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New research by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis details how nine major power markets around the world have achieved an outsized share of wind and solar generation while assuring the security of supply, and are providing compelling examples of the fast-moving evolution of electricity generation. 

 

California, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, South Australia, Spain, Tamil Nadu, Texas, and Uruguay are markets where they are embracing renewables.  The following was reprinted from IEEFA’s press materials on the new report.

 

The report, “Power-Industry Transition, Here and Now,” includes case studies of markets—ranked by relative share of reliance on variable renewables—that include Denmark, South Australia, Uruguay, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Texas, California, and the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

“The report shows that on the ground now and in a variety of markets these renewable-energy leaders have raced ahead of much of the rest of the world in proving how power grids can be readily sourced with up to 50 percent of their energy from wind and solar,” said Gerard Wynn, a London-based IEEFA energy finance consultant and lead author of the report.

“As we speak, renewables are being integrated into these states and nations at levels in excess of 10 times global averages by using a menu of options and actions to integrate these clean, low-carbon power sources into electricity markets,” Wynn said. “The tools exist now to spectacularly grow the global generation of wind and solar power worldwide.”

“We draw attention to actions that system operators can consider immediately, all of which can help ease the integration process and assure the security of supply,” Wynn said. “Other states and countries can follow the lead of these policymakers, investors, and regulators, according to their circumstances, and so avoid radical redesigns of their power markets,” he said.

Power outage data indicates that major cities in the national case studies have not suffered grid problems and that, to the contrary, suggests that they have among the world’s most robust electric grids and are performing better than peers.

The report details integration of wind and solar power equivalent to 14 to 53 percent of total net generation, depending on the market studied and describes a reality that stands in stark contrast to recent energy policies put forth by the U.S. government.

“The case studies in our report make clear that the Trump administration’s rhetoric on electricity generation is not grounded in market reality,” Wynn said. “Our research shows that the growing uptake of variable renewables can preserve energy security.”

The report describes several methods by which regional and national markets can integrate high levels of variable wind and solar. Among them:

  • Timely transmission system investment to reduce power losses and congestion.
  • Better cross-border interconnection and cooperation to access cost-effective back-up.
  • Prioritizing flexible generation assets to balance wind and solar power.
  • Market reform to incentivize flexible backup supplies and drive efficiencies.
  • Support for demand-side response measures to minimize build-out of reserve capacity.
  • Enhancement of wind and solar forecasting capabilities to help operators better manage grids.

Each case study in the report shows how effective transition policies are tied to specific conditions and how a broad choice of state-of-art of solutions is the most economically sensible way forward.

Texas serves as an example of transmission investment that has helped lift wind’s market share there to more than 18 percent in 2017. Uruguay has used hydropower to balance meteoric renewable-energy growth; the country has seen wind and solar rise to 32 percent market share in 2017 from 1 percent in 2013.

South Australia, which gets 48 percent of its electricity from variable renewables illustrates the potential in harnessing demand response and battery storage. Denmark (53 percent) and California (15 percent ) show the value in strong cross-border interconnection; Germany (26%) and Ireland (25%) are laboratories for market reform, Spain (23%) has benefited from better wind-power forecasting, and India’s Tamil Nadu (14%) epitomizes the role of strong government leadership.

“Change is happening at breakneck speed, in the here and now, overtaking academic discussions on how quickly or whether this transition can happen,” said Wynn.

Reprinted from a blog post by Andrew deLaski, Executive Director, Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP)

With a little more than a year elapsed since President Trump’s inauguration, progress on federal appliance standards has slowed to a crawl, while state efforts are picking up steam. Although the administration affirmed or completed several important Obama-era standards during its first months, others remain in limbo. The US Department of Energy (DOE) has now missed multiple legal deadlines and, in December, released a regulatory plan that puts the government on track to miss many more in 2018 and beyond. State policy makers have not wasted any time stepping into the breach; this year is already shaping up as a big one for state standards.

Status of standards at risk

With President Trump and Congress both focused on cutting regulations, 2017 opened with all eleven standards finalized during the last year of the Obama administration on the chopping block. Some good news: seven of these standards are now safe from rollbacks and efforts to protect the other four are underway. Here’s the rundown:

  • Manufacturers, consumer groups, and environmental advocates all urged preservation of four major standards developed through the negotiated rulemaking process. In spring 2017, after reviewing public input, the administration affirmed new standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps, beverage coolers, swimming pool pumps, and walk-in coolers.
  • Three standards developed through the more common, non-negotiated rulemaking process were on some target lists for repeal by Congress. But deadlines for Congressional repeal passed with no action to remove the new standards for ceiling fans, battery chargers, and dehumidifiers.
  • Four other standards remain in limbo. Although signed and issued in late 2016, final standards must wait 45 days for publication in the Federal Register to allow stakeholders to identify errors, and this error-correction period spanned the change in administrations. The only error correction request filed was non-substantive, yet a year later the Trump administration has still not officially published standards for portable air conditioners, air compressors, commercial boilers, and uninterruptible power supplies.

