Monthly Archives: February 2011

Interim Report on Fort Worth Natural Gas Air Quality Study Leaves Biggest Questions Unanswered

Last week, the Fort Worth City Council received an interim report on its Natural Gas Air Quality Study initiated last August.  Unfortunately, this interim report was short on details about the most unique aspect of the project – the direct measurement of emissions at the point of release.

The interim report only presented high-level summaries of results of sampling at 66 sites out of 170 sites where emissions were detected in Phase I (no emissions were detected at another 31 sites).  Stated differently, the interim report provided no information about nearly two-thirds of the sites with detectable emissions. Read More »

Posted in Natural Gas, Texas / Read 4 Responses

Texas Energy Independence Week 2011

Next week renewable energy advocates and policy makers will come together for Texas Energy Independence Week at the Texas Capitol.  The event, put together by the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association (TREIA) will allow industry, advocacy groups and academics to connect with policy makers and staff on how Texas can better realize their opportunities in developing the renewable energy market and reaping the economic rewards. 

I will be moderating a panel on Wednesday, February 23 from 3:45pm-5:00pm.  I will be speaking with representatives from Applied Materials, American Electric Technologies and SolarCityabout making the business case for renewables in Texas. 

I’d like your help in leading the discussion.  What questions would you ask of these business leaders?  Comment below or tweet your questions to @EDFtx before the panel on February 23, 2011 and I’ll select a few of the best to ask our panelist. 

Even if you can’t make it to the panel, this is a great opportunity to expand the discussion of promoting renewable energy development in Texas and maybe you will spark an idea no one has thought of before. 

I’ll update my blog after the panel with highlights from the discussion and answers to some of your questions. 

Below is information about the panelists and a link to more information on Texas Energy Independence Week.  

The Business Case for A Robust Role for Renewable Energy in Texas’ Energy Mix

Moderator: Colin Meehan, Environmental Defense Fund

Cathy Boone, Senior Director, Energy Policy and Market Development, Applied Materials, Inc.

Charles Dauber, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Electric Technologies, Inc.

Colin Murchie, Director, Federal Government Affairs, SolarCity

Click here for more information on Texas Energy Independence Week and TREIA.

Posted in Renewable Energy, Texas / Read 1 Response

What People Need And Want From Their 21st Century Electricity Grid

By: Derek Walker, Director, California Climate Initiative & Deputy Director, States Climate Program

For most people, the “smart grid” is just another nerdy-sounding concept, a little like the Internet was 15 years ago.  Back in 1995, only a crystal ball would have given a hint of the rapid explosion of the information age and the changes it would bring about in our daily lives.  The “smart grid” is in its infancy, but the benefits it offers are starting to become clear: reduced air pollution, more reliability, and greater control for the people and businesses that use energy.  Not to mention some very cool gadgets that can do everything from remotely starting your washing machine to telling you, in real time, how much money you are spending to power your iPad.

Last month, the 2011 State of the Consumer Report was released by the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC), an organization (EDF is an affiliate member) whose mission is to listen to, educate, and collaborate with consumers to ensure the most efficient and effective transition to the “smart grid” of the future.  After all, billions of dollars will be spent in the next 20 years to upgrade our electricity infrastructure, and we need to get the most bang for every buck.  That means the best technology, the most cost-savings, and the greatest degree of consumer empowerment possible.

The SGCC report combines the insights from over 80 studies and white papers to give a thorough snapshot of what consumers want, need, and expect from new energy technologies and the modernized “smart grid.”  The result is a template for innovators, policy makers, and consumers themselves about how best to get and stay engaged in the exciting changes that are coming…and in many cases, are already here.   

The results of the studies clearly show that people are intrigued, but that there are many different kinds of people that have different needs and require varying levels of engagement.  It also shows that those fascinated with new gadgets and those with the greatest interest in doing their part to create a healthy environment and reduce pollution are the most likely ‘first adopters.’  The report concludes that to generate more widespread enthusiasm for the “smart grid,” it is important to emphasize how the increasing costs of energy can be cut through a “smart grid” and how simple and user-friendly new clean energy technologies can be.  

