By: Robert King, Southcentral Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource, Peter Sopher and John Hall, Environmental Defense Fund
Three of the top five fastest growing cities in the country are here in Texas, and explosive population growth puts a lot of pressure on our electric grid to keep up with demand. Fortunately, the state’s main grid operator, Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), has done a great job of keeping the lights on, and new building codes are ensuring less energy use in the thousands of new houses that are being constructed.
As more and more people flock to the Lone Star State, there is significant potential for energy efficiency to reduce pollution and energy bills for Texas families. But in a report released last October, ERCOT overestimated the cost of energy efficiency in Texas – by more than two times – and understated by about seven times the amount we are on track to achieve. ERCOT’s estimates do not acknowledge Texas’ reality: Energy efficiency, and other sources of clean energy, are already on the rise. Read More
Recently I spoke about the energy-water nexus at the American Water Resources Association spring conference in Anchorage, Alaska. As a Texan in Alaska, I had my first taste of getting what we give: Texans like to walk and talk big, but a lunchtime speaker joked that Texas was “cute” and noted how if you halved Alaska, Texas would be the third largest state.
Alaska and Texas are often mentioned in the same breath: two behemoth states, heavily influenced by oil and a rugged individualism. During my adventure, I posted pictures or status updates of things that wouldn’t be unfamiliar in Texas and tagged them #texasoralaska – things like overheard conversation about seasonal oil work, wind turbines next to oil ports, and a strong liking for local game and seafood (reindeer versus venison, King crab versus Gulf shrimp).
In both states, you hear people talking about changing weather patterns. The man next to me on the plane to Anchorage said they only had two “bad” days of winter and temperatures hit a remarkable 70 degrees in March. The boat captain said red salmon were starting to arrive about three weeks early this year. This sounds remarkably similar to conversations I’ve had with people in Texas about severe drought, hotter summers, and extreme floods that seem to be occurring more frequently.
In the face of a changing climate, tangible impacts are affecting Texans and Alaskans now – usually the most vulnerable groups. These massive states show why we need to prioritize climate action. Despite Alaska and Texas’ close ties to oil, I am hopeful their underlying frontier spirit can help them be better prepared for a warmer future. Read More
By: John Hall, Texas state director, clean energy, and Colin Leyden, senior manager, state regulatory & legislative affairs – natural gas
When it comes to clean air and clean energy, Texas cities – and their encompassing counties – know what’s good for them.
San Antonio’s Bexar County Commissioners, for example, recently approved a resolution supporting the nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the Clean Power Plan.
Bexar County includes the City of San Antonio and adjoining areas. By endorsing the plan, the broader San Antonio community joins Texas’ largest cities Houston and Dallas, whose mayors are also supporting the sensible, cost-effective clean air measure. (In fact, Houston and Dallas filed an amicus brief together with a large coalition of cities to support the Clean Power Plan in court).
All of this comes in the face of staunch opposition from Texas state leaders, who have used taxpayers’ money to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over these safeguards. Meanwhile, Bexar County Judge Nelson W. Wolff and commissioners passed the resolution unanimously, meaning members from both sides of the aisle put politics aside and voted for healthier air for our communities and families. Read More
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