In mid-2017, state attorneys general and consumer and environmental groups sued DOE to compel publication of the four standards in limbo. In addition several states are considering their own standards for some of these products. More on that below.

According to DOE’s analyses, the eleven standards combined will save consumers and businesses about $30–75 billion over 30 years, even after taking into account DOE’s estimated impact on up-front product prices.

Forward DOE progress slows

Although DOE did advance some work in 2017 — for example, initiating several test procedure reviews — it had missed eight legal deadlines for reviewing standards by the end of the year. Then, in December, DOE quietly released a regulatory plan that moved work on 20 standards and 17 test procedures to “long-term action” status, meaning the agency had no plans to work on these within the next year. Beyond 2018 DOE listed the plan for nearly every item as simply “TBD.”

Missing deadlines violates the fundamental compact between states and the federal government enshrined in the national appliance standards law. National standards generally preempt state standards, with some narrow exceptions. But in taking over responsibility for efficiency standards from the states, Congress tasked DOE with keeping the standards up to date. DOE must review each existing standard at least once every six years and determine if improved standards are “technologically feasible and economically justified.” If DOE finds that a revision is warranted, a final rule is due two years later.

DOE last fell behind on so many deadlines during the mid-2000s. Congress initiated oversight and state attorneys general and consumer and environmental groups filed lawsuits, compelling DOE to develop a five-year plan to catch up.

Delay not only hurts consumers — ASAP and ACEEE have estimated that the next round of updates to current national standards could save up to $43 billion annually by 2035 — it also harms manufacturers. Some complain that when DOE falls behind on deadlines, it throws their planning out of whack. Instead of a predictable, steady cadence of reviews and potential updates, manufacturers will likely face a crunch of updates compressed into a short period at some point in the future.

State action ramps up

While DOE progress has slowed, some states have stepped in to fill the void. Vermont got the ball rolling last spring, becoming the second state after California to put all federal standards into state law as a protective measure against federal rollbacks. A number of other states, including Washington, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts have joined Vermont in actively considering new standards legislation in 2018. In January, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, citing an “abdication” of federal leadership, announced a plan to develop state-level appliance standards. New York intends to work in coordination with other states to “provide certainty to manufacturers that appliance efficiency standards must be met across the United States.”

California, active at the state level for many years, has kept up its long-standing leadership role. The California Energy Commission (CEC) completed new standards for computers and monitors and advanced several others. In January, California identified another half dozen products under consideration, including several of the products left in limbo by DOE. Analysis published by ASAP and ACEEE in 2017 is helping to inform these various state efforts.

It’s not surprising that states are picking up the baton; many have been down this path before and know efficiency standards are an effective way to address a range of state policy goals. Sixteen states already have standards laws on the books. Included on the list: Texas, where then-Governor Rick Perry (now US Energy Secretary) signed standards for water-using products into lawlaw in 2009 to help address long-standing drought problems in his state.

Light bulb standards advance

No update on appliance standards would be complete without touching on light bulbs. Congress’ 2007 law, which established the first efficiency standards for common household light bulbs, has proven both consequential and far-sighted. Initial standards took effect in 2012-14, eliminating the most inefficient versions of incandescent light bulbs. Congress required DOE to develop stronger standards, but given DOE’s past difficulty in complying with Congressional requirements, established a “backstop” standard. If DOE failed to comply with a series of procedural steps or to set an adequately strong standard, Congress provided that the standard would default to 45 lumens per watt in 2020.

That backstop requirement provided certainty to the market and set the United States on a long-term trajectory that helped spur big investments in LED technology. Those investments have produced the wide array of high-quality LED light bulbs on store shelves today that can cost less than $5 and last ten years or longer.

DOE has acknowledged that the backstop standard was triggered. But some manufacturers have argued the opposite, creating some uncertainty. In late December, a federal judge denied a request from manufacturers for a court order preventing California from implementing the light bulb standards two years early, as permitted by law. The standards are now in effect in California. If the Trump administration attempts to scale back or fails to enforce the federal standard, it’s a good bet that litigation will ensue. The law also provides authority for state attorneys general to step in to enforce the federal law.

