Texas Clean Air Matters

The Nuts And Bolts — Or Rather Watts and Volts — Of The Energy-Water Lingo

This commentary originally appeared on EDF’s Energy Exchange blog

A glossary of energy and water terms

In recent posts I’ve discussed the need for energy and water planners to co-manage resources more comprehensively. But another significant barrier exists: language. Water and energy planners use different terminology and a lack of understanding for these distinctions hampers true coordination. Also, it prevents customers from understanding how to make sense of their own usage patterns and maximize energy and water efficiency.

Electricity measurements

Getting into the nuts and bolts — or watts and volts — of the issue can get very dry very quickly, so let’s go over some basic units of measurement to set the stage.

Electricity is measured in watts, usually represented as kilowatts (kW), megawatts (MW), but often discussed as megawatt-hours (MWh). One MW is roughly equivalent to ten running cars engines. A MWh is the total amount of electricity produced by a power plant in one hour, roughly the amount of energy used by 330 homes in one hour. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in May 2013, Texas generated 12,261 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity from coal-fired power plants (1 GWh = 1,000 MWh) and only 4,116 GWh from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.

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Local Energy-Water Solutions Should Be A Model For The Nation

This commentary originally appeared on EDF’s Energy Exchange blog.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve written a lot about the intimate and inextricable connection between energy and water. The energy-water nexus involves a number of technologies, environmental factors and stakeholders. Thus, it’s no surprise that water and energy’s fundamental connection has eluded policymakers for so long. With this post, I review the lessons discussed so far, so that policymakers can understand the key issues surrounding the energy-water nexus and what’s at stake if we fail to act now.

The Bottom Line

Conventional electricity sources, like coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants, require an abundance of water — about 190 billion gallons per day. Because the majority of our electricity comes from these sources, high energy use strains the water system and contributes to Texas’ prolonged drought. Coincidentally, extreme drought could force power plants to shut down.

Climate change is having a profound effect on our weather patterns, making extreme heat and drought more common in Texas and throughout the Southwest. If we don’t set the energy-water system on a sustainable course, we risk a compounded problem.

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3 things my climate-skeptic dad taught me about clean energy advocacy

Kate Zerrenner and her dad.

As an advocate for the air, water, and economic benefits that clean energy provides, I find some of my most challenging – and maybe most rewarding – work is trying to engage climate-skeptic lawmakers at the Texas Capitol in Austin.

To facilitate that work, I use lessons I’ve learned from my dad, who lives in San Antonio and with whom I don’t often agree when it comes to our approach on the environment. In the spirit of the holidays, I want to thank him for all those conversations in which we didn’t see eye to eye. Little did I know then, he was teaching me the tools of my trade.

Here are three lessons my dad taught me that I use daily in my work as a clean energy advocate. Read More »

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International Women’s Day: Spotlight on a Texas Clean Energy Leader

Center: Debbie Kimberly, Vice President for Customer Energy Solutions at Austin Energy.

In honor of this year’s International Women’s Day we wanted to highlight a clean energy leader in Texas, and we didn’t have to go far from Environmental Defense Fund’s Austin office.

Debbie Kimberly is the Vice President for Customer Energy Solutions at Austin Energy (AE), the municipally-owned electric utility for the City of Austin. Her division is responsible for some of the utility’s clean energy portfolio, including energy efficiency, demand response (a tool that rewards people and businesses for using less electricity when the grid is stressed), and solar initiatives.

Debbie came to AE just over four years ago from an illustrious run at Arizona’s Salt River Project – the electric utility that serves the Phoenix area. I recently interviewed her about her leadership in Texas’ clean energy space. Read More »

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On the Front Lines: Climate Action from Agriculture Can Help Defend a Texan Way of Life

longhorn-cattle-pixabayBy: Simone Ballard, energy-water nexus intern

Growing up in a rural community in Illinois, agriculture was a part of my everyday reality. My neighbors took pride in their livestock and centennial family farms. It wasn’t just a job for them, but a way of life. Sustaining farms and ranches is still a livelihood for millions of people in this country, putting food on our tables and fueling our economy. This traditional lifestyle is celebrated here in Texas too, but now it faces a unique challenge and opportunity presented by a shifting climate.

So, following the recent historic climate agreement in Paris, now is the time for agriculture to take a prominent role alongside other sectors in leading emission reductions worldwide. Why? The security of our food supply is at stake. The opening remarks of Paris’ COP21 Conference outline the reasons we must take action to mitigate the impacts of a changing climate: …safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change.”

Climate change will impact every facet of human society, so it is critical that diverse groups like agriculture, industry, and municipal contribute new solutions to solving our growing emissions problem. Sometimes those of us who now live in cities – and that’s over half the human population worldwide – forget about agriculture’s critical and tangible role at the beginning of the discussion. However, that narrative is shifting in this pivotal moment of climate discussions, as shown in the above statement.

In Texas, where agriculture makes up a large part of our economy, we should be thinking creatively about how to reduce emissions alongside other major players, like energy industry innovators. If we want to protect our natural resources, keep our communities thriving, and create a healthy environment for many generations to come, we need each sector to play its part and act on climate. Read More »

Posted in Climate Change, Drought, Energy-Water Nexus / Comments are closed

Texas’ Evolving Energy Reality: Clean Energy Uses Less Water

wind water flickrIt’s been an interesting time for water in Texas. Beyond the incredibly wet and cool spring we’ve been having, Memorial Day saw the second year in a row of record-breaking floods.

And a few weeks ago, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) asked for comments on the draft 2017 State Water Plan. The TWDB is the state agency responsible for water planning, and every five years it produces a strategy that “addresses the needs of all water user groups in the state – municipal, irrigation, manufacturing, livestock, mining, and steam-electric power.”

In the five years since the last state water plan, Texas has gone from one extreme to the other in terms of water: from the throes of a devastating drought to historic flooding that resulted in some reservoirs being full for the first time in 15 years.

In this climate of feast or famine, we need to better understand our water supplies and conservation efforts, both of which have a strong tie to our energy choices. That’s why Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) weighed in on Texas’ draft water plan. Not only does the state significantly overestimate the amount of water needed to make electricity, but a more comprehensive view of energy in relation to water demand and supply would benefit the 2017 State Water Plan and future plans. Read More »

Posted in Energy-Water Nexus, Natural gas, Renewable Energy / Read 1 Response