Last year solar power saw unprecedented growth and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. So where is much of this growth happening? In one word: cities.
In a new report from Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group, Shining Cities 2016 identifies the urban centers fostering growth in solar energy, and the policies and programs that can maximize solar potential. The cities that topped the list were, not surprisingly, primarily from the sunshine-abundant Pacific region, followed by an equal amount of cities from the Mountain, South Central and South Atlantic regions. These centers of connectivity and growth are major electricity consumers, and therefore important movers in the transition to a clean energy economy.
But there are still vast amounts of untapped solar potential in the U.S. – specifically 1,118 GW, which equates to 39 percent of total national electricity sales (enough to power over 782 million homes a year) – according to a study on “rooftop solar power generating capacity potential” by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The same study stated that Los Angeles, the city currently with the most solar capacity, could host up to 42 times its current solar capacity, providing up to 60 percent of the city’s electricity. This staggering amount of renewable energy is possible in other cities across the U.S. as well – even in unlikely states, such as Texas. Read More
EPA's SmartWay Transport Partnership has been a powerful tool for encouraging operators to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.
We all know that the Environmental Protection Agency works to make the freight industry more sustainable, but they can’t do it all on their own- partnerships and outreach to industry are key in achieving these goals. So who else is involved in the push for freight transportation efficiency?
Initiated in 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Transport Partnership has been one of the agency’s most powerful tools for encouraging freight transportation operators to improve their fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. Since 2004, SmartWay Partners have saved a reported $24.9 billion in fuel costs and eliminated 72.8 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, 1.5 million tons of NOx emissions, and 59,000 tons of PM emissions. Read More
EPA’s decision to grant the Houston region a new deadline to meet clean air standards may delay air pollution mitigation measures.
Last year was a troubling one for Houston air quality. Some areas recorded ozone concentrations not seen since the early 2000s. Overall, more than half of the regional monitors recorded smog at levels that exceeded the 2008 national health standard for at least four days. This unhealthy air affects everyone, but vulnerable populations such as the young and the elderly are especially susceptible to health effects of poor air quality, including asthma and lung disease.
This is why EPA’s recent decision to grant the Houston region a one-year extension to meet the federal health standards represents a missed opportunity for clean air action. The original deadline for Houston to meet the 2008 health standard was July 2015. Often, EPA grants extensions to areas that are close to attaining the standard. In this case, Houston’s air quality had been improving but took a significant step in the wrong direction last year with a large number of exceedance days.
Why Does it Matter? Read More
By: Martha Roberts, Attorney, U.S. Climate Legal and Regulatory Program
Pop quiz: what do these cities have in common?
- Boise, Idaho
- Grand Rapids, Michigan
- Houston, Texas
- Knoxville, Tennessee
- Reno, Nevada
The answer may surprise you.
These cities have joined a coalition of 54 cities, counties, and mayors to file an amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief to support the Clean Power Plan — our nation’s first-ever standards to limit dangerous carbon pollution from power plants – against litigation brought by some of our nation’s largest polluters and their allies.
These 54 cities joined six additional major municipalities that filed in support of the Clean Power Plan as intervenors in the case.
In total, sixty municipalities are on record supporting the Clean Power Plan as sensible, cost-effective clean air measures that will deploy innovative climate solutions and protect millions of Americans from adverse impacts. It’s yet another example showing that support for the Clean Power Plan covers our whole country.
Power companies, state and local officials in forty-one states are also supporting the Clean Power Plan in court – either through their attorney general’s office, a local power company, or a municipality. 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
It seems too early in the year to worry about smog, right? Ozone is typically thought of as just a summertime problem. Unfortunately, not this year – and the health risks are troubling.
March 1 marked the beginning of ozone season in Houston – and April 3 was the first day in 2016 that a regulatory ozone monitor in Houston measured above 70 parts per billion (ppb), which is the level of the health standard established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. No other official air monitor in the state had recorded levels above 70ppb, meaning Houston is winning the early race for unhealthiest Texas air – which isn’t winning at all.
While stratospheric ozone plays a beneficial role by absorbing harmful ultraviolet rays, not all ozone is considered “good.” Ground-level ozone is a form of pollution, also known as smog, which can result in dangerous consequences for public health such as asthma attacks, and heart and lung disease. Read More