For more information on light bulbs, check out ACEEE’s Chris Granda’s article in this month’s AESP Strategies newsletter.

What’s next

We expect that states will be the most promising venue for progress in 2018 on new energy- and water-saving standards. The number of active states will only grow with the federal slowdown. Although DOE is missing deadlines, the agency will work on some topics. For example, DOE has begun a process to revise its procedures for developing standards. We remain hopeful that DOE will choose to advance negotiated standards, such as the agreement for new circulator pump standards completed in 2016, and initiate new negotiated rulemaking proceedings. Most likely, litigation over missed deadlines will be filed sooner or later, and, in time, DOE will get to work catching up on missed deadlines. All in all, a year after President Trump’s inauguration, work to defend national standards, ensure DOE complies with the law, and advance new, cost-effective state-level appliance standards is as active as ever.

The following is from a story at the Texas Emergy Report (www.texasenergyreport.com)  For all the energy news in Texas, consider subscribing.

Like the Sierra Club. Public Citizen is pleased about this announcement and has long advocated that these old highly polluting plants be retired completely.  See the story below.

Big Brown is shutting down.

The two-unit coal-fired electricity generation plant in Freestone County between Palestine and Corsicana began phasing out operations on Monday.

It’s the third of three Texas coal-power plants being shut down by Luminant, dropping more than 4,600 MW of power capacity in Texas, and the effects are being felt around the nation.

Because of related pollution, the Sierra Club estimates that the closing of Big Brown alone will save “an estimated 163 lives every year, prevent nearly 6,000 asthma attacks, prevent tens of thousands of lost work and school days, and save $1.6 billion in in annual public health costs, according to analysis conducted with EPA-approved air modeling.”

The other two plants, the Monticello about 130 miles east of Dallas and the Sandow Steam Electric Station in Milam County east of Round Rock, are already phasing out and ceased operations last month.

Coal-fired plants can no longer compete with cheap natural gas, and as Vistra Energy subsidiary Luminant put it when announcing the shutdowns, “sustained low wholesale power prices, an oversupplied renewable generation market” and other factors joined in making poor investments of the plants.

Mine operations are also affected.

The Three Oaks Mine, located primarily in Bastrop County, which supported the Sandow, is also mostly shut down and Alcoa’s smelter operation next to the Sandow plant has curtailed operations.

Turlington Mine, which supplies Big Brown, was already scheduled to wind down operations by the end of 2017.

Reclamation work will continue there.

And Big Brown was a big customer for Wyoming’s coal sector.

The Luminant plants were two of the largest buyers of coal from Peabody Energy‘s Rawhide mine north of Gillette, Wyoming, in 2017.

The loss of revenue from the Texas plants is hitting hard — Wyoming coal companies are adjusting to reduced demand.

This, even after a huge slump in coal markets resulted in the loss of more than 1,000 coal-related jobs in the state and sent three companies into bankruptcy.

And then there’s the challenge for ERCOT.

Potomac Economics, the independent market monitor for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said the plant shutdowns are cutting into the Texas grid’s reserve capacity.

Potomac’s Beth Garza said late last year that reserve margins, with the plant losses, could fall to 12% — below the 13.75% level needed to meet peak demand.

A separate analysis by S&P Global Platts concluded that the margins could drop to 12.4 percent in summer 2018 and 10.6 percent in summer 2022, according to Energy Resources online.

These concerns come just as the city of Lubbock — with a population of about 250,000 — wants to leave the Southwest Power Pool (which serves a small percentage of Texas and is part of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation) to join the ERCOT power network.

There is much hope and even some proof that wind and solar generation can make up for at least some of the power generation losses, and there are plenty of ideas circulating, from Elon-Musk-to-the-rescue scenarios to vague talk of joining ERCOT territory to outside grids.

The Sierra Club applauded the plant closings but, in a news release Monday, said it’s not enough: “Despite the phase-out of these three Luminant coal plants this past month, Texas still has more dirty coal plants producing more pollution than in any other state. Our work will continue until all Texans in every corner of the state enjoy clean and safe air quality,” Dallas Sierra Club organizer Misti O’Quinn said.

“Despite clean energy’s rapid growth in Texas and the profound change in how Texas is powered, companies like Luminant, Dynegy, and NRG and communities like San Antonio and Austin are still collectively burning more coal in Texas than in any other state in the country.

