Cheap Natural Gas Leads to Falling Consumer Electricity Rates

Plunging oil prices may have hit some energy companies hard and have some oil-producing nations worried about their budget deficits, but it has been a boon to the average American consumer as electricity rates have dropped 1% nationwide to an average of 12.4 cents per kilowatt hour, the first nationwide decline in energy prices in decades.


As developed nations move away from burning dirty coal for energy as a result of the efforts to meet international greenhouse emission caps, cleaner burning natural gas plants and alternative energy sources (wind, sun, geothermal, etc) are filling in the gaps. Natural gas is now the major source of fuel for energy producing plants, and a 28% drop in the price of natural gas for energy producers over the first half of the year has translated into big gains for consumers nationwide.

However, the replacement of coal burning plants with plants that use natural gas and a plunging price in hydrocarbons is not the entire story. Solar and wind energy in particular continue to become more efficient with advancing technologies, and are taking an increasing share of national, and international, energy production. This year the United Kingdom produced more energy from solar panels than from burning coal, and marked the first day since 1882 that no energy was produced from the burning of coal across the entire nation.

The state of Texas has enjoyed an even greater drop in consumer electricity prices, down 6% to 11 cents per kilowatt hour, thanks to easy access to plentiful supplies of cheap natural gas and a deregulated market. The deregulated market has allowed producers to adjust their prices sooner to reflect the lower cost of natural gas, and then pass these savings on to the consumer.

New England, which has a similar share to Texas of energy produced by natural gas, saw a similar decline in electricity rates over the year. However, the biggest decline of 12% was observed in the state of Hawaii, which uses oil for the vast majority of its energy production. The steep decline in the price of oil helped to bring electricity rates down substantially, albeit from a position that was far above the national average as a result of the state’s remote location and the difficulties that its geography causes for the installation of energy infrastructure.


Buy Green, Live Green: Sustainable Manufacturers Worth Your Business

green-electricity-manufacturersRecycling, driving less, turning the lights off when you leave a room; these are all great ways to reduce your footprint and live a greener, more sustainable life. But, when it comes to green living, you might be forgetting about some very important factors. How green is your smartphone? Does your TV cause harm to the environment? Here’s what you should know about green electronics.

Look for the Energy Star Label

Developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Energy Star label helps consumers make smart, sustainable choices when making purchases. There are a variety of products on the market today that have the Energy Star label, like televisions, refrigerators, microwaves, home computers and washers and dryers. The blue Energy Star label is used to show an item’s efficiency. In fact, since 1992, products with the Energy Star label have reduced 2.5 billion tons of greenhouse gasses and also saved consumers a hefty amount of money on energy bills, $362 billion since 1992, in fact. Today, this program stands alone as the most successful energy conservation movement in history. Next time that you are shopping for a home appliance, be sure to look for the blue label.

Sustainable Smartphones

Apple is committed to looking out for the environment. That is why they have switched to using greener materials in their manufacturing process and have established a consumer-focused recycling initiative called ReNew. In 2015, 93 percent of the energy used by Apple came from renewable sources. But that’s not enough for the Cupertino-based business; they are striving for 100 percent. But Apple’s manufacturing isn’t the only thing that’s green about their business. Apple is also known for their streamlined packaging. More than 99 percent of the company’s packaging is recycled. They also have significantly less packaging than their competitors, which means less ends up in a landfill. Additionally, nothing for the iPhone or Apple Watch assembly lines ever makes it to a landfill, which makes the new iPhone a sustainable choice for green-minded smartphone users. Steady improvement can also be seen in the fact that the iPhone 7 Plus’ aluminum enclosure has reduced the greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent when compared with the emissions from manufacturing the iPhone 6 Plus.

Eco-Friendly TVs

The television is a standard fixture of the American living room; nearly everyone has one. However, when TVs are discarded into landfills, it can lead to some big problems. Many old TVs are built with toxic substances like lead, mercury and cadmium, which can wreak havoc on the environment if not disposed of properly. There are dozens of recycling programs across the country that dispose and recycle old TVs properly. A quick search on the EPA’s website can guide you in the right direction. Today, manufacturing has come a long way and TVs now, more than ever, are safer. Not only are they safer, they are better for the environment, too. Vizio’s D39h-D0 D-Series 39″ Class Full Array HD LED Smart TV is the most sustainable on the market today and highest-rated in energy-efficiency by Energy Star. Whether you’re in the market for a new TV or looking for a sustainable way to recycle, your choices can impact the Earth.

Green Gamers

Yes, even video game consoles leave a footprint. However, some, like Playstation, lead the way in sustainability. In fact, Playstation has a lower lifetime energy cost than its competitors and the Sony console has an energy-efficient score of 100, the highest mark there is available on the scale. To put that into perspective, Nintendo’s Wii achieved a 67. Playstation is certainly leading the way as an eco-minded example that we can only hope other companies follow.

Amazon Comes To Texas For Electricity

Texas Wind has become the latest big company to turn to Texas serve their green energy needs.  They recently announced they will be building a huge wind farm in the state – their largest renewable energy project to date.  The 253 megawatt wind farm will be located in the West Texas county of Scurry.  Amazon has committed to buying 90% of the facilities output of electricity.  It will be capable of producing up to 1 million megawatt hours of electricity per year when it goes on line late next year.

