Solar In, Coal Out, In Texas Electricity Grid

Going forward almost all new electricity in Texas will come from renewable energy sources – primarily solar energy.  This is according to a report released by the agency responsible for maintaining the Texas electricity grid.  Once the dominate sources of electricity in Texas, coal has been on its way out for a number of years.  Due to a combination of market forces and federal regulations, coal can no longer compete with other sources or power.

The report looks at a number of possible scenarios to project the makeup of the Texas electricity market over the next 15 years.  The scenarios include High Economic Growth, Recession, and Extended Extreme Weather.

Under every scenario solar energy is the predominate theme. It seems that solar energy is finally having its moment in the Texas sun.  Today the state gets a tiny percentage of its energy from solar power.  According to the latest projections, this amount will soar to around 17% in the next 15 years.  Practically all of the gains in solar will come at the expense of coal.

Solar energy projections Texas

The Texas deregulated electricity market is designed to allow competition to keep electricity rates low.  The largest component of electricity rates is the wholesale price of electricity paid to the producers from retail electricity providers.  The fact is, electricity generated by solar power is now cheap and getting cheaper.

This is not just a Texas phenomenon.  Worldwide, solar energy is expected to be the cheapest source of new energy over the next 15 years.  Between now and 2040, 43% of new capacity worldwide is expected to come in the form of solar.

Pressure on coal is not coming just from competition from clean energy sources.  Tough federal regulations will continue to have their intended effect over the coming years.   Over the next 5 years alone, 5 gigawatts of coal power will be leaving the Texas electricity grid because of the EPA’s “regional haze rule”.  Against this, 14 to 28 gigawatts of solar power are expected to come on line in Texas over the next 15 years.

See Also:  Enough Electricity In Texas For Spring As Renewable Energy Surges

See Also: Wind Energy Provides Cheap Electricity In Texas

 

4 Ways To Boost Your Office’s Energy Efficiency

light bulb electricity buttonAlmost 20 percent of energy consumed in the United States derives from commercial buildings, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy reports.

Seeking and implementing energy-saving solutions within your office building not only reduces the amount of energy consumed, but also saves money on maintenance and supplies, while providing additional comfort and health and safety benefits. Here are the top four ways to boost your office’s energy efficiency.

Switch to Cloud Computing

By storing and accessing data online rather than on a computer hard drive, your office will reduce its energy consumption, saving up to $12.3 billion on energy bills worldwide and eliminating 85.7 million metric tons of carbon emissions every year by 2020. Leaving local storage and in-house computing behind, cloud computing has the potential to reduce energy usage worldwide by 38 percent before 2020.

According to a study done by Microsoft, Accenture and WSP Environment and Energy, this means switching over could reduce your carbon footprint by as much as 90 percent for smaller, less efficient businesses and 30 percent for larger, more efficient ones. Companies like Mozy make it effortless to switch over to cloud computing, providing your office with worry-free cloud data protection, backup computers and servers, and 24/7 support for when you need it most.

Invest in Energy Star Electronics, Appliances

When you see an Energy Star label, you can be confident the product meets strict energy efficiency requirements set forth by the EPA. This step helps you save money, while providing you with the high performance you need as a consumer.

For your office, invest in Energy Star-labeled computers, monitors, printers and copiers that have been designed to boost energy efficiency, with functions like automatic low-power mode. According to the EPA, Energy Star-labeled electronics save U.S. companies and consumers $1.8 billion in annual energy costs. In the kitchen, upgrade all your appliances, including your refrigerator, dishwasher, coffeemaker and microwave, to their Energy Star alternatives.

Invest in Smart Lighting

More than half the energy consumed inside commercial buildings is done through heating and lighting the office. Reducing consumption begins with taking advantage of natural lighting, ensuring windows are unobstructed and sunlight is flowing in to illuminate your space. In instances when natural light is unavailable, adopt smart lighting solutions throughout your building to reduce energy usage.

Switch compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, to LED bulbs. Not only do LED bulbs have a longer lifespan, but they also are more durable and prevent heat buildup, which reduces the energy used to keep the office cool.

Upgrade the HVAC System

When all the telltale signs are pointing to replacing your heating, ventilating and air conditioning system, upgrade to an energy-efficient model that will greatly reduce energy usage and costs within your office building. If your HVAC system is more than 10 years old or requires frequent repairs, switch to an Energy Star model and reap cost savings between 10 percent and 40 percent from your energy bill.