“With the retirement of Big Brown, the biggest air quality threats to Dallas and across East Texas are Luminant’s Martin Lake coal plant and NRG’s Limestone coal plant.

“Coal plants and other pollution sources throughout the state have made many of Texas’ major metropolitan areas – including Dallas, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio – rank among the most-polluted communities in the nation, according to the American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” report,

 

— Mike Shiloh

an example of battery storage for a wind farm.

Texas Waves consists of two 9.9 megawatt (MW) short duration energy storage projects using lithium-ion battery technology and are an integral part of the wind farm facilities near Roscoe, Texas.  The storage project was designed to provide support to the primary operation of the wind farms by responding to shifts in power demand more quickly, improving grid system reliability and efficiency.

The company that developed Texas Waves, E.ON, has developed, built, and operates more than 3,600 MW of solar and wind renewable energy generation across the U.S., with more on the way.

Storage combined with renewable energy generation projects, like wind and solar, is the next step in making renewables more reliable and better able to replace polluting fossil fuel generation like coal as older plants are retired.

This year, Public Citizen is proud to be a sponsor of Air Alliance Houston’s State of the Air Gala.

A partner in Public Citizen’s Healthy Ports Community Coalition, Air Alliance Houston (AAH) focuses on creating a healthier Houston by preventing pollution before it happens. Right now, Houston currently has 24,000 lane-miles of roadways which carry more than 465 million tons of goods each year. With the expansion of the Panama Canal, freight traffic is expected to increase by 56% over the next 20 years. And if we don’t do anything about it now, pollution is going to get a whole lot worse. Despite improvements over the past few decades, Harris County still receives an “F”  from the American Lung Association for ozone pollution!  We invite you to join us in celebrating the work of Air Alliance Houston at the State of the Air Gala.

Funds raised through this event will support AAH’s programs, allowing them to continue their research, education, and advocacy work to advance the public health of Houston area communities by improving air quality.  You can purchase your ticket below.

BUY YOUR TICKETS HERE!

The Texas House Committee on County Affairs will meet at 9:15 AM on Tuesday, February 06, 2018 at The University of Houston – Downtown Campus, Welcome Center Building, Milam and Travis Rooms, 201 Girard Street, Houston, TX 77002 to consider the following interim charges:

  1. Examine how emergency response activities are organized, funded, and coordinated. Review the impact of natural disasters on county finances. Identify any deficiencies in authority for the most populous counties related to infrastructure planning, emergency response, and recovery. Explore ways to improve efficiencies and manage costs while protecting public safety. Additionally, study the relationship between the state, counties, non-governmental organizations, and churches in preparing for and responding to Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath, and determine if preparedness plans are adequate.
  2. Evaluate whether counties have the necessary ordinance-making and enforcement authority to deal with flood risk in unincorporated rural and suburban areas of Texas. Additionally, examine whether counties have adequate resources and authority to ensure that new development in unincorporated areas is not susceptible to flooding.
  3. The Committee will also discuss the implementation of SB 1849 otherwise known as the “Sandra Bland Act” (relating to interactions between law enforcement and individuals detained or arrested on suspicion of the commission of criminal offenses, to the confinement, conviction, or release of those individuals, and to grants supporting populations that are more likely to interact frequently with law enforcement).

Prior to the hearing, Committee Members will take a tour of the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey at the University of Houston- Downtown.

The hearing will be live-streamed.  To view the hearing, please copy and paste the following link into your web browser: uhdhml.uhd.edu/Player/Live/4.

The Committee will hear invited and public testimony.  Public testimony is generally limited to 3 minutes so prepare accordingly.

The Texas Senate Committee on Natural Resources held its hearing at Houston’s City Hall.

The Texas Senate’s Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development held a hearing in Houston Thursday, February 1st on two interim charges, the first being on hotel occupancy taxes and the second on regulatory barriers.

The second interim charge reviewed at the hearing states: Identify options to maintain our state’s competitive advantage and make recommendations to remove or reduce administrative or regulatory barriers hindering economic growth, including permitting or registration requirements and fees.

Public Citizen’s Houston-based organizer, Stephanie Thomas, was one of six people to provide invited testimony. Others included representatives from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the Texas Chemical Council, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the National Energy Association.

Our role at the hearing was to comment on specific aspects of regulation, including the issue of expedited permitting. Public Citizen recommended sufficient funding to the regulatory agencies like TCEQ to thoroughly and effectively review permits. Public Citizen also brought forth issues in reducing public participation that may come from the expedition of permits.

