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 How Plausible is an All-Renewable Electric Grid in the US?

Is the key to tackling climate change really as simple as ‘electrifying everything’. According to Vox, and many others, it is. 

Electrifying everything in this sense means that all means of energy production should be replaced with an electrical alternative (if at all feasible). Sounds great, but we aren’t quite there yet and will still have to burn natural gas to generate the majority of our electricity need (about 35% according to 2018 numbers).

Vox goes a step beyond this in another article and says that it’s economically plausible to run the U.S. entirely on renewable energy by 2050, citing this projection, among others. The authors of that Energy & Environmental Science report believe that Wind, Water, and Solar (WWS) energy will prevail and be robust enough to generate zero-carbon energy. And although there are criticisms about just how reliable most of that renewable energy would be, those same experts actually agree that the grid will be more secure with renewable grid modeling.

But there’s so many complexities at play that span all political, logistical, and technological corners of the country. Additionally, over-generation and duck curves are a commonly-posed problem with renewable energy. 

Let’s explore some solutions for facilitating this all-renewable vision for the U.S. energy system as a whole.

Some Solutions: Larger Scales, Increased Storage Facilities, and Microgrids

 

Let’s ignore the incredibly dense and mind-boggling policy considerations and Congressional cooperation that would need to take place to enact this global green initiative for energy. Instead, let’s explore some smaller scale solutions.

This article by David Timmons, which was featured on TechXplore, offers some insights on the importance of how cost has an inverse relationship to how large the scale of the project is. As an example, this is what he says about scalability, “in the United States, large-scale solar farms can be more than 1,000 times larger than residential rooftop systems and about half the cost.”

Switching gears, microgrids can also inch the U.S. much closer to a renewable grid. Through smaller, more flexible grids, power outages are less a threat because there are always back-up systems in place. In addition, more energy is saved because about 5% of all electricity is lost through longer transmission lengths, according to the EIA. So microgrids can be a game-changer if they are utilized strategically with key points of high renewable energy generation. 

Lastly, better battery capacity means less wasted energy. And because there is an over-generation problem with renewable energy, storing excess electricity is key for efficiency and can mean a more robust electrical grid. Using the ‘duck curve’ as an example, solar energy hits points of peak production and then obviously falls off during the night time. Better batteries can minimize the wasted electricity. 

Wind to Surpass Coal in Texas in 2020

 

Texas wind power has been impressive for some time now. It was this year after all that wind surpassed coal for energy production, offering 22% of all energy generated in the state in the first half of the year. And the divide between coal and wind will only grow larger come 2020. 

This is a huge difference from a decade ago when experts lamented the future of renewables, pegging them for energy generation pipe dreams. But with Texas having the most amount of wind power out of any state, reliance on this renewable is obviously very viable. 

And the rest of the world, according to BP, will follow suit with renewable energy sources to make up for increasing global energy demands: BP says that by 2040, the global energy demand will grow by a third. Additionally, natural gas and renewables will rise commensurately to generate enough energy. 

Wind Power Projections and Stats

In Texas, the Department of Energy projects that wind energy will account for 24% of all Texas energy in 2020, according to the Houston Chronicle. So, combined with coal’s steady decline as of late, forecasters are confident that wind will overtake coal all of next year, and possibly for the foreseeable future in Texas.

This contradicts what Trump says about wind energy, showing instead that wind is as relevant as ever and will continue to rise in the states. It also accounted for 114,000 jobs last year, which makes it a pretty robust talking point for not only environmental health but also employment growth.

The EIA, in their September energy review, show that renewable energy has continued to rise across all sectors for electricity generation, and that coal has consistently fallen. In addition, hydroelectric has always accounted for much more energy production, but recent national trends show wind and hydroelectric almost intersecting on the Y-axis for most graphs. This convergence speaks to just how quickly wind has progressed throughout the country. 

So, with renewables becoming cheaper and offering more jobs, the rest of the country will only add to the continually climbing numbers of renewable energy generation. Can’t argue with that.

Climate Change and The Texas Electricity Grid

Climate change is having real impacts on the Texas grid. With Texas’ grid operator ERCOT recently declaring an emergency because of record-setting electricity demands, there is considerable pressure for the state to make changes.

With global energy needs projected to rise by 25%-58%, Nature states that even just moderate increases in global temperature will only drive the constant use of air conditioners and energy. According to the same study by Nature, Commercial electricity accounts for 80% of the global total climate-driven energy demand increase. 

