Category Archives: Renewable Energy

Point – Counterpoint: Heartland Institute Gets It Wrong on Wind

Source: AWEA

Source: AWEA

On the heels of a recent Forbes blog post where I call out Texas' Comptroller for playing favorites in her biased scrutiny of Texas' wind industry, comes another Forbes piece by James Taylor from the Heartland Institute. Confusing correlation with causation, Taylor claims wind energy causes higher energy prices. However, an increase in electricity prices cannot automatically be accounted for by pointing the finger at wind energy. That’s simply playing fast and loose with the facts.

This is the same tired slant we have heard from Heartland Institute time and time again. Not surprising – when pundits want to cherry pick data to make their argument strong, it doesn’t always work.

First there are many, many factors that determine energy rates, not just one type of resource. In an analysis of utility rates, economists Ernst Berndt, Roy Epstein, and Michael Doane identified 13 reasons why an electric utility’s rates may be higher or lower than the average. They include things like the average use per customer, age of the electricity distribution system, generation resource mix, local taxes, and rate of increases prior to any implemented renewable portfolio standard (RPS). So faulting renewables for high energy prices is a bogus claim. Furthermore, there is no data showing a nationwide pattern of renewable energy standards leading to rate increases for consumers. The report states: “American consumers in the top wind energy-producing states have seen their electricity prices actually decrease by 0.37 percent over the last 5 years, while all other states have seen their electricity prices increase by 7.79 percent over that time period." Further, 15 studies from various grid operators, state governments, and academic experts have examined the impact of wind energy on wholesale electricity prices and confirmed that wind energy reduces electricity prices. Read More »

Also posted in Green Jobs, Wind| Tagged , | Leave a comment

Texas Comptroller’s New Report Should Not Play Favorites

lollie-pop flickrRecently, the Texas Comptroller, Susan Combs, decided to come out swinging against renewable energy, specifically wind, in a report entitled Texas Power Challenge: Getting the Most From Your Energy Dollars. It would be easier to take this report seriously if it applied the same pressure and scrutiny to the oil, gas, and coal industries, which have received subsidies and incentives hand over fist. But, no, the attacks seem to focus only on renewables.

What’s worse is the Comptroller’s report is not based in fact. One of the main points of contention is the CREZ transmission lines that were built to ease the bottle-necked energy congestion in West Texas. Yes, this congestion was partly due to more wind energy on the power grid needing to make its way to cities in the East, but natural gas very much benefited from the added transmission lines as well. Even Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, a Republican ally of Combs', took her to task for this in a statement to the Texas Energy Report: Read More »

Also posted in Wind| Comments closed

EDF Debuts Clean Energy Video and Raises a Glass to Austin and Pecan Street Inc.

Last night, EDF, CleanTX, Pecan Street Inc., and Google hosted one of the clean energy events of the season.

We brought everyone in the Austin clean energy community – from legislators to cleantech entrepreneurs to EDF members – together to celebrate the tremendous progress our great city has made as a clean energy leader over the years, serving as an incubator and hub for some of the most exciting and innovative companies in the clean tech sector. After all, it is the collective hard work and dedication of everyone that put Austin on the map as a global leader in the clean energy economy.

We also kicked off the evening with a screening of our new video that highlights what the smart grid is doing for American energy. Set in Austin’s Mueller neighborhood, one of the world’s largest green-built communities and Pecan Street Inc.’s testbed for energy innovation, this short film tells the dynamic story of a clean energy future from within the American home. It gives people who live in a connected community a chance to express what clean energy means to them personally, from independence and innovation to health and reliability. The heroes of the film are ordinary people from the community who are part of this quiet revolution.

Read More »

Also posted in Pecan Street, Smart Grid, Solar, Wind| Tagged , | Comments closed

Solar in Texas: It's Really Happening this Time (Really)

iStock_Solar_InstallerEvery year, it seems, is predicted to be the “year for solar,” and for certain states this may ring true.

