EDF's Marita Mirzatuny with Secretary Moniz at Pecan Street's Pike Powers Labratory
Earlier this month, I had the privilege of presenting a short summary of EDF’s Smart Power Initiative to Dr. Ernest Moniz, the U.S. Secretary of Energy. As a group of over 30 people piled into the Pike Powers Laboratory (including the lab’s namesake), the Secretary made his way in, beelined for some coffee, and sat down to hear all about Austin’s innovative and collaborative energy “ecosystem.”
Present was the Mayor of Austin, Lee Leffingwell, various cleantech entrepreneurs sponsored by the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), representatives from the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO), and the Governor’s office, among others.
Everyone had the opportunity to speak to the Secretary in a roundtable format about the work their particular company or group is doing to solve energy problems, and as EDF’s representative, I reported on our Smart Power work in Texas. Read More
This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.
It’s no secret that electricity generation requires substantial amounts of water, and different energy sources require varying amounts of water. Nor is it a surprise that Texas and other areas in the West and Southwest are in the midst of a persistent drought. Given these realities, it is surprising that water scarcity is largely absent from the debate over which energy sources are going to be the most reliable in our energy future.
Recent media coverage has been quick to pin the challenge of reliability as one that only applies to renewables. The logic goes something like this: if the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, we won’t have electricity, making these energy sources unreliable. But if we don’t have reliable access to abundant water resources to produce, move and manage energy that comes from water-intensive energy resources like fossil fuels, this argument against the intermittency of renewables becomes moot.
Moving forward into an uncertain energy future, the water intensity of a particular electricity source should be taken into consideration as a matter of course. Read More
As 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
As we come to the end of another year, we look back on the progress that has been made to improve Texas’ air quality. Our work is especially important in Texas. Ozone pollution in the state’s largest cities routinely spikes above healthy levels, and Texas leads the nation in annual carbon emissions.
Throughout 2013, my fellow bloggers and I tracked the critical progress made towards cleaner air in Texas. Texas experienced a handful of victories and a handful of losses. To summarize the year, I’ll discuss a few of the areas where we made progress, and a few of the areas where there is still more work to do.
Progress Toward Smart Power and Clean Air
Over the past year, Texas wind power continued its promising positive trend, thanks in part to the state’s forward-looking decision to build new high-capacity electricity transmission lines linking the windy plains of West Texas with the state’s cities. The Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission project was approved by the state in 2008, and the new power lines are set to come online in a few weeks. The new power lines can carry 18,500 megawatts of electricity—enough to power millions of homes. The CREZ lines will help ensure Texas wind energy continues to expand, offsetting electricity produced from fossil-fuel power plants and reducing pollution. Read More
Also posted in Air Pollutants, Air Pollution, clean car standards, Climate change, Dallas Fort-Worth, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Ozone, Renewable Energy
Tagged Attorney General Abbott, Competitive Renewable Energy Zone, CREZ, Tier 3
Source: Earth Techling
As we highlighted a few weeks back, Texas is on a new path to accelerating its clean, renewable energy economy. The opening of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) now enables more West and Panhandle wind turbines to fuel the state’s major metropolises, and the completion of the project couldn’t come soon enough.
A number of companies are looking to grow and invest in Texas, thanks to its plentiful, clean wind power. Google, Microsoft and BBVA Compass are leading the charge and signing long-term agreements to purchase Texas wind energy. These contracts lock in considerable revenue for the state and guarantee Texas’ ranking as the number one wind-producing state in the nation. In fact, West Texas wind has outpaced the growth of coal, natural gas and all other fuel sources that supply the grid, according to a recent report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
In September, Google added to its growing stock of renewable energy by purchasing the entire output of a 240-megawatt wind farm (enough energy to power 84,000 homes) outside Amarillo to power its Oklahoma data center. Late in November, Microsoft signed a 20-year contract to purchase all of the energy from a 110-megawatt wind farm outside Fort Worth to power its San Antonio data center. And BBVA Compass recently signed a 10-year agreement with Choice! Energy Services, a Houston-based retail energy broker, to power its Texas branches exclusively with wind and solar energy. Read More
This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.
As we approach the end of 2013, Texas’ power grid is soon to embark on a new clean energy path. While most people don’t get too excited about electrical transmission and distribution lines, the much awaited Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission project– set to come online in a few weeks and roll out through 2014 – could be the exception.
