produce and distribute energy, while energy is used to treat, pump, and distribute water. This inextricable link is knowns as the energy-water nexus. Yet, energy and water planners do not treat these important resources as symbiotic “species,” resulting in a lot of waste – something we cannot afford with climate change on the rise.
Floating solar panels atop bodies of water, or the cleverly nicknamed “floatovoltaics,” are a possible solution for both energy and water challenges. The panels help to reduce evaporation of water – critical in hot, dry places like Texas and California – and the water helps to keep the panels cool, increasing their efficiency. Plus, compared to more traditional fuel sources, solar PV requires little to no water to produce electricity. Incorporating more solar energy and relying less on coal or natural gas means greater water savings overall.
Floatovoltaics seem like a win-win solution, but it’s not being deployed on a large scale yet. Some countries and U.S. states have surged ahead in testing this technology. So why isn’t a state like Texas, with big reservoirs, crippling droughts, and lots of solar potential, taking this bull by the horns? Read More
Often lost in greens’ advocacy is how a cleaner environment improves the lives of individuals. People hear, “Save the trees!” or “Use clean energy!” But if you’re out of work or can’t afford the electricity bill, you may ask, “How do these environmental efforts help me and my family?”
Yesterday, the University of Texas released its newest UT Energy Poll, which was conducted in January and concerns nationwide views on energy issues. The results indicate attitudes toward clean energy are overwhelmingly positive. This data also suggests, however, that people do not place as high of a priority on energy issues as they do on more personal issues, such as job creation.
Perhaps people don’t realize the extent to which clean energy and economic gains are actually closely linked. Therefore, investing in clean energy solutions will align with the public’s support and help address their biggest concerns. Read More
Also posted in Environment