Texas Clean Air Matters

Demand Response Is the Best Cure for Texas’ Ailing Grid

Source: North America Power Partners

Source: North America Power Partners

The Texas Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has, yet again, kicked the can down the road on securing reliable energy to power the state’s growing population. The PUC, the state agency charged with managing electricity rates, meets to securely plan for the future, yet they continue to delay planning meetings. This will benefit no one in the short or long-run. To secure reliable power and safeguard against threats of blackouts, the PUC needs to keep pace with the times and leverage technologies that require little to no water, generate negligible carbon emissions, and can respond to the call for electricity.

Last week, the PUC decided to postpone indefinitely an important meeting, originally scheduled for May, to discuss Texas’ recent blackout scares. The PUC has been in a heated debate over Texas’ electricity market structure, and in the midst of backlash from stakeholders, they have decided to push the decision onto the Legislature in 2015. This is not necessarily in the best interest of the state. Texans were asked to conserve energy several times this winter after colder temperatures forced heating units to ramp up. This request to turn down thermostats for threat of rolling blackouts came at the same time the state power grid operator assured Texans that reliability is on the upswing. But it’s time Texas faces the facts. Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, ERCOT, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid | Tagged , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

EPA Hosts National Summit to Address Environmental Concerns and Sustainability at Ports

Source: Digital Vision

Source: Digital Vision

Every day, countless heavy duty diesel trucks and oil-burning cargo ships move tons of goods through U.S. ports, adding pollution to urban areas that may be suffering from poor air quality. As many ports across the nation are undergoing expansion projects and increased throughput of goods, environmental concerns have become a high profile issue. With the right tools and collaboration among stakeholders, however, ports have significant opportunity to lessen their environmental impact and improve local air quality.

Thankfully, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will host a National Port Stakeholders Summit next week, in Baltimore, Maryland to address challenges and advance sustainability at ports. The summit invites experts and stakeholders to share expertise, ideas, and actions to reduce the ecological impact of port operations. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Ports | Tagged | Comments closed

GigaFactory Proves that Tesla is Ahead of the Clean Energy Curve, But Does Texas Stand to Benefit?

Source: Texas Public Radio

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, speaking to Texas Legislature in 2013. Source: Texas Public Radio.

Disruptive technologies tend to follow a certain trajectory. First, they are outliers, often ignored, and typically on the cusp of never entering the market. But, for the successful ones, a tipping point is ultimately reached, after which the technology goes viral and changes the status quo it was designed to replace. In the new energy revolution, Tesla is one such company that has surpassed the tipping point and threatens to change the way we produce, distribute, and consume electricity.

It isn't just Tesla's sleek and beautiful electric vehicles that will be key to disrupting the status quo. At a current price point of around $80,000, most people en masse won’t be able to afford a Tesla, even though the company has plans to develop more affordable models. But what makes Tesla unique, besides the strange genius of CEO Elon Musk, is the potential diversification of its offerings, highlighted recently by the company's announcement to build the GigaFactory, a $5-billion battery factory that will employ 6,500 workers.

Set to open in about three years, the new GigaFactory will be large enough to manufacture more lithium-ion batteries than the entire industry produces now, and due to its sheer scale, is expected to reduce the cost of batteries by almost one-third. Read More »

Posted in Electric Vehicles, Legislation, Smart Grid | Tagged , | Comments closed

Will Texas Step Up to the Plate on Energy Efficiency and Carbon Pollution Standards?

rp_Kate-Zerrenner-200x300.jpgA couple of weeks ago, I wrote about energy efficiency and the Clean Air Act section 111(d) provisions in anticipation of the SPEER Second Annual Summit, a gathering of top energy efficiency industry leaders from Texas and Oklahoma. At the Summit, I co-led a session on Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) push to regulate power plant emissions. Session attendees agreed that Texas would be an unlikely leader in developing innovative ways to comply with carbon pollution standards for existing power plants.

This is a missed opportunity on Texas’ part, as states will get the first crack at drafting plans to comply with new federal standards. This is an important opportunity because individual states are in the best position to craft frameworks that enable maximum flexibility and are appropriately tailored to local circumstances. So, this begs the question: is there an alternative, more constructive path that is most beneficial to Texas?  Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Climate Change, Coal, Energy Efficiency, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, Renewable Energy | Tagged | Comments closed

New Database from Pecan Street, WikiEnergy, Promises to Reveal Important Energy Insights

Source: Trace3

Source: Trace3

As our society moves deeper into the realms of big data, at times it can seem overwhelming that our actions can generate millions of data points. Therefore, what we do with that data becomes crucial in the new energy landscape, as big data promises to improve our lives by unlocking innovation.

By 2015, 340 million smart meters will be supplying data to utilities worldwide, reading and reporting energy from 15-minute to 1-second intervals. For a medium-sized utility, with a half-million meters, that adds up to 52 billion data point a year. Utilities are not necessarily equipped to interpret this information, and insights can be lost.

Enter the newest arm of Pecan Street, Inc: WikiEnergy.