Ultimately, people want and embrace what they can see, feel and touch.  That means that tangible benefits such as energy and cost savings, more reliability, and the ability to pick and choose technologies and pricing schemes are vital.  The report touches on a basic truth about human behavior:  the gap between intention and action.  Consumer education, engagement, and empowerment are critical keys to successfully unlocking the myriad benefits of the “smart grid.”

Posted in Grid Modernization / Comments are closed

What’s New? Objections Filed in the AB 32 Lawsuit

The parties involved in the lawsuit “Association of Irritated Residents v. California Air Resources Board (CARB)” filed objections yesterday to the judge’s tentative ruling that could lead to a temporary suspension of the state’s landmark climate change plan.

Given the breadth of the materials filed in this suit and the scope of the  ruling, the arguments in the objections were both expected and appropriate. In fact, they shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. 

As our post explained last week, the AB 32 Scoping Plan is a unique document that defines how California will cut global warming pollution to 1990 levels by 2020 while protecting our economy and attracting billions of investment dollars in companies with innovative clean energy technologies.

Petitioners, representing environmental justice interests, sued the state more than a year ago to block the plan’s implementation. On January 24th, the San Francisco Superior Court judge hearing the case issued a tentative ruling telling CARB that the package of measures in the plan was legal but that the analysis of the alternatives to those measures, and the process used to pass the plan, was defective. 

So what happens now? Pursuant to California Rule of Court 3.1590, the court may order a hearing from which a final ruling would follow a maximum of 10 days later.  Without a hearing, we expect to see a ruling within 50 days from the date the tentative decision was filed or before March 15th.

One of the most important aspects of the state’s objections, as EDF sees it, is the request for more clarity on what the court found was wrong with the process, and what part of the plan it intends to stop or ‘enjoin’ in its decision. 

More certainty on these issues is vital. For California to cut pollution as required, improve its air quality and protect and grow its economy, CARB and other state agencies need to use all of the tools at their disposal. They also need certainty that important initiatives—such as the Million Solar Roofs program, the 33% renewable portfolio standard, and energy efficiency standards—can proceed. 

While we aren’t going to prejudge whether the state met its burden to study alternative approaches to cap-and-trade, we are confident that whatever final decision the court makes, the state can and will take the steps needed so that it can continue implementing the Scoping Plan’s wide range of measures, including its emissions-trading program that’s scheduled to start in January 2012.

Though the parties are on opposite sides of the court, there is one common thread running through this case: both sides appear to be committed to making sure the state’s decision-making process, and the implications of those decisions, are analyzed in an open forum.  California’s Environmental Quality Act demands it, as does the environment, and all California citizens and communities deserve it.

Posted in General / Comments are closed

(Update) TCEQ Buckles On Oil & Gas Rules Under Pressure From Industry

Last week we lamented about the TCEQ’s capitulation to industry pressure on proposed rules dealing with emissions from oil and gas facilities. 

State Representative Lon Burnam provided us with a sampling of documents showing the influence exerted by industry during the tail end of the process.  These are just a smattering of the roughly five reams of paper his office received in response to a public information request.

In hopes that it might serve as a resource to others, we are also posting several other documents pertaining to the rulemaking:

Posted in Natural Gas, Texas / Comments are closed

Who or What is to Blame for Last Week’s Rolling Blackouts in Texas?

Last week’s rolling blackouts have left a lot of people wondering what (or who) exactly is to blame.  While it’s clear that incredibly cold weather played a significant role, details have only now begun to trickle out about the root causes of the rolling blackouts – and what helped save Texas from a system wide blackout that would have taken hours, if not days, from which to recover.  That didn’t stop a lot of people from throwing out bizarre conspiracy theories, unfounded assertions, or claims about the need to build more fossil fuel plants in Texas, all before the facts were even known. 

Just the Facts, Please

We’ll get to that soon enough, but first let’s hear from someone who really knows what happened – Trip Doggett, head of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the state’s electric grid and ordered utilities to begin rolling blackouts to avert a more serious crisis.  In a Texas Tribune interview last week Doggett said: “Our problem was more around the 50 generating units who had issues with their lack of winterization or insufficient winterization efforts that caused the major problem.”  50 generating units.  About 7,000 MW of fossil fuel plants, or more than 10% of the supply on the grid, went down last week because of ‘insufficient weatherization.’ Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Grid Modernization, Texas / Read 1 Response