San Antonio and Austin just called a cease-fire on a taco war over which city invented the breakfast taco. Both make excellent tacos: from the traditional chorizo and egg taco in San Antonio to a free-range egg and organic spinach taco in Austin. But this debate was about more than just tacos – it was about the history and culture of these two neighboring cities.
Only 80 miles apart, San Antonio and Austin have some significant differences. San Antonio is known as “Military City USA” largely due to its huge military bases, but it’s also known for other industries like biotech, military medical centers, and a dynamic business relationship with Mexico. The capital city’s economy, on the other hand, is based on high-tech, entertainment, state government, and the behemoth University of Texas at Austin. San Antonio is one of the largest Hispanic-majority cities in the country (at 63 percent in 2010), while Austin’s diversity comes in large part from people flocking to the Capitol from all over the state and country. As someone with roots in both San Antonio and Austin, I appreciate both – I’m an equal opportunity taco lover.
But both cities share an important commonality: exploding population growth. The population of the 13 counties that make up the Austin-San Antonio corridor is estimated to increase by 77 percent by 2050, to 6.8 million people. Extreme growth brings intense pressure on resources and services, particularly water in this drought-prone region. Both cities are standing up to that challenge through careful water conservation measures and by advancing clean energy. Read More
Early morning on the square, Georgetown, Texas
Over the next four years, Texas’ energy landscape will change dramatically. For example, throughout the 630-mile, nine-hour drive from Denton, Texas to El Paso, rolling hills will dominate the horizon and aromas from pastures and barbeque pits will waft through windows, as they have for the past hundred years. What will have a far less prominent role, however, are coal-fired power plants.
That’s because there seems to be a domino effect occurring in Texas: more and more cities are turning to affordable, renewable energy to power their needs.
Denton, Georgetown, and other Texas clean energy pioneer cities
Earlier this month, the municipal electric utility that serves Denton, a North Texas city of 130,000 people, announced plans to get an impressive 70 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2019. That’s well above the 10 percent Texas currently receives from renewables (on average). Read More
Each year, the nation wastes an estimated two trillion gallons, or about 14 to 18 percent, of its treated water through leaks alone. That’s a lot of water – enough to fill over three million Olympic-size swimming pools.
We know smart water meters are a critical component to better understanding our water use, but smart meters are only one part of the equation. What we really need is a smart water system.
A more intelligent system could not only help water providers and people better understand their use and how to adjust their behavior accordingly, but it could make the entire treatment and delivery of water more efficient. Plus, system-wide data could make daily water use and associated cost accessible – not an end-of-the-month billing surprise – enabling residents to make more informed decisions and utilities to waste less water.
Energy and water are connected, but they may need different solutions
The energy sector has learned a lot about the smart grid, and put a great deal of its research into practice. And, compared to the water sector, the electricity sector is pretty far along with its smart meter roll-out and understanding of all the information points across the system. For instance, in Texas, more than 3.5 million smart water meters have been installed, compared with approximately 17 million electric smart meters. But, while much of the smart electric grid findings are valuable in relation to the water sector, there are clear differences. Read More
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages 90 percent of Texas’ electric grid, has been busy. In the last two months of 2014, the agency released two very lengthy reports examining the future of a lower-polluting power grid in light of upcoming EPA clean air protections, in particular the Clean Power Plan. As the media described it, the reports did not provide the rosiest of outlooks for costs to Texans or electric reliability. But I think they are looking at the reports the wrong way.
The electric grid is changing. Innovative technologies – many of which are created right here in Texas – are lowering electricity bills and increasing energy independence. They are disrupting the way we produce and use electricity and they are changing the way ERCOT looks at grid reliability – albeit not in these two reports.
Cleantech entrepreneurs are at the helm of deciding Texas’ (and, let’s face it, America’s) energy future. And there are quite a few market opportunities outlined in the reports, if you look closely. Here are a few hidden in the report, plus other trends to keep an eye on: 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
Every year, it seems, is predicted to be the “year for solar,” and for certain states this may ring true.
But in Texas, despite having a close relationship with the sun and its heat (2011 gave us 100 days over 100 degrees and no rain), we have yet to realize our potential for solar energy development, the highest potential of any state in the nation. Texas currently only has about 213 megawatts (MW) of solar energy installed (compared to over 237 MW in little ol’ Massachusetts). Recent developments, however, make me encouraged that the next few years will be the catalyst for finally fulfilling that potential.
A few weeks ago, the Austin City Council voted on an ambitious solar step forward, directing a “utility-scale solar target of 600 megawatts by 2017, a rooftop solar target of 200 megawatts by 2020, explicit language enabling third-party solar ownership, a floor price for the value-of-solar tariff…and a mandatory strategy to procure 200 megawatts of fast-response storage.” The resolution will require the municipal utility, Austin Energy, to obtain 60 percent of its electricity generation from renewables over the next decade, and to be completely carbon-free by 2030. Read More