Public Citizen also provided comment on Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s use of exceptional events for determining National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) designation, i.e. whether a location is in attainment or nonattainment for levels criteria pollutants. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, exceptional events “are unusual or naturally occurring events that can affect air quality but are not reasonably controllable using techniques that tribal, state or local air agencies may implement in order to attain and maintain the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Exceptional events include wildfires, stratospheric ozone intrusions and volcanic and seismic activities.”

Public Citizen argued that the TCEQ should not use exceptional events to make it seem as though an area is in attainment of an air quality standard when it is not. This practice of using exceptional events to avoid nonattainment status is particularly dangerous because people still have to breath air pollution regardless of whether it comes from a refinery or it comes from agricultural fires in Mexico.

Many of what seems like regulations to industry are public safeguards, with tangible benefits to human health and quality of life.

To read Public Citizen’s written testimony, click here: Regulatory Barriers hearing comments – Public Citizen.docx.

Upcoming Texas Primary

The Texas primary for the 2018 general election is just around the corner on March 6, 2018. If you are not already registered, the deadline is February 5, 2018.  If you need to find out how to register or to check to see if you are already registered, click here.

Last month, the Texas Tribune put together a list that lets you easily see who is running in all the primary races in Texas .  This election cycle hundreds of candidates across the state have filed to run for public office for statewide, congressional and legislative offices and the State Board of Education.

Early voting begins Feb. 20. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the primary, the top two vote-getters will compete in a primary runoff on May 22.

Click here to find out what candidates are running in races you might be interested in.

If you are not sure which campaigns pertain to you, click here and enter your home address to see who currently represents you (includes information on the congressional, Texas state house and senate districts and other information).

Voter attitudes about Climate Change

In 2016, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication started a survey that maps voter beliefs about climate change by Congressional districts and then by party affiliation.  You can see the results by going to the Partisan Climate Opinion Maps 2016

If you would like to see how candidates running for offices align with voters in your area feel free to ask candidates one or all of the following 8 questions from the Yale survey.

BELIEFS

Recently, you may have noticed that global warming has been getting some attention in the news. Global warming refers to the idea that the world’s average temperature has been increasing over the past 150 years, may be increasing more in the future, and that the world’s climate may change as a result. What do you think: Do you think that global warming is happening?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don’t know

Assuming global warming is happening, do you think it is… ?

  • Caused mostly by human activities
  • Caused mostly by natural changes in the environment
  • Other
  • None of the above because global warming isn’t happening

Most scientists think global warming is happening.  Which comes closest to your own view?

  • Most scientists think global warming is happening
  • There is a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether or not global warming is happening
  • Most scientists think global warming is not happening
  • Don’t know enough to say

RISKS

How worried are you about global warming?

  • Very worried
  • Somewhat worried
  • Not very worried
  • Not at all worried

How much do you think global warming will harm people in the United States?

  • Not at all
  • Only a little
  • A moderate amount
  • A great deal
  • Don’t know

POLICY SUPPORT                     

How much do you support or oppose the following policies?

Fund more research into renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power

  • Strongly support
  • Somewhat support
  • Somewhat oppose
  • Strongly oppose

Regulate carbon dioxide (the primary greenhouse gas) as a pollutant

  • Strongly support
  • Somewhat support
  • Somewhat oppose
  • Strongly oppose

Require electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from wind, solar, or other renewable energy sources, even if it costs the average household an extra $100 a year

  • Strongly support
  • Somewhat support
  • Somewhat oppose
  • Strongly oppose

We hope this information will help you in making informed decisions and participating in the upcoming primary.

Public Citizen’s Texas office is engaged with cities across the state in developing Climate Action Plans. We were heavily involved in the development of the Austin Community Climate Plan (pdf download) and now we are participating in a similar effort in San Antonio. We are also looking at efforts to prepare for climate change in Houston and Dallas.

One of the drivers of city-level action on climate change today is the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, sometimes known simply as the “Climate Mayors”. Mayors of six Texas cities—Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, San Marcos, and Smitville—have signed the Climate Mayors letter. Of those six, only Austin has completed a Climate Action Plan.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (far right) is co-chair of the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda.

Fortunately for the rest of Texas, the Climate Mayors have provided guidelines on developing your city’s Climate Action Plan. Below, we look at the five big steps in municipal climate planning.

  1. Develop an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions.

An “emissions inventory” is an accounting of all the air pollution emissions a particular source or group of sources. A greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory focuses on the pollutants responsible for climate change, chiefly carbon dioxide and methane. The inventory is important because it provides a starting point for the rest of the plan—a baseline of GHG emissions. As one popular saying puts it, “What gets measured, gets improved.”