Pecan Street Research Consortium houses the largest residential energy-use database in the world. From solar energy to electric vehicles and everything in between, they are figuring the dynamics of a smart grid, in real-time, with real residents in multiple cities across the US. Now the data that they have been collecting since 2010 can be utilized by academics and researchers from all over the world on this new website platform. Read More »

Posted in Pecan Street, Smart Grid | Tagged , , | Comments closed

Newly Released Vehicle and Fuel Standards Will Clean Up U.S. Fleet and Improve Texas Air Quality

Source: Green Mountain Energy Cleaner Times

Source: Green Mountain Energy Cleaner Times

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released updated Tier 3 vehicle emissions and fuel standards. The new standards are an update to the successful Tier 2 performance standards, which were finalized in 2000. Like the legacy Tier 2 program, the new Tier 3 standards will look at vehicles and fuels as a combined system to reduce both tailpipe pollution and gasoline sulfur content, improving urban air quality and saving billions of dollars in healthcare costs. Despite Tier 3’s projected benefits, lawmakers, and oil industry groups insist the standards are too costly. Of course, they fail to count the lasting health benefits from Tier 3—which more than outweigh the cost of the program.

The Benefits

The new fuel standards will instantly reduce emissions from every vehicle on the road once they are implemented in 2017, by reducing the amount of sulfur permitted in gasoline to 10 parts per million. Furthermore, the new vehicle tailpipe standards will cut smog-forming emissions by over 20 percent and fine particulate matter by 10 percent by 2030. EPA projects these vital emissions reductions will prevent between 770 and 2,000 premature deaths, 2,200 hospital admissions, and 19,000 asthma attacks annually by 2030, providing approximately $6.7 – $19 billion in annual health benefits. All of these benefits come at the low cost of less than one additional cent per gallon of gasoline, or about $72 per vehicle. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Car Standards, Environmental Protection Agency, Transportation | Tagged | Comments closed

Shelley: EPA Mandate Would Benefit the Lives of all Houstonians

This post was written by Adrian Shelley, Air Alliance Houston Executive Director.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle on February 22, 2014.

Adrian Shelly, Executive Director, Air Alliance Houston

Adrian Shelly, Executive Director, Air Alliance Houston

We know that ozone pollution is a public health threat in Houston. Now a study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests that threat is greater than previously thought. As a result, the ozone standard is likely to be lowered by the end of the year. Houston has never met an ozone standard, but it is time for us to get serious about protecting our health.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been considering lowering the standard since 2008, when President George W. Bush's EPA revised it to 75 parts per billion. That revision defied an EPA recommendation for a standard as low as 70 parts per billion. Now the agency recommends that 60 parts per billion may be needed to protect public health.

Ozone, unlike other air pollutants, isn't restricted to certain parts of Houston. It's found everywhere, and it causes asthma attacks, heart disease and even early death. In the Houston region, 6 million people are at risk.

It is the responsibility of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to bring ozone down to healthy levels. In reacting to the EPA's new findings, the TCEQ focuses not on the need to protect public health, but on the regulatory burden of reducing air pollution. The TCEQ is already attacking the science behind the new study. TCEQ Chief Toxicologist Michael Honeycutt has questioned even the concept of an eight-hour ozone standard, suggesting in a Houston Chronicle story that it might be "more appropriate" to return to a one-hour standard, as the EPA had in the 1970s.  Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone | Tagged , | Comments closed

Austin Unveils Texas-Sized Rooftop Solar Array to Power Downtown Church

Source: Mary Parmer, www.facebook.com/episcopalaustin

Source: Mary Parmer, www.facebook.com/episcopalaustin

On Monday in the heart of downtown Austin, St. David’s Episcopal Church unveiled its new 146-kilowatt solar array. Covering the rooftop of an adjacent parking garage and earning the title of largest rooftop solar installation downtown.

The project’s unprecedented scale was made possible through a partnership with Meridian Solar and a new Austin Energy (AE) pilot program, testing how they can best integrate large rooftop solar with the utility’s grid. Church members had the idea to put solar panels on the parking garage ten years ago, but weren’t able to move forward until last year when low interest rates, improved technology, and government rebates all came together. Through their combined efforts, St. David’s, AE, and Meridian have taken a vital, first step towards a city powered by clean, local, rooftop power, also known as distributed generation (DG). Read More »

Posted in Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Solar | Tagged , , | Comments closed

Secretary Moniz Deems Austin’s Pecan Street ‘Very Impressive’

Marita with Moniz

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 »

Posted in Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Pecan Street, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Solar, Wind | Tagged | Comments closed

Collaboration on Environmental Justice Issues Leads to Stronger, More Inclusive Action

This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Voices Blog

This post was co-authored by Lucía Hennelly, with contributions from Adrian Shelley, Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston.

Source: Mataparda/flickr

Source: Mataparda/flickr

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Presidential Executive Order calling for Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, which prompts us to ask: What would the environmental movement in the United States look like if there were genuine cross-pollination, collaboration, and feedback between large, national-scale organizations and locally-based, environmental justice organizations?

Last week, we at EDF had a chance to experience a small glimpse of what this would be like when we delivered comments at EPA’s public hearing on new carbon pollution limits for new power plants alongside other Latino representatives and environmental activists. Among these activists was Adrian Shelley, Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston.

Air Alliance Houston (AAH) is the region’s leading air quality and public health non-profit, working in the most diverse city in the United States. With a population that is more than one-third Latino, Houston is a majority-minority city seated in Harris County, the fastest-growing county in the country. It’s also ground zero for the environmental justice movement. The distribution of health risks is unequal, as air pollutants that pose a definite risk to human health are found in greater numbers in several East Houston neighborhoods adjacent to the Houston Ship Channel. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Climate Change, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs | Tagged , | Comments closed
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