Category Archives: Texas Energy Crunch

Can Texas Keep the Lights On? Clean Energy Holds the Answer.

rp_Final-Images-EDF-6524-200x300.jpgOn Tuesday, I had the pleasure of participating on a panel hosted by the Texas Tribune that centered on the future of Texas’ power grid and electric reliability. Joining me was John Fainter, president and CEO of Association of Electric Companies of Texas, Inc; Trip Doggett, president and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas; and Doyle Beneby, president and CEO of CPS Energy, San Antonio's municipal utility. The panel, entitled Keeping the Lights on in Texas, took place at and was broadcasted from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. It's a worthwhile watch and I'm encouraged that Texas Tribune is dedicated to investigating Texas' energy issues.

For about an hour, we discussed a variety of aspects in the current and future energy landscape of the Lone Star State. In particular, I focused on the exciting shift to give people power over their electricity use, save money, and help the environment with every flip of the switch.

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Also posted in Demand Response, Electric Vehicles, Energy Efficiency, ERCOT, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Solar, Utilities, Wind| Tagged | Comments closed

Showtime Brings Realities of Texas Drought Home to Millions

Source: Jack Newton

Source: Jack Newton

It may seem like only yesterday that Texans were asked to conserve water after another scorching summer, but in reality it was four, dry years ago. The drought, which began in 2010 after La Niña altered sea level temperatures in the Pacific, continues to persist in the Lone Star State and promises to surpass the state’s record-setting multi-year drought from the 1950s. Ranchers have been forced to sell off cattle, town water supplies continue to go dry, and power plants struggle to provide a reliable supply of electricity due to water scarcity and long stretches of hot weather. Given these bleak conditions, it should not come as a surprise that 70 percent of Texans believe global warming is happening—and 52 percent said they have personally experienced the effects of global warming.

An all-star team of producers, including James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub and Arnold Schwarzenegger, intends to bring the Texas drought home to millions of televisions across the nation in the Years of Living Dangerously series premiering Sunday. Through this series, a host of celebrities, activists and journalists share the stories of those impacted most by our changing climate and what’s being done to save our planet. What is clear right now, in Texas and beyond, is that as climate change intensifies, we must adapt to more extreme weather conditions and make resilient changes that mitigate further stress. Read More »

Also posted in Climate Change, Drought, Energy-Water Nexus, Environment, Extreme Weather| Comments closed

UPDATE: Demand Response Helped Texas Avoid Rolling Blackouts in the Face of Polar Vortex

Good news for clean energy in Texas!

Source: KXXV

Source: KXXV

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), Texas’ power grid operator, presented a report recently confirming what we already knew: demand response is a worthwhile investment that strengthens Texas' power grid.

Demand response is an innovative tool used by utilities to reward people who use less electricity during times of peak, or high, energy demand. In effect, demand response relies on people, not power plants, to meet the demand for energy. And on January 6th when the Polar Vortex hit Texas, it did just that.

Demand response kept the lights on in Texas by providing more than 600 megawatts of power to the electric grid within 45 minutes. Again on January 18th, demand response came to the power grid’s rescue, when a malfunctioning power plant failed to provide electricity despite mild temperatures and fairly low power demand. As noted before, this report highlights events that occurred during the winter of this year, at a time when Texans do not typically expect the power grid to be strained, unlike the summer. This means that a reduction in energy use – or negawatts – was able to stabilize the electric grid such that blackouts were avoided.

As shown in the report, ERCOT's Emergency Response Service is a reliability mechanism used during extreme events when the power grid is at risk of rolling blackouts. Part of the program is the procurement of demand response, which was only in the pilot phase last year, but has now been formally adopted. This program was utilized during the extreme weather events this winter and relied on the participation of hundreds of Texas businesses, schools, local governments and individuals. Read More »

Also posted in Demand Response, ERCOT, Smart Grid| Tagged , | Comments closed

Google Partners with Nest in Race to be Your Smart Home Provider

Marita Mirzatuny

This post originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.  

