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Energy Efficiency

September 5, 2013

Dave Fehling
StateImpact

Big Brown power plant in Freestone County

Big Brown power plant in Freestone County

As the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) considers changing the electricity market so there’s more money to build new power plants, a mystery has popped up: why aren’t Texans using as much electricity as predicted?

"There’s something that’s been going on recently with the forecasts, which affects a lot of things," said PUC commissioner Kenneth Anderson at the commission’s open meeting last week.

Who Turned the Lights Out?

Anderson said forecasts from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) had predicted electricity demand would increase in 2013 by 2.1 percent.
In reality?

"It’s been barely one percent, if it’s even hit one percent," Anderson said.

Over at ERCOT where there’s a mission-control-style room used to monitor the flow of electricity around the state moment-by-moment, analysts are scratching their heads trying to figure out why they can’t make more accurate predictions year-to-year.

"It’s really hard to piece out, we don’t have that analysis done yet," said Warren Lasher, head of ERCOT’s systems planning.

Lasher said usually the non-farm employment numbers are a reliable indicator of how much more power will be used in homes, offices and factories. Employment in Texas is up by 2.7 percent compared to one year ago.

ERCOT's grid center in Taylor where controllers make daily forecasts of the next day's electric demand and supply down to every five minutes.

ERCOT’s grid center in Taylor where controllers make daily forecasts of the next day’s electric demand and supply down to every five minutes.

What’s more, oil and gas exploration and production is surging, gobbling up so much electricity that there are price spikes in West Texas. In homes, there are more big screen TVs, computers, and maybe even a car plugged-in to charge overnight.

And yet, the state’s power useage has increased only half what was predicted.

It’s quite the conundrum for ERCOT’s analysts.

"There’s a lot of different things going on," said Lasher. He said demand may have been decreased by fewer 100 degree days, higher peak prices for electricity, and customers utilizing "demand response" measures like curtailing energy use during peak times.

Lasher said ERCOT is updating its forecasting models.

"I think you’ll see those improvements when the next load forecast is released," said Lasher.

Why Forecasting Matters

Forecasting future demand for electricity is one factor in play as Texas considers whether it’s energy market that was "deregulated" in 2002 is failing to attract enough investment in new power plants.

Mike Hogan, former power company executive.

Mike Hogan, former power company executive.

"It’s way too soon to say the Texas market has been a failure. It’s probably too soon to say it’s been a success. But certainly a lot of eyes of the world are on Texas right now to see what Texas is going to do in this situation because it’s a big question that a lot of people are struggling with," said Mike Hogan, a former power company executive now with RAP (Regulatory Assistance Project), a non-profit group that does global energy consulting.

Hogan said that Texas might not actually need to move to what’s called a "capacity market" in which fees are artificially imposed on the price of power to fund additonal generation.

"(A capacity market) is kind of like Obamacare for electricity. It’s forcing people to buy insurance they wouldn’t otherwise buy for themselves," said Hogan in an interview with StateImpact.

He says another utility market, ISO New England, has used the capaity market concept.

"Guess what, they didn’t need new capacity. They thought they did. That’s the problem with regulators and generators. Generators always think you need more generation than you do," said Hogan. "We might just find out Texas actually doesn’t need any new capacity, at least not right now."

Hogan advocates what’s called a "capability market" that he describes as a capacity market that values more than just raw power generation.

The PUC has scheduled a workshop meeting October 8th to hear more from experts about ways to maintain enough generation capacity to cover the state’s expected electricity needs but at "economically optimal" cost.

Fair Use Notice
This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

By CASEY MURPHY
Tyler Morning Telegraph

Karen Hadden believes there is progress to be made in energy efficiency. Ms. Hadden, executive director of Austin-based Sustainable Energy & Economic Development Coalition, or SEED, said some local businesses are in the early stages of providing energy services, such as retrofitting houses to make them more efficient, putting in better lighting, windows and insulation. But, she said, there is room for more work in the solar and renewable energy realm, as well as geothermal, heat pumps for houses and buildings and small scale wind.

The SEED Coalition and Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association are sponsoring the first-ever Energy Innovation Conference, put on by Clean Energy Coops, in Tyler on Sept. 3. The "star-studded lineup" will include energy experts from around the state, Ms. Hadden said.

Ms. Hadden was a biology teacher in public schools in Austin and El Paso before joining the SEED Coalition in 2000. She became its executive director in 2003. SEED Coalition is an advocate for energy efficiency and renewable energy, works with advocates across Texas, testifies at the state capital and does educational outreach.

She said they hope to have 100 people from across northeast Texas attend the event. They chose Tyler for their first conference because, "Tyler is beautiful," she said. "There are a lot of people who have already started down this path in Tyler. It’s a great regional center."

She said the event will be good for people in the "energy world" to attend, as well as home and business owners, community leaders and those involved in economic development.

Pat Wood, of Tyler, will be the keynote speaker. He was appointed by President George W. Bush to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and was chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission. He has a consulting company and is serving as chairman of the Board of Dynegy, Inc. Wood will discuss changes coming in the world of energy generation and how best to meet future energy needs.