But in Texas, despite having a close relationship with the sun and its heat (2011 gave us 100 days over 100 degrees and no rain), we have yet to realize our potential for solar energy development, the highest potential of any state in the nation. Texas currently only has about 213 megawatts (MW) of solar energy installed (compared to over 237 MW in little ol’ Massachusetts). Recent developments, however, make me encouraged that the next few years will be the catalyst for finally fulfilling that potential.

Austin

A few weeks ago, the Austin City Council voted on an ambitious solar step forward, directing a “utility-scale solar target of 600 megawatts by 2017, a rooftop solar target of 200 megawatts by 2020, explicit language enabling third-party solar ownership, a floor price for the value-of-solar tariff…and a mandatory strategy to procure 200 megawatts of fast-response storage.” The resolution will require the municipal utility, Austin Energy, to obtain 60 percent of its electricity generation from renewables over the next decade, and to be completely carbon-free by 2030. Read More »

Also posted in Utilities| 1 Response, comments now closed

Elon Musk's Love-Hate Relationship with Texas

 (Source: Governor Rick Perry)

Texas Governor Rick Perry meets with entrepeneur Elon Musk
Source: Governor Rick Perry

For months now there has been much secrecy and mystery surrounding the location of electric car revolutionary Tesla's new $5 billion Gigafactory. The factory will supply cheaper batteries for the company’s Model 3 electric car and will be large enough to manufacture more lithium-ion batteries than the entire industry produces now. Due to its sheer scale, the factory is expected to reduce the cost of batteries by almost one-third and create close to 7,000 jobs directly and thousands more indirectly.

Amidst all the rumors abounding, closed door meetings, and tax break wars, I wrote about Tesla’s search for the perfect factory location – of which Texas was in the running. Despite Tesla breaking ground near Reno, Nevada a few weeks ago, there was still speculation about where the Gigafactory might be located, and Texas' chances remained somewhat alive.

But no more. Tesla indeed confirmed that Reno will be the home of the Gigafactory. This is great for Nevada’s economy, but as a Texan, it still feels like a bit of a blow – though I’m not surprised.

While Texas Governor Rick Perry personally lobbied for the Gigafactory to make its home in Texas, it doesn’t help that he’s at the helm of a state hostile to clean energy, despite Texas leading the nation in wind power. Although I’m hopeful that future clean tech endeavors will come to Texas, the existing status quo needs to change to combat this hostility.   Read More »

Also posted in Legislation, Transportation| Tagged , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Clean Power Plan to Reward Texas, not Wyoming Coal-Backers

Source: Aurora Lights

Chronicle readers would be forgiven if they opened their papers last weekend and thought it was 2005. That’s because the Koch brothers-funded Texas Public Policy Foundation published an editorial that echoed the pro-coal rhetoric we heard nearly 10 years ago when then-TXU wanted to build new power plants across Texas that would burn Wyoming coal.

Sure, this weekend’s piece had a different news hook – the new Clean Power Plan that will require Texas to reduce carbon emissions from power plants like every other state. But TPPF’s conclusion was the same: better, cleaner technology is bad and coal is king. As Yogi Berra would have said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Texas is the number one carbon emitter in the U.S. and power plants, together, are the largest emitters. Our state represents close to 10 percent of the entire nation’s carbon emissions. The Clean Power Plan will simply require Texas to adhere to the rules all other states have to follow. I love Texas more than the average person, but I don’t think we should get special treatment simply because some of our energy companies doubled-down on fossil fuels. And I certainly don’t think we should rely on Wyoming coal when Texas is the nation’s energy powerhouse. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Climate Change, GHGs, TPPF| Comments closed

EPA’s Clean Power Plan: Texas’ Last Stand or Last Hope?

Source: North Texas Renewable Energy Group

Source: North Texas Renewable Energy Group

August has been an eventful month here in Texas. And, no, I’m not referring to news about Governor Rick Perry, rather some of his appointees. The Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC), Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Railroad Commissioner (RRC) Barry Smitherman, RRC Chairman Christy Craddick, and State Representative Jason Isaac held a joint session to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new Clean Power Plan (CPP).

