By: Andrew Hoekzema, Air Quality Program Manager for Capital Area Council of Governments
This Saturday, the Texas Air Quality community will celebrate the life of Bill Gill. Most of us knew Bill either as Air Quality Program Manager at the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) or as the Emissions Inventory Section Manager at the Texas Natural Resources Commission (TNRCC). Bill dedicated his life to public service and improving air quality in Texas, and every day of his 42-year career in air quality put the principles of the Environmental Defense Fund into action – guided by science and economics, he found practical and lasting solutions to Texas’s air quality problems.
His career was extraordinary. In 1972, the State of Texas submitted its first State Implementation Plan under the Clean Air Act. Bill may not have known it at the time, but his career would become a major part of the state’s air quality plans over the next four decades. That same year, he started working in enforcement at the Texas Air Control Board (TACB), which was part of the Texas Department of Health at the time. A decade later, he helped establish the state’s Emissions Inventory section, and later served as the Emissions Inventory Section Manager until he retired in 2002 from the TACB’s successor agency, the TNRCC. In his time at TACB and TNRCC, he built one of the premier programs in the world for assessing emissions and ensuring that decisions on air quality had the best information available. Bill’s work won him national recognition: as the TNRCC’s Emissions Inventory Section Manager, he also co-chaired the national point source committee of the Emissions Inventory Improvement Program for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Read More
Source: CPS Energy
While many are prophesizing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) as doomsday for the electricity sector, Texas utilities are telling a different story. The CPP will limit – for the first time ever – carbon emissions from existing power plants. One utility in particular, CPS Energy in San Antonio, “has already embraced a low-carbon strategy that anticipates this rule,” making it the most well-positioned utility in the state, if not country.
Homegrown energy, literally
CPS Energy has excelled using its commitment to create local, clean energy jobs. In its Request for Proposal (RFP) for a 400 megawatt (MW) solar energy plant, the utility included a specification for the creation of local solar jobs. And it worked. Most recently, the utility announced the launch of the Mission Solar Energy Plant – a 240,000 square foot manufacturing plant that will employ upwards of 400 San Antonians. To assist with future expansions, CPS also helped create a program at Alamo Colleges to train its future workforce for clean energy jobs and, admirably, almost one out of every five employees is a veteran. Read More
With the recent release of the National Climate Assessment, the threat of climate change has never been clearer. Addressing this will require a fundamental transition away from fossil-fuel sources of energy in favor of renewable energy technologies like wind and solar power. Electric utilities vary in their progress towards delivering a future powered by clean energy. Notably, Central Texas, with its combination of energy know-how, creative thinking, and technology entrepreneurship, is home to many utilities leading the way in clean energy resources and smart grid technology.
Austin & San Antonio are leading the pack
Although Texas has a deregulated, competitive electricity market where most energy companies compete for customers, the San Antonio-Austin-Hill Country corridor is mainly comprised of public electric utilities, like municipals and cooperatives that are community-owned. For years, Austin and San Antonio’s municipal utilities have benefited from an engaged customer base that cares about the transition to a clean energy economy. Read More
Well site located in Eagle Ford Shale play
Late last week, the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) released a report outlining emission projections from oil and gas activity in the Eagle Ford Shale play, the most active drilling area in the country right now. Under the moderate drilling activity scenario, projections of air pollutants are expected to quadruple in the next four years. Even though this seems like a staggering prediction, it is likely an underestimation, given certain emissions are not accounted for in the inventory.
What does the report say?
The report assesses the emissions from oil and gas activity in the Eagle Ford Shale play and projects air pollution under three different development scenarios: low, moderate, and aggressive. Projections over the next several years indicate that we can expect substantial increases in smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and carbon monoxide. Read More
Source: WATR News
The Texas Comptroller, Susan Combs, recently released the Texas Water Report: Going Deeper for the Solution, which proposes a sort of revolution to solve Texas’ water woes. As Combs notes, Texas is a global energy leader, but the state should be a global water leader too. And her initiative couldn’t come fast enough. Texas, already prone to cycles of drought, is facing new water pressures, including population growth and a changing economy, which only make it harder to preserve our diminishing water supply. To rouse the state’s water recovery plan, the report prioritizes water-saving technological innovations (while stressing the need for conservation) and lauds various Texas cities for water management practices. But the report misses some key elements that are essential to keeping our water flowing. In the same way that new energy technologies have brought us closer to a cleaner, more reliable electric grid, innovations in the water arena can seamlessly reduce our water use and set the state on a sustainable path.
The report says conservation is not enough, and it’s right. However, efficiency is the most significant first step and conservation achieved through technology is a welcome counter to the infrastructure-heavy plans typically heard at the Capitol and in the State Water Plan. (What good is a new reservoir, if there’s no water to put in it?) Some of the technologies evaluated in the report include aquifer storage and recovery, inter-basin transfers, low-water fracking technologies and desalinization – what some call “game changers.” These technologies could potentially relieve our future water woes, but these projects are expensive and don’t alleviate our immediate or even mid-term water stresses. Read More
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