In addition to energy and cost savings, everyone in the office will enjoy an extended comfort zone, increased thermal comfort and improved air quality.

Become More Energy Efficient With These New Tools

electricity efficientThe U.S. Energy Information Agency reports our electricity is generated from the combined consumption of 36 percent petroleum, 27 percent natural gas, 18 percent coal and only 9 percent renewable resources. One way to reduce this heavy reliance on fossil fuels is to save on electricity wherever you can. The following household gadgets will help you reduce your energy use and make your home more energy efficient:

Pick Your Power Provider

Because you live in a state where you can choose from a number of energy providers, you can find one that uses renewable energy to generate your electricity. Vault Electricity makes it easy to select a plan that is 100% green.

Programmable Thermostats

High-tech thermostats have been around for several years. Most allow you to set a particular temperature for a particular time of day. The Nest thermostat does that but also “learns” by recording the adjustments you make throughout the day. Set it to learn for a week as you turn the thermostat up or down, then allow it to do that for you automatically. It also connects to your home network so you can control it from a laptop or mobile device. If you have a variable schedule, turn it down when you leave the house then turn it back up with your smartphone as you’re leaving class.

Controlling the Vampires

Every home has a number of energy vampires. These are devices that continue to consume electricity even after they have been shut off (or roommates who always forget to turns things off). Televisions, stereos and gaming systems are big energy vampires. The solution has been to unplug these devices when not in use. Now the Belkin Conserve Power switch provides another way with a device that goes between the device and the outlet. This switch cuts off power to any device that tries to draw a small current when turned off. Now you can enjoy those video game marathons with peace of mind.

Recharging Control

If you own a smartphone, chances are you can relate to squeezing ever last ounce out of your battery’s life. College campuses have a way of sucking batteries dry, but you can stay green as you charge them up. Mashable recommends the Bracketron Stone GreenZero Charger. When recharging mobile devices, they continue to pull a charge once they have reached 100 percent. The Bracketron device shuts off the electricity completely once a mobile device has fully charged.

Check the Lights

It can be a challenge to make sure that lights are turned off when someone leaves a room. Lutron offers motion sensor switches that replace existing wall-mounted light switches. These are specifically made for smaller spaces such as closets, laundry rooms, bathrooms and utility rooms. The money you save on your electricity bill can fund your late-night trips to the student cafeteria.

Complete Home Control

Home power monitoring and control systems, such as the one by Vantage, allow you to see what is consuming power in your home and at what rate. You can monitor each electrical outlet for how much it is used. Control lights, thermostat and appliances from a console on your computer or an app on your mobile device. Now you can expose the roommate who is responsible for most of the electrical bill.

 

Coal’s Importance To Texas Electricity Continues To Decline

smokestackThe use of coal to generate electricity in Texas continues to slide.  Just ten years ago, half of the electricity in Texas came from the burning of coal.  Today, coal only contributes 20%.

Why the huge drop off?  The two main factors are natural gas and wind energy, with solar and hydro also playing a part.

Texas is by far the largest producer of natural gas in the U.S., more than doubling the production of the #2 state, Pennsylvania.  Texas is now producing so much natural gas, that a pipeline is being built that will send a significant amount of natural gas to Mexico to be used by their electricity generators.

Texas also produces more electricity via wind energy than any other state.  There have already been days when the state saw more electricity produced from wind than from coal.

It is expected that by 2020, more than half of all coal-burning power plants in Texas will be shuttered.

 

Top 3 Green Home Appliances

Want to save up to $400 per month? It’s simple. Just switch out your old appliances for eco-friendly models. According to data reported by Green America, high-efficiency appliances saved American consumers up to $12 billion on energy costs in the past. Not only do energy-efficient appliances save “green,” these earth-friendly machines significantly reduce the impact on our precious resources. Additionally, Green America reported that energy-efficient appliances reduced greenhouse emissions that are comparable to the impact of 23 million cars on the road. Ready to make the switch? These are the top three green home appliances.