These summers will continue to look like the norm, the Texas grid will be overused, and consequently, reserve margins will stay dangerously low if climate change continues at its current rate.

 

Can the Texas Grid Handle the Current Population Growth of Texas?

According to the Texas Demographic Center, the total population in Texas will be closer to 50 million than its current 29 million. The question to ask then is this: will enough of the pressure be alleviated for the Texas grid through power plants and sustainable energy?

The Department of Energy put out a report in 2015 that details all of the complexities of tackling climate change. To offer solutions, and to further prevent the grid from failing due to high temperatures and increased demand, the DOE demands for more resilient grids. 

This means that builders embrace smart technology, the government starts more projects to prevent hurricane damage, and more wholesale electricity is utilized from moderate weather states during peak summer months. 

 

Will Blackouts Become the Norm?

Actually though, blackouts are pretty normal. According to Climate Central, “147 million customers lost power, for at least an hour and often far longer, from weather-related outages since 2003, an average of 15 million customers affected each year.” And so far, there has been a ten-fold increase in blackouts between the years 2003 to 2014. 

Regarding the Texas grid, this might be alarming. ERCOT’s 2019 planning report forecasts the next 15 years without adjusting for climate change-induced increases in temperatures all that much. This data could be misleading and could mean that the reserve margin is too low to keep up with electricity demand.

But all of this is speculation at this point. Texas has been making huge strides in sustainable energy. And by 2050, once the population has increased drastically and the temperatures have risen to their projected amount, the country will most likely enough sustainable pieces in motion.

Analyzing The ERCOT Reserve Margin Prediction

Earlier this year, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) made an optimistic prediction that raised alarms for NRG’s CEO, Mauricio Gutierrez. According to Gutierrez, ERCOT’s prediction that the next five years are looking good for Texas electricity generation and reserves is not true.

Gutierrez has said that ERCOT used outdated information in their latest forecast. He goes on to say that for a multi-year forecast (2020-2024), it’s suspicious that ERCOT included 1.7 gigawatts of power capacity from generators that are non-functional for the next 5 years. This doesn’t include another 1.4 gigawatts from thermal generation plants that are to be retired.

According to the NRG CEO, the amount of phantom power that ERCOT included in the report, accounts for 4% of the reserve margin. Currently, the reserve margin is around 8.6%, so according to next year’s projection of 10.5%, renewable energy is going to account for an increase in energy reserves.

Renewable Energy’s Effect on Texas Reserve Margins

The reserve margin is defined by the U.S. Energy Information Administration as following:  “Reserve margin is (capacity minus demand)/demand, where ‘capacity’ is the expected maximum available supply and “demand” is expected peak demand.”

This means that if the Texas Grid has a reserve margin of 12%, then there is a 12% buffer between the forecasted peak demand (total electricity demand) and the amount of electricity stored in reserves.

But will renewable energy projects generate enough electricity to push the reserve margin in the range that ERCOT predicts?

Despite what Mauricio Gutierrez says though, Texas renewable energy is humming. Wind recently surpassed coal for energy production in Texas. In addition, wind energy is continuing to drive the price of power down overall. And according to this post from Texas Policy:  “July 2018, project installations have grown to nearly 23,000 MW in Texas alone, which is now 25% of the total installed in the U.S.”

So a lot of projects are always underway in Texas, meaning that the projections and optimistic increase in the reserve margin for the upcoming summers could be an accurate assumption.

Will ERCOT’s Prediction Hold up?

Back in December, ERCOT had already predicted a lower reserve margin because of “delays and cancellations of planned generation projects.” And we will see if the optimism for Texas electricity was accurate or a little “overstated”.

As the Houston Chronicle article states,  NRG attempted to adjust the ERCOT report, they found that to reach a reserve margin in the 10-12% range, “Texas would need to add more than 17 gigawatts of new renewable generation sources in the next three years.” That’s a big margin considering that Texas currently has close to 80 gigawatts of total capacity. But time will surely tell.

 

Update:

Wholesale Electricity Rates in Texas Soar in Summer of 2019

This summer has seen dramatic spikes in wholesale electricity rates in Texas.  ERCOT has called for emergency conservation of electricity as demand for energy has pushed the electricity grid to the brink of capacity.