Amazon’s Web Service cloud data centers (AWS) are large consumers of electricity.  Amazon has committed to a goal of 100% renewable energy.  The new wind farm in Texas will bring the company’s renewable energy portfolio up to 2.6 million MWh annually.  Amazon estimates that 40% of its AWS infrastructure will be powered by renewable energy by the end of the year.

Amazon is far from the only large company to go big on Texas electricity. Johnson & Johnson recently agreed to purchase half of the output of a 200 megawatt wind project being developed by EON SE in the Texas panhandle.  In 2013 Microsoft signed a 20 year deal to purchase all of the output of a 110 megawatt wind farm near Fort Worth developed by RES America.  Texas is also home to the largest federally owned wind farm which was built in 2014 to power the Pantex nuclear weapons facility.

Texas has paved the way for these large projects by investing billions of dollars in infrastructure to support what is by far the country’s largest installed wind capacity.   Texas has an independent electric grid and is the largest deregulated electricity market in the country.


Natural Gas To Surpass Coal As Source Of CO2

Natural gas is expected to soon surpass coal as a source of CO2.  As natural gas continues to replace coal as a fuel for the production of electricity for the nation’s electric grids, the total amount of emissions coming from natural gas activity will pass that of coal in 2016.

coal nat gas and CO2

Energy related CO2 emissions from natural gas are expected to exceed that of coal by 10% in 2016.  The total amount of electricity generated by natural gas reached record highs in the U.S. in July of 2016.  The nearly 5,000 gigawatts per day surpassed the previous record in 2015 by around 9%.  This was due partially to high temperatures as well as the continuing price advantage of natural gas over coal.  For the year, electricity from natural gas is expected to account for around 34% of power output compared to 30% for coal.

As ever tightening federal mandates force coal plants to either modernize or shut down, coal based electricity output has been in a multi-year down trend in the US.  This is expected to continue in the years to come. Much of this lost production has been replaced by renewable sources of power such as solar and wind.  The latter is particularly the case in Texas.

This all comes on top of another trend that has seen overall electricity sales declining thanks in part to greater energy efficiency in residential construction as well as federal energy efficiency mandates.  Lower peaks in electricity demand tend to favor cleaner sources of power. Coal and natural gas are considered more responsive sources of power generation and more likely to be ramped up in times of greater peak demand.

Electricity Rates

The gradual shift of electricity production away from coal and toward natural gas and renewable sources of power has not put upward pressure on electricity rates.  The national average for electricity for July 2016 was 13.0 cents per kwh.  By comparison, a 12 month electricity plan can be found for 6.3 cents per kwh in the Dallas, Texas area as of the time of this writing.


Increased Efficiency: 3 Tips To Lower Electric Vehicle Charging Costs

electric vehicle chargingWhen pitted against each other in the arena of powering costs, the battery power of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle demolishes the fuel life of a gas-powered vehicle, hands down. If we compare the cost of a battery charge to the cost of a gallon of gasoline, powering a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle equates to about 75 cents per gallon of petroleum-based gasoline. But as electric vehicle owners know, the name of the electric vehicle game is not price per gallon, but rather kilowatts per hour — and electricity costs vary greater than that of gasoline.

Yes, electricity is cheaper than gas in general. But just like a fuel-powered vehicle, you have to work at maintaining — and even try to lower — costs to get the most out of it. How do you do this with an electric vehicle? Here are three methods of lowering your electric vehicle charging costs even further.

Increase Efficiency

One method to lowering charging costs in an electric vehicle is by increasing its fuel efficiency, which can be done in several ways. The first recommendation is to check your tires. Maintaining proper inflation and alignment reduces the level of drag your engine must combat against, therefore boosting your vehicle’s efficiency. But choosing tires with reduced rolling resistance is a smart place to start. These types of tires cut back on rolling resistance, or the energy lost during engine drag, and reduce this phenomenon by an average of 10 percent.

Understand Utility Rate Options

While utility companies help set the cost of electricity, the costs you see on your monthly utility bill are ultimately determined by your level and time of use. In essence, if you use more, you pay more. In addition, these rates can vary greatly from state to state, while peak-hour use changes based on location and seasons. Since peak-hour energy use can be exponentially more expensive than off-peak hours, electric vehicle owners must be aware of their utility rate plan and anticipate changes. With the national average being about 12 cents per kWh, naive electric car owners may find themselves paying double if they’re not well-informed.

Some utility companies are sensitive to the needs of electric vehicle owners and may offer special plans, like Southern California Edison. The California utility provider offers residential users four different rate tiers based on usage, though rates can range between 9 cents up to 31 cents per kWh. Southern California Edison’s optimal utility plan for owners of electric vehicles allows for the lowest costs between midnight and 6 a.m., at a rate of 9 cents per kWh. But consumers have to request this plan. In this case, knowing really is half the battle.

Get Your Perks

As Americans continually warm to the idea of electric cars and the benefits they bring to society, more and more incentives will become available to electric vehicle owners. For those current owners looking to charge in public rather than at home, there are a few networks that offer access to electric charging stations while you’re on the go. Though each network is designed slightly different, they can be broken down into three subscription categories: monthly, pay-as-you-go and free. Though free is always a bonus, some of the subscription networks are worth checking out.

Electric and gasoline vehicles may be in two different classes, but they share the same road — and all drivers should be able to save a little dough.

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.