Texas Sets Another Record For Wind Power

Texas Wind EnergyTexas has set a new record for electricity generated from wind.  On November 27th 2016, the ERCOT system saw more than 15,000 megawatts of electricity provided to the grid from wind turbines.

The amount represented about 45% of the spot demand for power in the grid in the afternoon.

“We saw high wind output throughout the day, ranging from just over 10,000 MW during the late night hours to this peak output during the noon hour,” said ERCOT Senior Director of System Operations Dan Woodfin. “Over the years, ERCOT has taken a number of steps, such as improving renewable generation forecasts, to allow us to operate the grid reliably on days like this.”

During the period, total output from wind approach the system capacity of 17,000 MW.

See Also: Wind Energy Provides Cheap Electricity In Texas

 

Electricity-Related Complaints Continue Downward Trend In Post-Deregulation Texas Market

ERCOTOver the last fiscal year Texans filed 4,835 electricity-related inquiries or complaints according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power. This represents a significant drop from the previous post-deregulation low set last year, where the Public Utility Commission registered 6,973 inquiries or complaints. Data from the PUC shows a drop across nine different categories of complaints, with only one category seeing an increase. The data from this year confirms the on-going trend of higher responsiveness and customer satisfaction in Texas’s deregulated retail energy market.

A Continuing Trend Based On Increased Customer Satisfaction

The almost 31% drop in electricity-related inquiries and complaints registered between 2015 and 2016 is the second largest drop so far recorded. Two of the main factors influencing this trend are lower energy prices and a growing familiarity with the conditions and providers of the deregulated market. Also, two major sources of complaints, Sharyland Utility and the installation of advanced meters, are no longer the source of as much dissatisfaction among customers.

The PUC registered a fall in almost every category of electricity-related complaints over the 2015 fiscal year. This falling rate of complaints includes a number of major categories of complaints, such as provision of service complaints, meter complaints and complaints related to switch-holds, the blocking of electric service for residences.

The data for 2015 suggests that customer satisfaction continues to see significant improvements across the state of Texas. The last three fiscal years in particular are registering increasing levels of customer satisfaction. While the data still shows a higher number of inquiries and complaints than pre-deregulation levels, the strong and on-going trend suggests that levels may soon approach their pre-deregulation lows.

See Also: Electricity Sales Continue Multiyear Decline

 

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.

 

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.

 

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”.

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.

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

Texas PUC Agrees To Electricity Fee Rate Hike

Electricity Demand OutlookThe Texas Public Utility Commission has agreed to a rate hike that will affect almost every electricity user in the state.  The rate increase comes in the form of an increase in the “System Administration Fee” collected by ERCOT.  ERCOT is the entity responsible for maintaining the state’s electricity grid.

The fee isn’t charged directly to consumers.  Rather, it is assessed on every kilowatt of electricity purchased from the wholesale electricity market in the state.  Retail electric companies such as TXU, Reliant and Cirro, purchase power from the wholesale market and resell that electricity to end users in the retail market.  Any increase in the wholesale cost of electricity will ultimately be pass through to consumers.

While the Texas electricity market is the largest deregulated market in the country, parts of it are still subject to public oversite.  The PUC must approve fee increases requested by ERCOT.  The system administration fee will be going up 19.4%; taking it from 46.5 cents per megawatt to 55.5 cents per megawatt.

Although the actual impact on Texas electricity rates will be small, consumer groups are still less than thrilled to see rate increases of any kind.   The Texas Coalition for Affordable Power points out that because the fee is based on usage, an increase in the rate along with an increase in the state’s power consumption will result in a net gain in revenue for ERCOT of more than 50% in less than 10 years.

The justification given for the rate increase was the need to finance new technology, comply will new (federal) regulations, and keep pace with inflation.   ERCOT says it hopes to hold the fee steady at least through 2020.

The 3 member panel in charge of the PUC warned ERCOT against getting too comfortable with large rate increases.

“I don’t want to see double digit increases in the future,” said Commissioner Kenneth Anderson.  “This is a one-time deal.”

The increase will go into effect in 2016.

See Also: Capacity Crisis In Texas Electricity May Be Overblown