 

How Mobile Electronics Impact Your Energy Bill

When it comes to energy usage and its effect on our utility bill, we typically think of bigger devices, like lighting and large appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines. As mobile electronics become a bigger part of our lives, so do all the devices that come into our household. Cell phones, electric toothbrushes, iPads, electric razors, laptops, portable game systems — the list of mobile electronics we plug in keeps growing.

The significant increase of mobile electronics in our daily lives has had a profound impact on the amount of energy we consume. When you compare today’s residential energy consumption to ten years ago, you’ll see an increase of about 20%. A large portion of this increase is due to mobile phones, tablets, laptops and other handheld electronic devices. The way we charge these devices plays a significant role in energy consumption — we leave these devices plugged in when they don’t need to be.

Vampire Energy

How techy are you? If you’re the kind of person that likes to keep up with new gadgets, then you’ve probably got gadgets galore in your home. And, if you’ve got a household full of children, not only are you dealing with trying to get their attention away from their devices, you’ve got devices sucking energy. Have you ever taken the time to notice how many device chargers you have plugged into a power strip or outlet? It’s a mess of wires, and these devices are consuming energy, and tacking on the dollars to your energy bill. We call this additional type of energy draining vampire energy, phantom load or standby energy. Vampire energy can have a scary impact on your energy bill. Some households can have as many as 20 vampire devices unnecessarily plugged in. The EPA estimates that up to $10 billion worth of energy is sucked up by vampire energy power annually.

How to Improve Practices

Unplug your chargers when they aren’t active. There’s no need to keep your cell phone plugged in when it’s at full charge. Overcharging or frequent charging of your mobile device’s battery can do more harm than good — it can deplete your battery life. One thing you can do is invest in a smart energy strip. You can plug your charger into a smart energy strip, so when your phone is at its capacity, it automatically stops using electricity. These smart strips detect when your devices are on standby mode. This way, you can save your battery life and the life of the charger. Plus, the savings to your energy bill start to add up. Smart energy strips are ideal for a wide variety of mobile electronic devices that use a charger.

Another solution is to upgrade your mobile phone. If you’ve ever owned an older model phone, you know how fast the battery depletes itself, no matter how often you charge it. As hard as it may be to get rid of our old mobile phones and gadgets, you can upgrade to new models and enjoy a shiny device with battery power that won’t suck your energy consumption dry.

Mobile Apps to Help Reduce Energy Use (and lower your bill!)

Did you know there are mobile phone apps you can download to help you reduce energy costs? These are fantastic mobile apps to have, whether you own a small business or are looking for ways to reduce energy consumption at home. Certain apps can help you be pro-active. When you can closely monitor your usage, you can make the necessary changes to lower your bill. Here are some great mobile apps to consider.

Panoramic Power

We like this app because it allows you to see where energy is being used, in real-time, much like finding the best electricity rates in real time. With the Panoramic Power app, you can see where the electrical usage is at the circuit level. It displays everything consuming power in your home or business, from the HVAC to lighting, kitchen appliances, and other things plugged in, like power chargers for your mobile device. By knowing what’s draining energy, you can see where there’s excess usage. It’s compatible with Android, iOS and PCs.

Energy Cost Calculator

Here’s another great app for getting down to the nitty-gritty of energy consumption in your home or business. You can use the Energy Cost Calculator app to calculate the operating costs of energy usage of your plugged in equipment. You can use it to help you budget your energy bill by calculating the costs per day, week, and a month or by the year. Use it on your Android or iOS phone.

EnergySaver

Do you want to know how much you spend throughout the seasons? With the EnergySaver app, you can get detailed reports on your electricity, water and natural gas usage. One of the great things about this app is how it can identify vampire energy. Works with Android and iOS.

Small devices are having a significant impact on our energy bill. The good news is that you can take charge of your energy budget with simple things like unplugging devices. Are you ready to switch electricity providers? You can shop for an electricity provider that sweetens the deal with bill credits based on your energy usage. 

Why You Should Explore Alternative Energy Sources for Your Home

Are you ready to explore the alternative energy sources available for your home? By making the switch to renewable energy sources, you can help reduce your carbon footprint and possibly lower your monthly utility bill. Two of the most common renewable energy sources are solar technology and wind power. Homeowners and renters throughout Texas have a choice to select a 100% renewable energy source for power. Vault Technology can help you secure a clean energy provider for powering your home.