Cities have an important choice to make when completing their GHG inventory: will they count all of the emissions within their borders, or just the emissions caused by municipal operations?

What’s the difference? Taking cars in Houston as an example, it’s the difference between the few hundred vehicles that the City of Houston itself owns and the 2 million + vehicles in the city in total. Many cities will lean toward inventorying only their own emissions, arguing that these are the only emissions that they are directly responsible for. But a complete inventory of all of the GHG emissions within a city’s borders can lead to a more comprehensive plan. A city can control its own vehicle purchases absolutely, but it can also enact policies that cause its citizens to buy cleaner vehicles. It could, for example, offer more charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

  1. Establish a target for emissions reductions.

 Once a city has inventoried its GHG emissions, it’s time to set a target for emissions reductions. When the United States initially joined the Paris Climate Accord, it set a target of 26 to 28 percent emissions reductions by 2025, over a 2005 baseline. (Those baseline emissions included 6,132 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, so the CO2 target for 2025 would be between 3,267 and 4,538 million metric tons.)

According to the Climate Mayors, many cities have adopted “80×50” goals, committing themselves to reducing GHG emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Interim milestones are an important part of these goals, with most cities establishing their first milestone between 2020 and 2030.

Austin has adopted the goal of “net-zero community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.” Note that “community-wide” emissions means all of the GHG pollution produced by everyone in the city, not just municipal operations.

  1. Prioritize and ‘bundle’ emissions reduction opportunities.

Next a city must identify, prioritize, and bundle its opportunities to reduce GHG emissions. Important considerations include political feasibility, cost, funding opportunities, ease of implementation, and timing. Also important are co-benefits of a given measure. Replacing old school buses, for example, reduces children’s exposure to harmful pollutants such as particulate matter.

A comprehensive plan will take into account existing efforts, ongoing state and federal obligations, and the long timeline (typically several decades) of a climate plan. Emissions reductions opportunities should also provide a reliable way to quantify emissions achieved. Once emissions reductions opportunities are scored and packaged, they should be integrated into a long term plan to achieve the goals set in step two of the process.

  1. Design an implementation plan.

 A city’s implementation plan will dictate exactly how it enacts the measures it has committed to in its Climate Action Plan. The strength of the implementation plan can distinguish “next generation” plans from earlier, less effective ones. It is here, in the details of implementation, that a plan will succeed or fail. The Climate Mayors have provide detailed examples of successful strategies for next generation plans. A common theme throughout its recommendations is “analytical rigor.” The plan should provide methods to quantify emissions reductions and a means to evaluate success.

  1. Establish a framework for monitoring success and refining the plan.

Analytical rigor will enable the final step in climate planning: monitoring success and refining the plan over time. The Climate Action Plan should provide, at its outset, a framework for quantifying the success of a given action. Detailed records should be kept and checked against milestones built into the plan’s reduction targets. If an action is not working, the plan should provide a method to change courses. Because climate action plans set goals decades into the future, regular review and refinement of a plan is essential.

These five steps may seem straightforward, but climate planning is a complex process. Fortunately, cities no longer have to go it alone. The Climate Mayors has aggregated the experience of dozens of cities and developed a robust set of recommendations for new climate planners (for example, 94 percent of cities with an existing plan said that, were they to revise their plan, transportation would be a “very important” area to consider). Public Citizen’s Texas Office offers its help to any city or group of citizens who are interested in climate planning.

Nationwide, 389 mayors have signed the Climate Mayors letter. If all of those cities developed robust plans, the United States could meet its targets in the Paris Accord without federal action. Several cities in Texas have begun the process, and we hope that they see it through to a successful Climate Action Plan.

Happy climate planning!

The Texas Tribune has put together a list that will let you easily see who is running in all the primary races in Texas which is fast approaching with only 8 short weeks to decide who you want to see running in the November mid-term election. Texas will be the first state in the country to hold its primaries with an election held on March 6th.  This election cycle hundreds of candidates across the state have filed to run for public office for statewide, congressional and legislative offices and the State Board of Education.

Early voting begins Feb. 20. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the primary, the top two vote-getters will compete in a primary runoff on May 22.

Click here to find out what candidates are running in races you might be interested in.

If you are not sure which campaigns pertain to you, click here and enter your home address to see who currently represents you (includes information on the congressional, Texas state house and senate districts and other information).