"Through the years he has been working on the question, will we have enough energy and how best do we meet the needs," Ms. Hadden said, adding that he talks about his personal experiences of seeing that energy efficiency can work for individuals and utilities.

Other speakers from Tyler include Gary Bristow, senior vice president of Estes, McClure and Associates Inc., which has done a lot of work with the Tyler schools in helping reduce their energy bills, she said. Phil Parks, president of Texas Responsible Energy and Efficiency, or TREE, in Tyler, does solar and wind projects.

Ray Beavers also will be one of the lead speakers. He is the general manager/CEO of United Services Cooperative, a utilities company based in Cleburne.

"Part of the concern here from the perspective of the utilities is to make sure we have enough energy," Ms. Hadden said. "How do we meet our needs, our growing needs? And one of the big problems is meeting peak demand, which is the hottest day in the hottest part of summer, the hottest time of day … anything we can do that shaves the peak — that cuts that stress out of the picture is a really positive thing. Energy efficiency is the most affordable approach and it’s the fastest approach to dealing with that need."

Another speaker, Cris Eugster, is executive vice president and chief strategy and technology officer for City Public Service Energy in San Antonio. The utility company is helping people better insulate and weatherize their homes to help customers have lower electricity bills and to help the company avoid having to build another coal plant, which would be a $1 billion investment, she said.

Kirk Johnson, of Corgan Associates in Dallas, will speak about his work in helping to develop the nation’s first "net zero energy" middle school in Irving. The campus produces as much energy as it uses through wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal energy, rainwater collection and other programs.

Bob Manning, founder and president of Bob Manning Associates, will discuss his 16 years of work for H-E-B, when he helped save the company millions of dollars through energy efficiency and green building efforts, she said.

Additional speakers will be Richard Anderson, former Texas senator and Harrison County judge; Dub Taylor, director of Texas’ Energy Conservation Office; John Ashe, CLEAResult director of programs; Dr. Patrick Cox, Pedernales Electric Cooperative director; Tom Fitzpatrick, Energy Systems Laboratory at Texas A&M University; and Darren Schauer, general manager/CEO of Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative.

The event will be held at the Tyler Rose Garden, at 420 Rose Park Drive, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 3. The fee is $65 and includes breakfast, lunch and snacks. Ms. Hadden said they have a limited number of discounted and complimentary tickets. Those interested in attending need to register by Friday by calling 512-797-8481 or visiting www.CleanEnergyCoops.org .

Fair Use Notice
This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Monday, August 5, 2013

By Glenn Evans
Longview News-Journal

Ozone season officially begins each Memorial Day, but Northeast Texas is fast approaching the dog days of smog creation.

"My concern is, come about mid-August, we’re going to be in a world of hurt from the heat index, dryness and lack of winds," Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt said, describing the classic conditions for formation of ozone, or ground-level smog. "August is historically very, very hot, no wind and no rain. And those are the three main things when you’re trying to maintain attainment, when you’re on the bubble."

The bubble Stoudt fears bursting is this region’s 3- or 4-year-old attainment status with the Clean Air Act.

The five-county coalition, North East Texas Air Care, pushed down emissions of ozone precursor nitrogen oxide using a voluntary model called an Early Action Compact. Eastman Chemical Co., Texas Operations, AEP Southwestern Electric Power Co. and other local polluters invested millions in smokestack scrubbers and other anti-smog technology.

And it worked — at least by succeeding in putting the area on the bubble of non-attainment.

Good standing with the Clean Air Act prompts both public health and economic benefits. Environmentalists point to study after study showing rises in asthma and other respiratory ailments in areas such as Houston and the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, the state’s two non-attainment areas.

And economic development boosters point to the loss of federal highway funding and the increased financial burden drivers could face under stricter annual inspections that come with non-attainment.

"They have a meter that hooks on the back of your exhaust," said Stoudt, who serves as co-chairman of North East Texas Air Care, or NETAC. "And if you don’t meet up (to the standard), they withhold that inspection sticker until you have some work done. That’s going to hurt the working man."

So far, so good
Ozone levels at the East Texas Regional Airport monitor exceeded the Clean Air Act’s 75 parts-per-billion standard eight times in 2012.

That’s happened twice so far this year. Five of last year’s eight exceedances had occurred by this time last year.

Those events are loosely related to Ozone Action Days, which are declared as a prediction when conditions for smog look favorable in forecasts. There were 11 Ozone Action Days in 2011, three last year and none so far this year.

Residents are asked on Ozone Action Days to refrain from driving, filling gasoline tanks or operating small engines such as lawnmowers and washing machines during the hottest hours. Vulnerable populations such as people breathing ailments or who are pregnant are encouraged to stay indoors during those hours.

Stoudt also sits on the executive committee of the 14-county East Texas Council of Governments, which on Thursday approved a series of public service announcements on ozone that will soon be heard on local radio.