Solar technology

Solar technology is a reliable source of power. Photovoltaics (Solar PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) systems are the two main types of solar technology. There are differences between the two. For instance, a photovoltaic system generates electric power by capturing sunlight. With a CSP system, the sun’s heat is harnessed and used to produce thermal energy, which in turn powers heaters or turbines. Both types are excellent alternative energy sources that eliminate the need to burn fossil fuels, which releases greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere and contaminants into the air we breathe and the water we use.  The good news is that alternative energy sources such as solar technology are becoming much more efficient and economical. Homeowners across the state of Texas and throughout the U.S. are installing solar panels and doing their part to reduce their carbon footprint. If being able to produce your green electricity on your property sounds attractive, consider installing a renewable power generation system.

Of course, you don’t need to be a homeowner or have solar installed to adopt solar technology. Homeowners and renters can turn to a 100% renewable energy provider at any time. Texas’ deregulated energy market includes energy suppliers that offer 100% renewable energy plans, including solar technology. Also known as green energy plans, these programs support renewable energy sources such as solar that help power your home with clean energy.

Compare a green energy plan that is best suited for your needs. You may be able to find a program that offers bill credits and may be able to help you lower your monthly bill if you consume energy at certain times.

Renewable and alternative energy resources

We already know about one of the most common alternative energy sources: solar technology. Did you know that Texas is leading the way in wind energy? You’ve probably seen these giant wind turbines with large propellers on rural farmlands. Texas is home to some of the windiest cities in the U.S., and while some may think of wind as a nuisance, it’s one of the best renewable energy sources. When the wind gusts pick up, you’ll see the massive propellers spin around a motor. It’s quite the sight! Here’s the great part: Those rotating propellers are generating energy. From there the energy makes its way for use in power grids. Wind power capacity has edged out coal, which is excellent news for our planet and the air we breathe.

In addition to solar and wind, there are other alternative energy sources, including:

  • Biogas
  • Geothermal
  • Biomass
  • Low-impact hydroelectricity
  • Wave and tidal power

We all want to breathe clean air. Turning to alternative energy sources to power our homes and businesses is a great start. Shop for an energy supplier that uses 100% renewable energy and make the switch today!

How Renewable Energy Companies Can Lower Your Monthly Business’ Electric Bill

Are you a business owner that wants to go green and save money? It’s easier than ever now that Texas features Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). Thanks to these new standards, electric companies are required to increase their use of renewable energy. There’s no getting around the fact that your business needs commercial electricity. It used to be that business owners had no choice in providers. These days, small, medium and large-sized companies can opt for a provider that aligns more closely with their philosophy.

When you think of how Texas acquired its fortunes, oil and natural gas come to mind. Today, the Lone Star State has become a leader in developing renewable energy. Wind power has been particularly useful for our state. It makes sense — after all, anyone that has ever lived or visited Texas knows that we have some of the windiest areas in the U.S. The good is that technology can convert wind power into commercial electricity.

There is a growing desire to use renewable energy in Texas. The cost of wind and solar power is falling at a steady pace, which allows clean energy companies to offer lower prices for businesses. And with an uptick in newer renewable energy production, the time is right for businesses to demand solar and wind power from clean energy companies.

Clean energy companies with cheap commercial electricity rates

Clean, renewable energy companies in Texas are creating competition. And, since most of Texas is a deregulated energy market, the competition for new customers is high. There’s even more good news. By 2025, the average price for power should be 9% lower than today’s rates. With lower natural gas and electricity prices, consumers are reducing their use of energy from coal, oil and natural gas-fired plants. This reduction is resulting in better air quality in Texas — it’s good news for the environment and your bank account.

Top renewable energy companies that offer commercial electricity plans

Using wind and solar to power your business is smart energy. Any company can take advantage of adopting a clean energy plan. You can enjoy cleaner power without having to install a solar power system or a wind turbine on your property. The rise of social media has put more pressure on many companies to think about going green. Companies are adopting sustainability goals, which can save money by lowering their costs on materials, expenditures and energy use.

Companies can choose from the best clean energy providers. TriEagle Energy offers a variety of plans and term lengths. Other top renewable energy companies include Direct Energy, Champion Energy Services and Cirro Energy. The best way to find out which of the top renewable energy companies are best suited for your business is to contact us by phone or by filling out our form. Vault Electricity works with Texas’ best clean energy companies to get you the best rates. We will be glad to help you select a green energy provider in your area, and find the best commercial electricity plan for your situation.