Washing Machines

The sustainable living experts from Earth Easy advocate the use of energy-friendly washers and dryers, as these home appliances are major energy users. It’s estimated that 90 percent of the energy used to do laundry is used just to heat up the water. For most of today’s energy-efficient washers, the cold water setting is just as effective at cleaning laundry as the warm or hot settings. Appliances like high-efficiency front-loading washers save water by using less per load. These styles also get the job done much quicker and require less laundry detergent than traditional models, making a front-load washer a sustainable choice for your home.

Dishwashers

As a consumer, it’s important to shop for an eco-friendly dishwasher that’s not too large, as the size of the appliance directly impacts how much water and energy is used to get the dishes clean. Additionally, earth-conscious shoppers should look for a model that has an internal water heater that adjusts the temperature of the water inside. An Energy Star-rated Frigidaire dishwasher not only saves you money on your utility bills, it also cleans dishes better than competing models, as it can sanitize up to 99.9 percent of common household bacteria, keeping your home clean and safe.

Ovens

Homeowners shopping for a powerful yet sustainable oven can look to Bosch. The home appliance manufacturer uses sustainable workmanship throughout the entire process, from building the home appliances to getting them to the store shelves. Even the packing material that Bosch uses is recycled. The company takes an eco-conscious approach to its business, so it should come as no surprise to learn that Bosch offers some of the top eco-friendly appliances on the market today. Whether you’re a seasoned chef of a home cook, you’ll appreciate the craftsmanship and the sustainability factor of Bosch ovens. Want to cut energy loss while cooking? It’s as easy as keeping the oven door shut while cooking. It’s estimated that 10 percent of energy is lost when the door is opened.

Protection Plans

Once you upgrade your appliances, ensure your purchase is protected with a home warranty or protection plan from Total Protect. The company offers specialty protection plans for appliances, which covers the cost to fix or repair the broken appliance. One single home appliance breakdown can cost as much as a year’s worth of coverage. Don’t risk it, get covered today.

Electricity Sales Continue Multiyear Decline

Numbers released recently by the Energy Information Administration show that electricity sales in the U.S. continue to slow.  For the 5th time since the 2008 recession retail electricity sales have actually declined.  The biggest declines were seen in the industrial sector. While the residential and commercial building sectors were more or less flat.

Electricity Usage

There is no one simple explanation for the decline in growth of electricity usage in the U.S.  Rather, it’s a result of a number of factors.  In the residential sector, the number of households has increased. Yet energy efficiency regulations and improvements the energy efficiency of newly constructed homes have offset the effect of having more households.  The EIA report also credits more aggressive federal energy efficiency standards for appliances with the slowdown in household electricity usage. For the commercial and industrial sectors the numbers reflect a continued sluggish economy and a shift of the type of manufacturing performed in the US.

While the government numbers provided no regional breakdown, a separate report by ERCOT, the agency responsible for maintaining the Texas electricity grid showed an increase in electricity usage in Texas for 2015.    Since the 2008 recession the U.S. has seen a general population shift to the South and West.  Population growth in Texas has likely offset the effect of more energy efficient building and federal energy efficiently standards and appliances.

Texas has also seen cheap electricity rates for a number of years which takes some of the pressure off of consumers to conserve energy and spend on energy efficiently efforts.  A website operated by the Texas PUC seeks to help Texas homes and businesses conserve energy with energy saving tips such as “save up to 16% by turning you’re A/C 1-2 degrees warmer”.

Energy-Saving Purchases To Slash Your Power Bill

Phone charging with energy bank and using smartphone in handsNobody enjoys paying for utilities, but they are an inevitable burden. Fortunately, there are ways to slash these charges by upgrading parts of your home and lifestyle that may be wasting electricity. By switching to energy-efficient electronics, you can cut your bills in half. Here are some options to start saving energy and money.

Smartphone

While charging your phone does not use a lot of electricity, if you have an older phone that consistently needs to be charged, you are using more than you should be. Older smartphones lose battery power quicker, and you may find that you need to charge it more often than you used to. If this is the case, look into buying a new phone that will keep its charge. Check out a phone with a long-lasting battery life, like the Samsung Galaxy S7, and make the switch. Don’t waste your time and energy constantly having to plug in a cellphone that is past its prime when there are newer and more efficient models available.

