Texas Clean Air Matters

Rooftop solar and EVs save water and cut pollution in Texas – and data can help us go further

By Beia Spiller, Senior Economist

Thanks to improvements in technology, it’s easier than ever to be green.

Solar panels and electric vehicles (EVs) are two prime examples of technologies that can help people minimize their environmental footprint, without sacrificing comfort or having to radically change their daily behavior. But the question still remains: How much of an environmental benefit do these technologies actually produce? And, are there actions that owners of these technologies can take to minimize their pollution footprint even more?

A new paper by my colleagues and me, recently published in Energy Economics, attempts to answer these two questions for households in Austin, Texas. These homes are part of Pecan Street Inc., a living smart-grid laboratory with the largest customer energy-use database on the planet. Using detailed household-level data from 2013-2015, we were able to track solar panel performance and EV use and charging patterns, and match these actions to two important environmental impacts: water use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Our paper confirms that, in Texas, residential solar panels uses less water and pollutes the air less than using the central-grid power (based on its electricity sources during those years), and driving an EV instead of a gasoline vehicle generally reduces the household’s water and emission footprint, even though EVs charge from the grid. Moreover, our analysis demonstrates how carefully examining energy-use data can help us make sure we’re maximizing clean energy’s benefits. Read More »

Also posted in Electric Vehicles, Pecan Street / Comments are closed

How clean energy just overtook coal in this competitive electricity market

Look around the U.S. and you’ll find plenty of examples of smart policy that is driving the adoption of cleaner, more efficient energy resources. In particular, California, New York, and Illinois are all leveraging policy to reduce carbon pollution and transition to a 21st century electric grid.

But in addition to those success stories, markets also are achieving significant clean energy results – and nowhere is that more evident than here in Texas.

In 2001, the Lone Star State transitioned to a competitive electricity market that (for the most part) puts the cheapest energy resources on the grid first. Since then, wind has grown from supplying less than 1 percent of the state’s electricity to over 20 percent for the first half of 2017. And as cheap natural gas remains plentiful and renewable costs keep falling, expensive coal is getting pushed out of Texas’ market. In fact, wind power capacity just overtook coal capacity. Read More »

Also posted in Coal, Wind / Read 2 Responses

This city has impressive clean energy potential, but its utility is trying to block solar’s growth

The list of solar power’s benefits goes on and on.

Solar doesn’t pollute or waste water. Solar is getting cheaper every day, making it an increasingly affordable option for people to produce their own electricity and save money on their electric bills. The solar industry is employing thousands of people across Texas. And numerous studies show solar helps keep the electric grid balanced and reliable. What’s not to like?

Well, some utilities see customer-owned solar power as a threat to their profits – and want to stop its growth.

That’s why El Paso Electric has a new proposal that discriminates against homes and small businesses with solar panels. This proposal unfairly penalizes people who install solar, limits customer choice, and works against sunny El Paso’s impressive solar potential. Let’s break down the details. Read More »

Also posted in Utilities / Read 2 Responses

What we know so far about Rick Perry’s power grid “study”

Among Rick Perry’s first acts as Secretary of Energy was calling for a 60-day “study” of whether any policies or regulations have led to the premature retirement of coal or nuclear plants. I – and many others in the clean energy industry – are concerned this so-called study will amount to little more than a pro-coal fluff piece.

To people familiar with energy policy and the coal industry’s rhetoric, Perry’s request is a transparent promotion of coal and a backdoor attack on clean energy resources, like solar, wind, and energy efficiency. Besides, 60 days is barely enough time to fill job vacancies in a new administration, much less conduct a thorough analysis of America’s complex energy policies.

But until the report is released, we can only look at what Perry and other Trump appointees have said and done about energy, generally, and coal, specifically, to predict what arguments Perry’s office will make.

Over the next few weeks, EDF will examine several of the administration’s pro-coal arguments and explain why: Read More »

Also posted in Wind / Tagged | Comments are closed

4 Signs Texas Could Lead the Clean Energy Economy – But Will It?

“If you want to know how wind works for America, just ask a Texan.” That’s according to Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), which just released its newest wind industry market report.

The AWEA report shows Texas is the nation’s indisputable wind powerhouse, including serving as home to nearly a quarter of America’s wind jobs. But wind is just one piece of the puzzle, and recent reports confirm the pieces are in place for Texas to blaze the clean energy trail.

Wind is thriving in Texas and solar is growing, while the electric grid remains reliable and billions in savings await. But the Lone Star State can do more: California has more than 10 times as many solar jobs with less than a quarter of Texas’ solar potential. When it comes to clean energy, will lawmakers during this 85th Texas Legislative Session position the state to lead the nation? Read More »

Also posted in Wind / Comments are closed

Texas Should Get Its Head in the New Solar Market Game

What would a world powered by clean, low-water energy look like? If you visit Israel’s southern region, you don’t have to imagine.

In 2011, Arava Power in the southern Israeli desert launched a 4.9 MW solar field (enough to power more than 3,000 U.S. homes). Since then nearly 200 times as much capacity – both fields and rooftops – has been installed in the region. By 2025, it’s likely solar will provide 100 percent of daytime electricity, plus excess, along the border with Jordan.

With solar technology more advanced and cheaper than ever, solar power can take off quickly in Texas, as it has in Israel.

The Arava Desert, where many of Israel’s solar fields are located, averages about 360 days of sunshine per year. Austin, where I live, averages about 300 days per year, and it’s not even as sunny as West Texas. But in January 2017, solar provided just 0.4 percent of power across the vast majority of the state. There is huge opportunity for solar growth in Texas. Read More »

Also posted in Renewable Energy / Comments are closed