By: Ferit Ucar
At Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we understand that market forces can drive either a healthy environment – or harmful pollution. I recently wrote about how generating electricity often creates pollution, which comes with environmental and health costs that are usually not paid for by the polluters. That’s why EDF works to identify and correct market failures, like the failure to understand – as well as account for – all of the costs pollution imposes on society.
The Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) just released a useful tool in that pursuit: a study that aims to capture the full cost of new electric power generation – including environmental and public health costs – on a county-by-county basis in the United States. The study evolves traditional ways of estimating new generation costs by 1) incorporating pollution costs, and 2) breaking data down to the county level.
The results show economics are leading the U.S. to a cleaner energy economy, in which there is no role for new coal plants. Let’s break it down. Read More
In terms of clean energy, Texas is incredibly resource-rich. And as our wind progress shows, we have begun to maximize that potential: A new report from the American Wind Energy Associations shows the Lone Star State leads the nation with over 24,000 wind energy employees.
How did Texas arrive at the forefront of the wind energy economy? One factor that undoubtedly played a vital role: the creation of an ahead-of-its-time policy tool that required the identification of Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ), as well as the construction of transmission lines to move energy from the CREZ to electric customers.
Since West Texas has plentiful wind but not as many people, this initiative aimed to transport that wind energy to populous cities throughout the state. The rules allow the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) to designate an area with abundant renewable energy as a CREZ, and then approve new transmission lines or improvements to existing ones. In 2008, the PUCT exercised this authority and the resulting power lines – completed in 2014 – stretch nearly 3,600 miles, moving clean, renewable energy across the state while improving the overall reliability of the electric grid.
However, despite these successes, the PUCT recently proposed to dismantle the rules related to CREZ and the approval of new transmission lines, which would be a significant affront to the state’s thriving wind industry – including the revenue and jobs that come with it. Right now, there are no proposals to expand the designation of CREZ and develop additional power lines to those zones. But with the rapidly changing energy landscape, it makes more sense for state leaders to maintain CREZ capabilities in their toolkit, rather than undoing a successful energy development policy. Read More
From Apple to General Electric, it is common practice in the corporate world for established juggernauts to invest significant sums for research and development. Why? Maintaining one’s reign atop a sector requires dynamic, cutting edge innovation.
The same logic applies to state economies. And when it comes to energy, Texas – where oil and gas reign king – has arguably been America’s most dominant state for the past century. Over recent years, however, technologies and developments reshaping the sector have advanced at an unprecedented rate. As a result, it’s become clear that the energy sector of the future will rely far more on clean energy and smart technologies than on fossil fuels.
The good news: Texas has by far the most potential for solar and wind generation in the United States, which means the Lone Star state might be even more energy-rich in the 21st century than it has been in the past. In addition, the state’s energy sector is trending cleaner due to market forces.
And, in case you needed more proof, 2015 has been a dynamite year for clean energy momentum in Texas. Here are five reasons why: Read More
When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized America’s Clean Power Plan in early August, it marked the first time our country has put a limit on emissions from the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution: power plants. The standards represent a huge step forward for cleaner air and all of the benefits that come along with it.
Texas leaders immediately denounced the final plan, boldly proclaiming it would have catastrophic consequences, and vowed to fight the Clean Power Plan.
But if state decision makers stop to look at the facts, they will see that the Clean Power Plan is well within our reach. In fact, Texas can get to 88 percent of the way toward compliance simply through current trends alone, as shown in our new report out today, Well Within Reach: How Texas Can Comply with and Benefit from the Clean Power Plan. And, not only is compliance achievable, the plan actually provides Texas the opportunity to use it to grow the state’s economy. Read More
For the past 25 years, I have had the opportunity to work on clean energy and clean air issues for Texas. Throughout this time, I have come to believe the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages about 90 percent of Texas’ grid, is the best grid operator in the country. In my opinion, ERCOT has implemented the most competitive electric marketplace in the country, while stabilizing utility costs and maintaining reliability.
And now, Texas is being presented with an opportunity to continue leading on electricity. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just released its historic final standards on carbon pollution from power plants, the Clean Power Plan, and Texas is well-positioned to comply. Not only that, the plan could actually be one of our state’s most effective tools for economic development and water planning.
I’m hopeful ERCOT and other involved Texas decision makers will recognize the clean energy trends already underway and seize the potential benefits within our reach through the Clean Power Plan – making the best decisions for our citizens and economy. Read More
By: Peter Sopher, policy analyst, clean energy, and Sarah Ryan, program associate, clean energy
Over the past century, the electric grid in the United States has experienced only minor changes. There is evidence, however, the power sector is changing. We are moving away from traditional coal generation and toward alternative, cleaner energy sources. And despite our state being primarily known for oil and gas, Texas is no exception.
In fact, Texas’ electricity sector has been trending cleaner over the past decades, driven by deregulation of the electricity market, the development of the massive highway of transmission lines built to carry West Texas wind to cities throughout the state – the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ), and technological progress. Basically, once the market was opened up to competition, the more economic options – which also happen to be cleaner – began to gain a foothold. And there’s no stopping this train.
Where we are and where we’re going
To start, the declining use of fossil fuels to power our lives is perhaps the most significant change in Texas. As shown in Figure 1 below, fossil fuels’ (coal and gas’) proportion of the state’s electricity generation mix shrunk from 88 percent in 2002 to 82 percent in 2013. Read More