Texas Clean Air Matters

Houston neighborhood maps decades-old pollution problem, paving way for communities nationwide

Bridgette Murray, a retired nurse, lives in a predominantly black neighborhood on Houston’s east side, where small houses grace tree-shaded streets, all built around two schools and a city park.

Its name is Pleasantville, a postwar version of the American dream. But the reality is something different.

Warehouses, metal recyclers, salvage yards, Anheuser-Busch’s Houston brewery and an interstate push hard against the neighborhood, proof and product of the city’s light-on-regulations approach to land use. Trains and trucks rumble through the area day and night. It can be difficult to breathe.

“Playing victim has never been one of my personality traits,” said Murray, whose family moved to Pleasantville in 1957, years before industry’s arrival. “I am here to work with the residents for solutions.”

As founder of the nonprofit Achieving Community Tasks Successfully, or ACTS, Murray is working with Environmental Defense Fund to fully understand Pleasantville’s air pollution and its associated harmful health effects. She wants to map a fair, just and sustainable path forward for her community. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Justice, Houston, Particulate Matter, Ports / Comments are closed

A little flexibility can go a long way to maximize renewables

By Jamie Fine, Director, Energy Research & Sr. Economist, Clean Energy

Greentech Media’s Power & Renewables Summit takes place November 13-14, 2018 in Austin, Texas. The conference will gather industry views on how renewable integration, decarbonization and sector electrification are impacting electricity systems.

In the last month, a new report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change heightened the urgency of climate threats and the need for decisive actions to avoid them. The report “describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040.”

As I and other renewable energy insiders plan our talking points for Greentech Media’s “Power & Renewables Summit” in Austin next month, this report should serve as inspiration. The need for a clean, resilient energy economy just got a lot more salient. Read More »

Posted in clean energy, Solar, Wind / Comments are closed

3 reasons Texas’ electric grid survived a summer that pushed its limits

As the hot summer approached, state leaders expressed concern about potential blackouts and brownouts. Yet, thoughtful planning, a functional electricity market, and clean energy helped ensure the lights stayed on.

Power outage concerns­­

Hotter temperatures and continued population and commercial growth drove record electricity demand this past summer. Additionally, in early 2018, Luminant (now Vistra) shut down three large coal plants – all inefficient and highly-polluting – with a combined capacity of 4,200 megawatts (MW).

The shutdown of these power plants and other changes in the electricity market initially led the state’s electric grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), to forecast a reserve margin of 9.3 percent for summer 2018. The reserve margin is a measure of whether the Texas grid has extra energy capacity to satisfy periods of strong customer demand, and ERCOT traditionally had targeted a 13.75 percent margin. Potential outages remained a concern even after ERCOT updated its final projections and the reserve margin rose to 11 percent.

As it turned out, even when ERCOT set a new system-wide demand record (73,308 MW) in July, no electricity shortages occurred. ERCOT didn’t initiate any Energy Emergency Alerts, and it didn’t issue any appeals for customers to conserve electricity. Read More »

Posted in clean energy, ERCOT / Comments are closed

These 3 trends could enable cities across America to reduce air pollution

In recent years – and especially in recent months, cities have emerged as leaders in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect public health. One of the most effective ways to accomplish both of these goals is to focus on reducing air pollution – and there’s an unexpected frontrunner doing just that, while also providing a roadmap for other city leaders on how to get started: Houston.

The city has a lot working against it when it comes to air quality: as a petrochemical hub, it’s home to more than 450 industrial facilities, and emissions from the marine and transportation sector in this sprawling port city are also major contributors to poor air quality. But Houston is also taking significant steps in the right direction: its mayor, Sylvester Turner, has publicly supported action on climate and clean air, and it’s using innovative mobile sensing technologies to collect unprecedented levels of air pollution data. Mayor Turner has also championed clean transportation policies that cities can implement today to reduce climate emissions from cars and trucks and improve air quality.

As these efforts expand across Houston and beyond, here are three emerging trends that could help other city leaders get started in measuring – and then addressing – pollution in their own backyards. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Electric Vehicles, Houston, Transportation / Comments are closed

Texas’ electricity market is working. But these companies want to change the rules to benefit themselves.

Texas’ two largest natural gas electricity generators are pressing state officials to implement a self-serving policy change that would significantly impact how wholesale electricity is priced in Texas.

Calpine Corporation and NRG Energy are pushing for “marginal losses” – a way of accounting for electricity that is lost on transmission lines as it moves from power plants to homes and businesses – when figuring the price that power plants get paid for electricity as retailers and public utilities buy it to serve their electricity customers.

The proposal is a penalty system that would benefit a few electricity generators at the expense of the rest of the state. Moreover, it has the potential to stifle the growth of clean energy and cause Texas to forgo the nearly $5 billion in energy cost savings that is projected to result from that growth. Read More »

Posted in clean energy, ERCOT / Read 2 Responses

A changing climate causes psychological harm. Here’s one way Texas can act.

“I’m sorry I’ve been so out of touch.” Months after Hurricane Harvey, my friend reached out to me to let me know that she has been suffering from depression and nightmares. She and her elderly relative were evacuated out of their flooded home in Houston during the storm, marking their door with a Sharpie the date and time that they had been rescued.

Texas recently passed the year anniversary of Harvey, and this is just one of the thousands and thousands of stories of people traumatized by living through the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history. That’s not to mention the trauma of those affected by the hurricanes, wildfires, and many other extreme weather disasters that have taken place over the past several years.

The psychological harm of surviving a natural disaster has been documented for decades. But with climate change, those natural disasters are no longer purely natural – they are getting more intense, frequent, and/or destructive depending on the event. Protecting Texans’ mental health and avoiding the costly effects of trauma is yet another reason Texas should invest in clean energy solutions, a low-hanging fruit for avoiding the worst of climate change. Read More »

Posted in clean energy, Climate Change / Comments are closed