A balancing act

"I truly believe all the industry around here, since I’ve been on NETAC, they put together millions of dollars to reduce or eliminate or redirect those pollutants to another process where you can take them and shove them in the ground," Stoudt said. "Is (local air quality) the best? No. Is it better? Yes. Can we do better? Yes. But, again, it’s getting back to that balancing act — how much better can you do before you start affecting the economy … and free enterprise?"

Karen Hadden, executive director of the Austin-based Sustainable Energy for Economic Development Coalition, noted the need for vigilance on both the economic and public health fronts.

"We’re lucky that this year the weather hasn’t been as extreme as it was in 2011, but it’s still important to reduce zone pollution, which makes asthma worse and leads to emergency room visits for people who can barely breathe." she said. "It’s good that the East Texas Council of Governments and NETAC are looking at ways to reduce ozone. Their ideas are good ones."

Hadden visited Thursday’s council of governments meeting in Kilgore to publicize a Sept. 3 Energy Innovation Conference in Tyler. Experts, including the former head of the Texas Public Utility Commission, will be discussing how to meet future energy needs while lowering costs through green innovation at the conference.

"It’s especially important to reduce energy use during the peak hours, usually 3 — 7 p.m. in Texas, and when possible, shift the use of electricity to other times of the day," Hadden said. "For example, laundry can be done before or after those hours. Businesses and homeowners can reduce their electric bills while keeping building comfortable by increasing energy efficiency — through better insulation, lighting, and windows. More efficient appliances and air conditioning units can make a huge difference, and fans can help some in reducing the need to run air conditioning."

Stoudt agreed, but stressed that voluntary actions which have proven successful should be allowed to continue.

That feeling prompted defensive disdain at the federal government when the Environmental Protection Agency announced two things a couple of years ago: partnership efforts such as the Early Action Compact no longer would be recognized; and the 75 ppb ozone standard is going to be tightened to between 60-70 ppb.

An EPA spokeswoman in Washington, D.C. was not prepared to comment Friday on the Early Action Compact question. She also directed a reporter to a section on the EPA website that says the new ozone standard will be announced in 2013.

Nationwide non-attainment

Along with the two Texas regions, 44 other sections of the country are in non-attainment. The nearest out-of-state region is the Baton Rouge, La., area.

Stoudt said setting the standard too strictly could overbalance the equation.

"We’ve been in attainment (with the Act) for the last three or four years," Stoudt said. "But we’ve been on the cusp of non-attainment. But, if you go to that (60-70 ppb) measurement, it’s going to be the whole state of Texas that’s in non-attainment. And not just Texas, across the whole country. That’s got to be a concern everywhere."

Stoudt said the whole formula determining attainment and non-attainment should be amended to address at least three areas in which this region perennially gets penalized for things beyond local control.

One is the trees, which along with cars and plants emit volatile organic compounds. VOCs are the third ingredient with heat and nitrogen oxide in ozone creation.

"Instead of getting penalized for having a lot of beautiful trees in East Texas, why not give us credit?" he said. "And then what about the 30,000 cars that come through Gregg County (on Interstate 20) every day. Why shouldn’t we get some credit for it?"

Thirdly, and perhaps most problematic, is the transport issue. Measurements at the three NETAC ozone monitors — there’s one in Karnack and one each at the Gregg and Smith county airports — prove a significant amount of ozone here is blowing in from other areas.

"These are transient particles in our area that we didn’t produce but we get penalized for," Stoudt said, before acknowledging the plausibility that pollution produced here blows into other regions. "That’s a good point. There’s probably some people around us that are getting transient particles from this area in their measurements."

Fair Use Notice
This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner weight loss supplements that actually work. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

May 14, 2013

The Gilmer Mirror

(AUSTIN) — The opportunity for Texans to save money on energy efficient appliances is fast approaching. The state’s annual ENERGY STAR® Sales Tax Holiday is from Saturday, May 25, through Monday, May 27.

"Texans can save twice when purchasing energy efficient appliances during the Memorial Day weekend," Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said. "Shoppers are expected to save about $2.9 million in sales tax during the holiday, and the energy efficient products will also help them save on their utility bills."

The sales tax break applies to ENERGY STAR® qualified air conditioners priced at $6,000 or less; refrigerators priced at $2,000 or less; ceiling fans; fluorescent light bulbs; clothes washers; dishwashers; and dehumidifiers. There is more information at: http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/taxpubs/tx96_1331/.

Estimated annual energy and water savings for eligible products are listed in the chart at the bottom. Clothes dryers are not ENERGY STAR® certified you could check here.

Audio clips about the ENERGY STAR® Sales Tax Holiday can be found at: http://www.window.state.tx.us/newsinfo/radio/.

ENERGY STAR® Appliance vs. Conventional
Appliance Type Energy Savings Water Savings
Central Air Conditioners 15%  
Room/Window Air Conditioners 10%  
Refrigerators 15%  
Ceiling Fans 50%  
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs 75%  
Clothes Washers 20% 35%
Dish Washers 10% 20%
Dehumidifiers 15%  

Source: U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Fair Use Notice
This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.