Car

Vehicles are a huge expense. Routine maintenance, special repairs and keeping the gas tank full, are just some of the charges that add up. One way to offset these costs is to upgrade to an energy-efficient car, so you do not have to buy as much gas. This may mean trading in your pickup truck for a small sedan or switching to a hybrid or electric vehicle. Figure out how much money you can spend on gas, and then research cars that enable you to spend that amount or less. Buying some gas is inevitable, but reducing the amount can save you a large chunk of change.

Windows

Are your windows doing their job? They are supposed to let in light, protect you from rain and give you a view of the outside world, but they should do even more. They also should be holding in your heating and air conditioning. You may not notice small cracks that allow air to escape, but they may be costing you hundreds in heating and cooling costs.

If you cannot afford new windows, weather-proof them instead. You can use caulk and weatherstrips to reduce air leakage. There are also window treatments and coverings that block out heat during the warmer months, lowering your need for air conditioning. If you want to take the full plunge, talk to a professional about energy-efficient windows and getting them installed in your home.

Smart Thermostat

If used correctly, smart thermostats can save you money and energy. Before investing in one, you have to consider that the thermostat can costs up to $300 and it will take time to recoup your investment. However, many landlords will reimburse you for installing one, so you may want to mention it before purchasing.

Smart thermostats learn your behaviors and react. They know when you get home from work, when you routinely leave your home and other factors that affect your home’s temperature. This allows them to cool down or warm up your space before you get home, while saving energy the rest of the day. You also can control them remotely, so you can make adjustments at any time using a smartphone app. In the long run, they are great tools to streamline your energy usage and save money.

Enough Electricity In Texas For Spring As Renewable Energy Surges

ERCOT, the organization responsible for maintaining the Texas electricity grid, is predicting more than adequate capacity in the spring amidst an expected surge in renewable power for the state in 2016.   In its Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy, ERCOT is predicting a spring usage peak of 58,279 MW.  This is well within system capacity even with the assumption that there will be 9,482 MW of lost system capacity due to maintenance and forced outages.  This is based on historical outage data going back to 2010.  The demand estimates were made using May 2006, a hotter than normal May, as a model.

Due to the fact that Texas’ operational solar capacity recently passed a threshold of 200 MW, the methodology for determining how much solar power to include in capacity projections has changed.  This resulted in a decreased amount of solar power included in the spring projections.  However, 2016 is expected to be an exceptional year for solar energy in Texas.

ERCOT Solar

By some estimates, the state will see an additional 2 GW of installed solar capacity in 2016.  This would result in a 10-fold increase in solar electricity.  Texas has long been considered a sleeping giant when it comes to solar power. Although it has the geography and climate to be a substantial producer, it has had very little in the way of utility scale solar power.  This is changing in a big way with projects underway for both the Austin and San Antonio municipal utilities among others.  The Austin project, in particular, is notable for its low cost. The purchase agreement for that project calls for a rate of less than 5 cents per kilowatt hour.  This is cheap even when compared to natural gas.  Several years of cheap natural gas have led to low electricity rates in Texas and created a challenging environment for solar and natural gas to compete on price.

Despite this, renewables have continued to gain ground in Texas, led by wind in particular. Wind, along with solar, make up around two-thirds of the state’s additional capacity for 2016.  Of the 12,500 MW in new power expected to come online, wind will account for about 63%. 2016 will likely see wind overtake coal as the second largest source of electricity in the state.

Although coal is rapidly becoming a smaller contributor to the state’s electricity output, coal plants are still critical for keeping the lights on in Texas.  The report downplays any potential impact of compliance with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards regulations for coal units.   With the final compliance date being April 15, 2016, planners expect generators to be in compliance.

The preliminary summer report predicts record peak electricity usage for the state with demand peaking at over 70,000 MW for the first time.  Against this, it is predicted that the system will have over 79,000 MW of available generation.

6 Of The Greenest Electric Cars of 2016

Electric Car FobVehicle-related air pollutants have decreased by 98 percent since the 1960s in Los Angeles, despite its residents burning three times as much gasoline and diesel fuel, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The study credits greener cars as the catalyst behind improved air quality. This goes to show that going green can absolutely make a positive impact on the environment. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Energy says that, on average, it costs about half as much to drive an electric vehicle as it does its gasoline-fueled counterpart.

Fortunately, there are plenty of green vehicle options on the market, ranging from hybrid to full-electric options. Here’s the scoop on some of the greenest cars of 2016 and their environmentally friendly features.

