By: Peter Sopher, policy analyst, clean energy, and Sarah Ryan, clean energy consultant
Over the past century, the electric grid in the United States has experienced only minor changes. There is evidence, however, the power sector is changing. We are moving away from traditional coal generation and toward alternative, cleaner energy sources. And despite our state being primarily known for oil and gas, Texas is no exception.
In fact, Texas’ electricity sector has been trending cleaner over the past decades, driven by deregulation of the electricity market, the development of the massive highway of transmission lines built to carry West Texas wind to cities throughout the state – the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ), and technological progress. Basically, once the market was opened up to competition, the more economic options – which also happen to be cleaner – began to gain a foothold. And there’s no stopping this train.
Where we are and where we’re going
To start, the declining use of fossil fuels to power our lives is perhaps the most significant change in Texas. As shown in Figure 1 below, fossil fuels’ (coal and gas’) proportion of the state’s electricity generation mix shrunk from 88 percent in 2002 to 82 percent in 2013. Read More
Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz recently met in a meeting with Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell to discuss how they could sabotage the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed (CPP). The CPP would place the nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants – the rules for which are expected to be finalized this summer.
The reason for the meeting is simple: Sen. McConnell is currently touting a “just say no” approach to EPA’s regulations, advocating states refuse to create a compliance plan, which is clearly to protect his coal-producing state. He also supports legislation to let states opt-out of the pollution reduction program. After the closed-door meeting, Governor Abbott announced he is siding with the Senator from Kentucky on the CPP.
What the press release didn’t say: By aligning himself with Sen. McConnell, Governor Abbott is hurting Texas. Read More
There is enough solar energy potential in Texas to power the world twice over. Yet currently we rank 10th in the nation (behind New Jersey) with 330 megawatts (MW), which is enough to power about 57,000 homes. Texas is a state of almost nine million households. That's a lot of rooftops, and when you add the number of commercial and industrial rooftops, parking lots, and garages, we are talking about a significant amount of surface area.
Meanwhile, the cost of solar panels has dropped 80 percent since 2008 and prices for rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems have declined markedly in recent years, dropping 29 percent from 2010 to 2013. Moreover, jobs in the solar industry are booming –SolarCity is hiring significantly more people than leading tech companies like Twitter.
So, what will it take to energize rooftop solar growth in Texas? Well, a recent announcement from one of Texas' “frenemies” may be part of the solution. Read More
Also posted in Smart Grid Tagged Tesla Motors
At Environmental Defense Fund, we advocate for policymakers, utilities, and other decision makers to design programs and support policies that enable everyone to benefit from a clean energy future, especially low-income families who are disproportionately affected by pollution from power plants. Recently, in Texas, a new innovation caught our eye that brings this concept to life.
This post is an interview with Gridmates CEO George Koutitas, who is harnessing the Internet, crowdsourcing, and generosity to bring light and warmth into homes that otherwise wouldn’t have power.
What is energy poverty? In the U.S. and Texas, how many live without electricity or struggle to pay for their electricity bill each month?
In the U.S., approximately 48 million people are at or below the poverty line and may be suffering from energy poverty, meaning they cannot afford to pay for electricity and other utilities. In Texas, more than 4.6 million people are living in energy poverty. These are low-income families and, in some occasions, they owe a $5,000 accumulated debt to utilities. This debt often leads to energy service disconnections, leaving families without heat and power. Thankfully, in 2014, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provided energy assistance to roughly 6.9 million households nationwide, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Read More
Source: Flickr/David Ingram
Technology is making clean energy competitive with coal for the first time in history, and that’s a game changer.
In 1999, we pushed to get the first renewable energy mandate passed in the country – in Texas of all places. There were all sorts of concerns at the time that wind could not be integrated into the system, or that it would be too expensive. Time has proven otherwise.
Yes, Texas has plenty of oil and gas, but we also have a lot of sun and wind. Those early investments in renewables paid off and today, the Lone Star State is the top wind energy-producing state in the nation.
As such, I believe we're helping to drive investments in wind across the United States.
Texas is on the cutting edge of technology – and proud of it… Read More
The Brazos Wind Farm, also known as the Green Mountain Energy Wind Farm, near Fluvanna, Texas. Source: Wikipedia
At one point, not too many years ago, Environmental Defense Fund’s Austin office boasted just four employees total. In those days, I used to joke that if we ever reached 10, we’d be really big.
Well, this October, the Austin office surpassed 50 people, now making it the fourth largest EDF office.
It hit me one morning this summer when I walked into a staff meeting and realized I needed to introduce myself.
We’ve come a long way and I feel very proud to be a part of a team that’s not only talented and successful, but also increasingly diverse; the team is starting to look a lot more like America. We're better staffed to handle environmental challenges and opportunities than at any point in our history.
The growth of the Clean Energy staff – of which 12 are housed in Austin – mirrors the explosion in solar and wind power in Texas and across the United States. Read More