On Monday, Google announced it is spending $3.2 billion to buy Nest Labs, the trailblazing company funded through its Google Ventures program and responsible for transforming “unloved” home products into beautiful, smart appliances. That’s a lot of money for a business with only two products: a thermostat and a smoke detector. Nest is not exactly reinventing the wheel, right? Well, actually they are.

Welcome to the Smart Home

Google’s move is a starting shot in the race to become the go-to smart home provider, putting in place stepping stones to realizing a future in which our homes will become one ecosystem – integrated and functioning as a whole. Customers are looking for smart appliances that can notify you when they are wasting energy or not performing properly. Plus, these innovative technologies provide customers with more opportunities to engage with and benefit from other cost- and energy-saving solutions, like demand response, rooftop solar power and electric vehicles. This puts customers in the driver seat, giving them insight and control over their daily lives in ways never before imagined (even if just to use automated, “set-it-and-forget-it” functionality). Read More »

Also posted in Demand Response, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid| Tagged , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Demand Response Helps Texas Avoid Rolling Blackouts in the Face of Polar Vortex

MaritaHeadshotAs we begin a new year, the outlook for 2014 looks bright.  But as the Polar Vortex has descended upon the U.S. over the last few days, we have been reminded of the past, specifically the winter of 2011 when Texas’ electricity grid stuttered under the extreme cold.

Monday, as a record-breaking cold snap whisked over the U.S., the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s grid operator, warned of possible blackouts, just as they did in 2011.  We were lucky this time, but in February of 2011 we were not, and blackouts occurred throughout the state.

ERCOT’s warning meant that the grid's power reserves “dropped below a comfortable threshold,” and the "system was just one step away from rolling blackouts” as the need for energy outpaced supply.  As these blackout threats loomed, two power plants succumbed to the cold and went down.  The loss in capacity amounted to about 3700 megawatts (MW), with 1800 MW lost due to the cold.  According to Dan Woodfin, ERCOT’s Director of System Operations, “if we had lost another unit it would have put us into an Energy Emergency Alert Three” – the stage that prompts rolling blackouts.  This is unnecessary and unacceptable. Read More »

Also posted in Demand Response, ERCOT, Extreme Weather, Renewable Energy, Wind| Tagged , , | Comments closed

Texas is a Leader in Clean Energy Jobs. Let’s Keep It that Way.

Source: UCSUSA

Source: UCSUSA

Over the past several years, a combination of market forces and targeted policies has brought about enormous growth in clean energy technologies around the United States. A clean energy economy has developed around these new technologies, creating tens of thousands of homegrown jobs each year. Despite the industry’s initial surge, recent economic uncertainty has led to a plateau in clean energy job growth in most, but not all, regions in the U.S.

According to a report released by Environmental Entrepreneurs, the U.S. created 10,800 clean jobs in the third quarter of 2013, down from 37,000 in the previous quarter.

Notably, Texas doesn’t follow the national trend. Texas clean energy companies created over 660 jobs in the fall quarter of 2013 alone, up from less than 500 jobs in the previous quarter, cementing Texas in the list of top 10 states for clean energy jobs. Read More »

Also posted in Climate Change, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Green Jobs, Renewable Energy| Tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Debate Over a Changing Texas Energy Market Heats Up at Senate Natural Resources Committee Hearing

Marita Mirzatuny

This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.

Over the past two years, Texas’s changing energy landscape has been a focus of EDF’s work.  In our Texas’ Energy Crunch report from March 2013, we highlighted that Texas has a peak capacity constraint – meaning that the power grid becomes strained when, for example, everyone is using their air conditioning units on hot summer afternoons.  This challenge, coupled with increased climate change and drought, signal the need to prepare by adopting a smarter grid and cleaner resources.

The Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUCT) and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) have been engaged in this conversation and various proposals have been laid on the table to determine what Texas’ energy future will look like.  EDF maintains the position that, whatever reforms are made, customer-facing, demand-side resources – defined here as demand response (DR), renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage – must play a key role to ensuring reliability, affordability, customer choice and environmental improvements.