A3 Sportback e-tron

This sporty plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is part of Audi’s energy program. Its features include a carbon offset program, residential solar panel installation availability and a home charger. After running out of electric power, drivers can use auto mode to recapture energy and help recharge it while relying on its hybrid gas function.

Fiat 500e

With a single-speed transmission and 83-kilowatt electric motor, the Fiat 500e gets an impressive 87-mile range and 4-hour recharge time. The downside is that the vehicle is currently only sold in California. However, green enthusiasts can check out a site like DriveTime to find a used vehicle dealership in their area to find the model they’re looking for.

Chevrolet Volt

The Chevrolet Volt has made the cut for one of the greenest vehicles since its debut in 2010. It was one of the first modern hybrid vehicles and has helped usher in the mainstream eco-friendly car options. The earliest Volts had a 35-mile electric range with today’s model boasting 50 miles. Consumer Reports tested the latest Volt and found it made a smooth transition from electric to gas mode with an increased battery capacity compared to previous versions.

Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius made an appearance in this year’s Super Bowl lineup of commercials. Like Chevrolet’s Volt, the Toyota Prius was a founder in the modern hybrid vehicle movement. The Prius gets an average of 50 mpg and reports indicate a smooth ride with solid acceleration.

Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf debuted its 2016 model with a stronger battery that increased from 24 kWh to 30 kWh of capacity. This year’s model also comes with NissanConnect, which has Bluetooth phone and text messaging capabilities. For drivers who are going to be away from their cars for a while or are eager to check in on its charging status, the Leaf also comes with a remote monitoring capability to check its charging status.

Hyundai Sonata

This hybrid plug-in comes in at 50 mpg and can run 24 miles on its electric battery before needing a charge and switching over to its fuel engine. Its combined hybrid battery and fuel tank get about 40 mpg on the road. The Hyundai Sonata also has a reputation for its quiet ride and improved fuel efficiency.

Cars are becoming greener and more affordable than ever. Drivers should check the U.S. Department of Energy website to learn more about tax credits of up to $7,500 for all-electric and plug-in hybrid car purchases in or after 2010. Credit amounts vary on the battery capacity required to power the vehicle. Green drivers may also qualify for state or local incentives just for driving eco-friendly vehicles that are sporty, fun to drive and less damaging to the environment.

Electricity Usage In Texas Grew In 2015 Led By Renewables

ERCOT, the Texas electricity authority, reported an increase in total system-wide electricity usage for 2015.  This is due in large part to record breaking summer demand for power which saw a peak demand record of almost 70,000 megawatts.  In total, Texans served by ERCOT consumed 347.5 million MWh of electricity which constituted a 2.2% increase in demand over 2014.

2015 saw a streak of new record peaked demand periods.  The top 5 all-time peak demand records all came within a one week period in the summer.

69,877 MW — Aug. 10, 2015
69,775 MW — Aug. 11, 2015
68,979 MW — Aug.   6, 2015
68,731 MW — Aug.   7, 2015
68,683 MW — Aug.   5, 2015

Wind continued its ascendance in the Texas electricity market, surpassing nuclear to become the third largest source of power.   Wind energy accounted for 11.7% of the state’s power usage for the year.  Cheap natural gas meanwhile continued to displace coal generation.  For the year natural gas accounted for almost half of the state’s power while coal fell from 36.0% to 28.1%.

Energy usage in 2015 consistently exceeded 2014 with only the month of December seeing a decrease over the previous year due to moderate weather.

ERCOT Cheap Electricity 2015 Usage

The mild and windy December led to an impressive showing for Texas’ wind portfolio.  On December 20th Texas set a new all-time record for wind energy production with wind turbines contributing over 40% of the system-wide electricity at times.  For many, this came as proof that the state’s infrastructure can, in fact, handle the intermittent nature of wind power without causing problems for the grid.

2015 also saw the first Texas city to commit to becoming become 100% dependent on renewable energy.  What made the announcement of Georgetown all the more remarkable is the fact that the switch is driven by the desire for cheap electricity rather than purely environmental considerations.

See Also:  Texas Electricity Capacity Adequate For Spring And Summer Of 2015
See Also: ERCOT Releases The 2014 Breakdown Of Electricity Generation In Texas