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2017 may set a new record for being the most expensive year for disasters.  Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria combined with devastating Western wildfires and other localized natural disasters caused $306 billion in total damage in 2017, with 16 separate events that caused more than $1 billion in damage each.

The record-breaking year raises concerns about the effects of future natural disasters, as scientists fear climate change could make extreme weather events more damaging.  This is especially concerning to Texas which pays the most out of all U.S. states on events like hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires and many other natural threats according to a leading climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe from Texas Tech University.

There have been 91 disasters in Texas costing more than a billion dollars since 1980.  Hurricane Harvey, which sparked extreme flooding in Houston and the surrounding area in August and September, is estimated to have caused $125 billion in damage, the year’s most expensive disaster.

One key question is to what extent climate change may be driving the U.S. toward more numerous or more severe disasters.

NOAA experts and other climate scientists generally demur on this question, reluctant to apportion how much of the damage could be attributed to a changing climate as opposed to other factors. One key factor also known to be worsening damage is that there is more valuable infrastructure, such as homes and businesses, in harm’s way — along coastlines or in areas vulnerable to wildfire.  Since the population in Texas is expected to nearly double by 2070, one should assume that the infrastructure in vulnerable areas will also increase, meaning the cost of extreme weather disasters to the state will continue to climb.

In the coming year, climate advocates such as ourselves will need to continue to combat the ignorance, misconceptions, and downright falsities that plague climate activism. We are increasingly encouraged to find local communities taking the lead in this battle. Austin has already passed a climate action plan. San Antonio, Dallas and Houston are in the process of developing similar plans. These are large metropolitan areas, but smaller cities and towns can take similar actions. Below are actions you, your business and community can take to mitigate climate change. We encourage you implement what you can, and we will continue to update you on what is happening in the state and in local communities.

Climate Solutions for Your Home, Business and Community

Climate change is a dangerous threat to our communities, but the solutions are ripe with opportunity.

Vote

Climate change is a problem that will require policy changes. Voting and letting elected officials know that you support climate-friendly policies is critically important. Policy changes at all levels and types of government are needed. Pay attention and participate in decisions at your school district, city, county, state government and federal government. Do your research on political candidates – even those in down-ballot races – before going to the voting booth to make sure you are casting educated votes. Many of the solutions below will be most effective with comprehensive policies to support them.

Community Climate Plan

Setting goals for greenhouse gas emissions reductions and developing a community climate action plan can provide an organized roadmap of actions to take as a community and as individuals. A community climate plan should begin by conducting a full greenhouse gas emissions inventory. The process should be open and driven by public participation.

Energy Efficiency

Reduce the amount of energy it takes to heat and cool buildings by sealing cracks, adding insulation, sealing ducts, and replacing old air conditioning units. Use programmable thermostats to reduce energy waste while buildings are unoccupied.

Co-benefits: Electricity bills will be reduced and comfort improved. Local jobs can be created.

Government: Adopt and enforce the 2015 Energy Code. Retrofit government facilities. Adopt Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) to allow commercial customers to finance energy and water efficiency and renewable energy investments.

Homeowners: When purchasing a home, get an energy audit before closing. Get energy audits for existing homes. Utilize incentives from your electric utility to make efficiency upgrades.

Businesses: Do a full cost/benefit analysis of making energy efficiency improvements. Consider utilizing the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program to finance energy efficiency upgrades.

Renewable Energy

Purchase renewable energy for government buildings, homes and businesses.

Co-benefit: Fixed price contracts for wind and solar can protect against future energy price increases. Local jobs can be created.

Government: Buy or contract for wind and solar energy to power government facilities. Create community solar and solar group purchasing programs for residents.

Homeowners: Get a solar energy system installed at your home. Get at least three quotes and inquire about financing options. Or participate in community solar, where available.

Businesses: Get solar installed on unused roof space or on parking shelters. Consider utilizing the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program to finance on-site solar.

Transportation

Reduce vehicle miles driven by utilizing public transportation, and transition to electric vehicles.

Co-benefits: Public transportation increases mobility for low-income residents and reduces transportation costs. Electric vehicles eliminate local air pollution and are cheaper to maintain and operate.

Government: Fund public transportation (rail and busses). Transition your vehicle fleet to all-electric. Even electric heavy vehicles, such as garbage trucks, are becoming available. Make car chargers (including rapid chargers) available in public parking spaces.

Residents: Utilize public transportation, car-pooling, bicycles and walking whenever possible. Purchase an electric vehicle.

Businesses: Transition company fleets to electric vehicles. Provide electric vehicle charging for your employees and customers. Create a company car-pool program and incentivize employees to use it.

