Texas Clean Air Matters

Forget Taco Wars – the Real Competition is Over Who is Using Water More Wisely

Guadalupe_river_Hunt_TXSan 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 »

Also posted in Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus, San Antonio, Utilities / Comments are closed

Why Isn’t Texas Saving Energy and Water through Solar Floatovoltaics?

floatovoltaics flickrSymbiosis – 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 known 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 »

Also posted in Energy-Water Nexus, Solar / Read 6 Responses

Despite Overwhelming Nationwide Support for Clean Energy, Poll Shows Personal Disconnect

SolarWorker_iStock_000010582663_RFOften 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 / Read 3 Responses

Why the Surprise Supreme Court Decision won’t Thwart the Clean Power Plan

Coal power plant fumesSince regular readers of this blog are familiar with the Clean Power Plan – America’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants – we wanted to let you know of a legal setback. It’s very important the plan moves forward, but fortunately Texas is moving toward a clean energy economy either way.

-The EDF Texas Clean Air Matters team 

 

By: Keith Gaby, Communications Director, Climate & Air Program

In a surprise procedural decision yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court put the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan on pause while a lower court reviews it.

The Court did not weigh in on the merits of the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan, and didn’t explain its reasoning, so we don’t know the legal basis for this unusual decision.

But we do know that the court has repeatedly upheld the EPA’s authority – in fact, its responsibility – to limit climate pollution under the Clean Air Act.

So we remain confident that the Clean Power Plan rests on a solid legal foundation, as states, power companies, legal experts and air pollution control officials nationwide have already recognized. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Power Plan / Comments are closed

3 Ways Texas’ Grid is Getting Smarter Thanks to DOE’s SunShot Initiative

rp_Pecan-Street-300x199.jpgLast week, GridWise Alliance released its 3rd Annual Grid Modernization Index (GMI), a ranking of every state’s progress toward modernization of our nation’s electric system – and Texas impressively placed third. The Alliance, a leading smart grid coalition which includes Environmental Defense Fund, based its assessment on state policies, customer engagement, and investment in advancing grid operations.

As we move toward a smarter, more efficient electric system, Texas is emerging as a leader in grid modernization. And with three recent smart-grid grants from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Initiative, the Lone Star State could climb to the top of the GMI list.

Since 2011, the DOE has awarded millions of dollars through the SunShot Initiative to a variety of public and private entities. The goal is to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by the end of the decade, meaning it would cost the same to get your power from solar as from more traditional sources like coal. In the short amount of time since the program began, the solar industry is already 70 percent of the way there.

As the sixth largest electricity consumer in the country, Texas could greatly contribute to reaching this goal, especially with recent DOE support given to projects run by Austin Energy, Pecan Street, and GeoCF: Read More »

Also posted in Energy Storage, Pecan Street, Smart Grid, Solar / Tagged , , | Read 2 Responses

Saving Texas’ Water through Smart Energy Choices in 2016

Desert-Sky-Wind-Farm wikipedia2015 proved to be another weird weather year around the country, especially for Texas. 80 degrees and dry in Austin on Christmas Day, spring wildflowers in bloom, and kids playing outside in shorts – a surprise ending to a wild ride of drought followed by devastating floods followed by drought and then more floods.

Texas is used to drought-flood cycles and extreme weather, but last year the pendulum seemed to swing wildly from one to the next. And climate models predict intense swings for the future as well: After the next flood is another drought, which will likely be more intense and longer than usual due to climate change.

Unfortunately, it seems like during our brief respites from drought, we also take a break from thinking about water scarcity. After the year we’ve just had, this should not be the case – water security should be at the top of Texans’ minds going into 2016. But there are two promising developments for our water future: the Clean Power Plan and examples that cities in other water-stressed Western states are setting. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, Energy-Water Nexus / Read 1 Response