Approved by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) in 2008, CREZ is a 3,600 mile transmission line that will connect remote West Texas wind energy to the eastern cities that need its power – 18,500 megawatts of power to be exact. This is enough power to energize 3.7 million to 7.4 million homes and increase available wind power supply by a whopping 50 percent.
Much like some other wind-rich regions in the country, wind in the West and Panhandle regions of Texas was partially unused, or curtailed, because local communities could not use all of the available supply and the state’s current, outmoded electric grid could not efficiently deliver the abundant energy to high-demand eastern cities. This ‘congestion’ bottleneck forced wind farms to lower prices and, at times, pay the utilities to take their electricity. Read More
On Thursday, November 7, the Environmental Protection Agency opened its doors across the country to solicit public comment on the Carbon Pollution Standards for existing coal-fired power plants. The EPA seeks to implement common sense, realistic limits on the air pollution emitted from fossil fuel power plants, the single largest source of climate pollution in the United States.
To date, the coal industry has had free license to pollute carbon without limitation, leading directly and indirectly to harm human health and the environment.
These rules will bring a breath of fresh air to Texans and other Americans across the county.
Sadly in a few states, such as Texas, officials are acting to protect the owners of a few dirty coal plants and undermine the economic and health benefits that EPA will realize with the new measure.
Christi Craddick, member of the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency charged with regulating mining, published an editorial in the Abilene Reporter-News stating the proposed EPA standards will cause “detrimental effects on U.S. competitiveness in world markets, halt America’s energy boom and manufacturing renaissance and cost the U.S. economy.” Craddick cites no evidence to support her claims. Read More
Recently, we highlighted some of the impressive clean energy research projects currently under development in universities across the state of Texas. These research initiatives form the foundation to Texas’ position as leader in the clean energy economy and a producer of a burgeoning workforce. And this clean energy workforce requires a variety of skill sets that can be learned at different points along the educational spectrum.
In 2010, I produced a Texas Green Jobs Guidebook that highlights the job diversity within the clean energy sector—from solar panel installation to air quality enforcement. Universities train engineers, architects and city planners, but the clean energy workforce also requires a level of technical skill that is best taught at the community college level. In many ways, community colleges play a vital role in training the individuals that will put the clean energy future into action, and schools in Texas understand the growing need for skilled technicians.
Houston Community College recently launched a new solar energy program that trains students to install solar panels. Their education includes understanding proper placement and trouble-shooting and is, in fact, the first program in the area that is certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Read More
Source: Architect Magazine
The Solar Decathlon, a competition that challenges colleges across the nation to design and construct efficient, affordable and attractive solar powered-home, is taking place October 3-13 at Orange Country Great Park in Irvine, California. The bi-annual event, organized by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), awards the team that excels in combining cost-effectiveness, consumer appeal and energy efficiency into a state of the art home. But like many competitions, the real winners are those that pursue the challenge long after the bout ends, and this decathlon is no exception. Year after year, students graduate and form the next wave of clean energy entrepreneurs, engineers and architects looking to advance energy efficient homes.
This year, the University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College have joined forces to create Team Texas. The last time a Texas university participated in the Solar Decathlon was in 2007, when the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University competed as two separate teams.
This year Team Texas has submitted ADAPT, a house that reflects the nature of the two universities’ homestead, El Paso. Its design maximizes the use of solar energy, an abundant resource in the Southwest, and is meant to feel natural on a mountain plateau, high desert or green farmland. ADAPT embraces the belief that “a home is not just a location or state of mind but a place where the heart is”. Read More
This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.
In an effort to gauge where America’s power grid stands, Washington D.C.-based group GridWise Alliance evaluated grid modernization in 41 states and the District of Columbia. Texas and California tied for first place—standing far above the next runner up.
So what makes Texas’ grid so special?
Texas restructured its electricity market in 1999, introducing competition into the retail electric market. The new competitive retail market gave most Texans a choice of electricity providers from dozens of companies, so these energy providers compete to offer the most advanced services. For example, Texans can opt for 100% renewable electricity from Green Mountain Energy.
Additionally, in an effort to update Texas’ electric grid, the Public Utility Commission, Texas’ governing body for electricity, passed a resolution prompting “wires companies”(the firms that deliver energy from power plants to homes and businesses) to invest in millions of smart meters. Smart meters can help eliminate huge waste in the energy system, reduce peak energy demand (rush hour on the electrical wires) and spur the adoption of clean, low-carbon energy resources, such as wind and solar power, by managing energy demand and generation more efficiently.