The CPP will limit – for the first time ever – carbon emissions for existing power plants. Texas, the number one polluter in the country, needs to cut 195 billion pounds of carbon in the next 18 years, according to a Texas Tribune analysis. However, EPA suggests Texas could easily meet its goal through a combination of actions: making coal plants more efficient, using more natural gas plants, increasing the use of renewable resources, and expanding energy efficiency.

Texas has a choice: either roll up some sleeves and double down on the state’s clean energy leadership, creating jobs and wealth, or continue to play petty politics to buy the fossil fuel industry more time. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Coal, Energy Efficiency| Tagged | Comments closed

Studying Solar in Texas: Big Energy Savings Opportunities on Small Campuses

By: Andy Ferris, student of the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business

Andy Ferris and Dr. Jeff Wilson pictured here in Wilson’s home- as part of the Dumpster Project, a sustainable living experiment, Wilson is living in the dumpster for a full year.

Distributed generation solar has been a growing trend around the country. Home owners, large commercial entities and other facilities all have looked to their rooftops to cash in on a previously underutilized asset. My EDF Climate Corps fellowship at Huston Tillotson University focused on evaluating opportunities for solar power on a 23 acre, private, tax-exempt HBCU (Historically Black College or University) campus in Austin, TX. Huston-Tillotson has a target of 50 percent carbon emissions reduction by 2030 and hopes to become one of the most sustainable HBCUs in the country. My analysis calculated that completing the recommended solar installation would increase the portion of their energy from renewable sources to 14 percent; a level high enough to place them first in the country among private HBCUs.

Challenges Facing Small Organizations

With an abundance of sun and a highly competitive solar industry, making solar photovoltaic (PV) installations work in Texas should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, a less-than encouraging regulatory environment can complicate solar installations for commercial scale projects. In Austin, a production based incentive has been rapidly reduced from $0.14/kWh to $0.09/kWh in just the last three months. This trend along with a policy that eliminates net-metering for installations over 20 kW capacity has made it challenging for small organizations looking to add PV panels to their facilities. Read More »

Also posted in Solar, Utilities| Tagged , | Comments closed

EPA’s State-by-State Carbon Limits Indicate Smart Policy, Not Arbitrary Rulemaking

EDF_FB_renewableEnergy_solar (1)In June, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced – for the first time ever – standards to limit carbon emissions from U.S. power plants, known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Currently power plants emit 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions, but under the proposed Clean Power Plan, the U.S. power sector will cut carbon pollution by 30 percent below 2005 levels.

Since this announcement, the usual suspects have attacked the CPP, calling its proposed state-by-state reduction standards arbitrary. Their claims couldn’t be further from reality. When EPA asked states for feedback on how to best craft this standard, states asked for two things: individual standards and flexibility. And that’s what they got. Anyone familiar with the proposed standards will know they are based on a consistent and objective methodology that takes into account each state’s unique energy portfolio and emissions, as well as built with maximum flexibility in mind.

At first glance, the climate-change-denying crowd dismissed the standards as arbitrary, because the limits vary from state to state. For example, Washington needs to reduce its emissions rate by 72 percent by 2030, while Kentucky only needs to cut its emissions rate by 18 percent over the same period. Texas lies somewhere in the middle with a 39 percent reduction required. So what gives? Read More »

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, Climate Change, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Natural gas| Tagged | 2 Responses, comments now closed

To Unlock Wind, Build Transmission Lines Linking the Plains to the Cities

Guest Author: Robert Fares, Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. student at the University Texas at Austin

This commentary originally appeared on Scientific America's Plugged In blog. 

A vital factor affecting the economics of any energy source is transportation: where is the fuel extracted, where is it used, and how does it get from point A to point B?

An example is the case of Texas versus North Dakota, both of which have experienced a boom in oil and gas production from shale since the introduction of hydraulic fracturing.

Texas, with its long history of oil and gas development, is riddled with underground oil and gas pipelines connecting remote areas of the state with regional trading hubs. Read More »

Also posted in Natural gas, Wind| Tagged | Comments closed
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