Selected category: Solar

In Austin, Clean Energy Innovators Are Helping to Alleviate Energy Poverty

Source: Gridmates

Source: Gridmates

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 »

Also posted in Smart Grid| Tagged | Comments are closed

Think Texas Energy Is all about Oil? Think Again.

Source: Flickr/David Ingram

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 »

Also posted in Natural gas, Oil, Renewable Energy, Wind| Comments are closed

Rise of Clean Energy Staff Mirrors Texas' Renewable Energy Boom

The Brazos Wind Farm, also known as the Green Mountain Energy Wind Farm, near Fluvanna, Texas. Source: Wikipedia

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 »

Also posted in Renewable Energy, Wind| Comments are closed

Clean Energy and Job Creation Go Hand-in-Hand in San Antonio

Source: CPS Energy

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 »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Environmental Protection Agency, Green Jobs, Renewable Energy, San Antonio, Utilities| Tagged | Comments are closed

ERCOT Report on Clean Power Plan Misses the Big Picture

Source: Dpysh w

Source: Dpysh w

We knew this was coming. Everyone knew. The power sector is the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world, yet there are no limits on how much carbon power plants can emit into our air. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) for new and existing power plants is urgently needed, is well within Texas’ reach, and can ensure that Texas (more so than other states) forges a strong and prosperous clean energy economy.

But the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages roughly 90 percent of Texas’ power grid, issued a report this week that overestimates the challenges posed by the CPP to the state’s electric grid reliability. Furthermore, it failed to appropriately recognize key tools available to ERCOT and the state to meet the proposed CPP.

Here’s a breakdown of what the report missed: Read More »

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, Coal, Energy Efficiency, Environmental Protection Agency, ERCOT, Natural gas, Renewable Energy, Wind| Comments are closed

Time to Salute Our Military as They Save the Kilowatts

U.S. Army Major General Dana J.H. Pittard, Fort Bliss commander, gives a speech during the ribbon cutting for the solar panel project at Fort Bliss, Texas housing communities, Feb. 26, 2013. Source:

U.S. Army Major General Dana J.H. Pittard, Fort Bliss commander, gives a speech during the ribbon cutting for the solar panel project at Fort Bliss, Texas housing communities, Feb. 26, 2013. Source: defenseimagery.mil

In light of yesterday’s commendable day, the Defense Energy Summit (DES) is hosting its second annual forum in Austin, TX, and EDF is a proud sponsor once again. One of the goals for this conference is to build the foundation for a new Defense Energy Center of Excellence (DECE), which would enable Central Texas and military communities to create a test bed of clean energy technologies and policies. The DECE will help the Department of Defense (DoD) with its energy defense policy, organizational structure, education and training, manufacturing, logistics, personnel, and financing.

Texas’ capital is a logical spot to house the DECE, as Texas is home to 22 military installations – including five bases within 90 miles of Austin. Plus, the DECE could tap into the brain power at Texas universities, which are already charging forward with innovative clean energy solutions.

Leading the Charge

Although the DoD is the single largest consumer of fuel in the United States, the military has taken a significant interest in its energy footprint for one primary reason: energy security.

Transporting fuel is one of the riskiest operations when fighting on the front lines. Last year alone, the U.S. military consumed roughly 90 million barrels of oil. By powering military bases and equipment with solar energy, as well as reducing demand through energy efficiency, the military can help protect the brave men and women serving in our armed forces. The DoD can then use those avoided fuel costs for other projects, such as research and development, to meet the needs of its most critical missions. Read More »

Also posted in Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid| Tagged , | Comments are closed
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