Energy-Only Status Quo or Capacity Market or…?

Texas’ current energy-only market structure pays power plants only for the energy they produce.  This is beneficial in that generators are not overcompensated, but the downside is that energy companies aren’t incentivized to build in Texas and energy management providers (DR companies) are not viewed as equal players.  Energy prices are low due to an upsurge in cheap, abundant natural gas and wind – and without a guarantee for a high return on investment, companies will not take the risk of constructing costly new power plants. Read More »

Also posted in Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, ERCOT, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid| Tagged , , | Comments closed

Local Energy-Water Solutions Should Be A Model For The Nation

This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.

Over the past several weeks, I've written a lot about the intimate and inextricable connection between energy and water. The energy-water nexus involves a number of technologies, environmental factors and stakeholders. Thus, it’s no surprise that water and energy’s fundamental connection has eluded policymakers for so long. With this post, I review the lessons discussed so far, so that policymakers can understand the key issues surrounding the energy-water nexus and what’s at stake if we fail to act now.

The Bottom Line

Conventional electricity sources, like coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants, require an abundance of water — about 190 billion gallons per day. Because the majority of our electricity comes from these sources, high energy use strains the water system and contributes to Texas’ prolonged drought. Coincidentally, extreme drought could force power plants to shut down.

Climate change is having a profound effect on our weather patterns, making extreme heat and drought more common in Texas and throughout the Southwest. If we don’t set the energy-water system on a sustainable course, we risk a compounded problem.

Read More »

Also posted in Drought, Energy-Water Nexus, Environment| Tagged , , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Austin Energy + Nest: Empowering Texans To Take Control Over Their Own Energy Use And Electric Bills

This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.

Source: Nest

If you have been following our Texas Energy Crunch campaign over the last year, you know that demand response (DR) can play a pivotal role in meeting Texas’ energy needs without relying on dirty, inefficient fossil fuels that pollute our air and consume much-needed water.  Simply put, demand response rewards those who reduce electricity use during peak (high energy demand) times, resulting in more money in peoples’ pockets, a more stable and reliable electric grid and less harmful pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants.

That said, fully harnessing DR in Texas homes has been a bit of a challenge, despite the high electricity prices that result from the scorching summer temperatures.  To understand the issue, it’s important to look at the obstacles emerging technologies often face.  I highlight some of these obstacles in a recent EDF Voices blog and will be diving deeper in future posts.  Namely, the infrastructure to fully enable residential DR adoption isn’t in place, yet.

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Also posted in Demand Response, Energy Efficiency| Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

Energy And Water Are Running Out In Texas, But It’s Not Too Late

This post originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.

As we’ve highlighted in previous posts, water and energy regulators often make decisions in silos, despite the inherent connection between these two sectors. Texas is no exception.

Two very important and intertwined events are happening in Texas right now.

First, the state is in the midst of an energy crunch brought on by a dysfunctional electricity market, drought, population growth and extreme summer temperatures. An energy crunch signifies that the available supply of power barely exceeds the projected need (or demand) for electricity. Texas’ insufficient power supply makes the whole electricity system vulnerable to extreme weather events. An especially hot day (with thousands of air conditioning units running at full blast) could push the state over the edge and force the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the institution charged with ensuring grid reliability, to issue rolling blackouts.

Second, Texas is still in the midst of a severe, multi-year drought, forcing state agencies to impose strict water restrictions throughout the state. The drought has already had a devastating impact on surface water and many communities are facing critical water shortages.

Although Texas has always had to deal with extreme weather events, we can anticipate even more intense weather as climate change advances. The new climate ‘normal’ makes extreme heat waves, like the historic 2011 Texas summer, 20 times more likely to occur. These extreme weather events heighten the urgency of the energy-water nexus. Read More »

Also posted in Climate Change, Demand Response, Drought, Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus, Environment, ERCOT, Extreme Weather, Renewable Energy, TCEQ, Utilities| Tagged , | Comments closed
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