Waste

Reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills. Composting keeps organic materials out of landfills, where they create methane – a powerful greenhouse gas. Recycling reduces the need for raw materials, which have a carbon footprint.

Co-benefits: Reduce the need for new landfills, which are unpopular in any community. Compost is a valuable fertilizer for lawns, gardens and farms.

Government: Establish a goal for reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills. Establish curbside recycling and composting programs, as well as drop-off locations. Provide recycling and composting receptacles wherever there are trash cans.

Residents: Utilize city composting, create or buy a backyard composter or utilize community composting at local community gardens. Recycle everything you can. Avoid buying disposable products and products with packaging that can’t be recycled.

Businesses: Provide recycling receptacles wherever there are trash cans. In restaurants, provide composting in the kitchen, and also for customers to use, if customers bus their own tables. Phase out products and packaging that are difficult or impossible to recycle. In restaurants, replace plastic straws, utensils and dishes with compostable products (or at least recyclable products).

PUC Executive Director Brian H. Lloyd submitted his resignation Wednesday, January 3, 2018, effective March 1st.

He framed his decision to leave as a personal, spiritual decision, and added that the March 1st date was intended to allow the PUC “sufficient time to deliberate” in considering applicants for his position.

Houston Mayor Turner, City Council Members, and community members displaced by Harvey speaking at a City of Houston press conference.

Months after Hurricane Harvey, Houstonians are still suffering. Over 5,000 people are not in their homes, some housed in hotels, others hopping between family or friends to ensure a roof over their heads. City of Houston urgently requests funding from the federal government to help the most vulnerable rebuild as well as to mitigate future flooding disasters.

As the U.S. House approved $81 billion for hurricane relief today, Texans await for the U.S. Senate to follow in their footsteps to help support hurricane-ravaged Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. Yet this, according to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, is not enough. He called the reluctance to fully fund the $61 billion aid request from Texas a “formula for failure,” stating that the current proposal will not do enough to help those most vulnerable. In order for Houston to become a stronger and more resilient city, it needs strong support from the state and federal governments.

Gov. Abbott’s request for $61 billion, which the House did not fully fund in their package, includes $12 billion for what’s known as the “Ike Dike.” The Ike Dike is a proposed barrier that would be constructed in order to reduce the impact of storm surge on the petrochemical plants and refineries that line Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel. It would also include $466 million for the Port of Houston to “create resiliency” and harden the Houston Ship Channel.

Who Pays for Harvey?

While a 20 foot storm surge would no doubt create untold ecological, environmental, and health crises, the real impetus behind the Ike Dike is to protect the assets of the petrochemical industry, and this is $12+ billion  taxpayer-funded bailout. Public Citizen joins Center for Climate Integrity as part of a campaign called Who Pays for Harvey. Scientists have demonstrated that the rainfall and flooding from Harvey was made worse due to climate change-related effects. Furthermore, many of the major petrochemical companies that line the Houston Ship Channel have been aware of the impacts of climate change for decades, yet have actively funded denial campaigns to mislead the American public. Rather than another corporate bailout, government should hold corporations accountable for their role in climate change. Corporations should at the very least foot the bill for the infrastructure projects that serve to protect their assets, while leaving federal dollars to help the most vulnerable rebuild and put their lives back together.

Public Citizen will be closed for the holidays on Monday, December 25, 2017; Monday, January 1, 2018; and Tuesday, January 2, 2018.  We wish all of you a safe and happy holiday season and look forward to the new year.

By Lowell Ungar,  American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy Senior Policy Advisor

Although the tax bill passed by Congress today will bring the largest changes to taxes (and government revenue) seen in decades, we don’t expect the bill to have such a dramatic impact on energy efficiency.

The greatest impacts, both positive and negative, will likely come from the broad changes to tax and revenue. Some companies and families will have more money to spend on efficiency improvements (or on energy-using activities) as a result of the tax cuts; others will have less. The deduction for state and local taxes will be capped, which could make it more difficult for state and local governments to invest taxpayer dollars in efficiency upgrades and programs. Federal deficits will go up, which could increase pressures to cut agency spending, including on efficiency programs.

In addition, two specific provisions will have a relatively direct impact on energy efficiency investments, also both good and bad…

To continue reading ACEEE’s blog post about their take on the tax bill’s impacts on energy efficiency, visit: http://aceee.org/blog/2017/12/what-tax-bill-may-mean-energy

About ACEEE: The acts as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors. For information about ACEEE and its programs, publications, and conferences, visit aceee.org