Posts Tagged ‘Electricity generation’

Senator John Carona (R-Dallas)

Senator John Carona (R-Dallas)

For many who want to add more rooftop and other on-site solar generating devices on homes and even commercial properties, there have been concerns about the prospect of being regulated as utilities.  This concern has been seen as an overly burdensome barrier to the industry, however Senator John Carona (R-Dallas) filed legislation that would make clear that retail electric customers who install generation devices such as solar panels on their property are not regulated as generating companies as long as they don’t produce more than 2,000 kilowatts.  To see the text of the SB 981, click here.

The legislation also would direct the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to conduct a study that would help to establish a fair market price for retail electric customers who generate surplus power that could be sold back to the grid.

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Guest contributer - Paul Sadler

Paul Sadler is the executive director of the Wind Coalition, and a former Texas state legislator.  He responds to the recent comptroller report which he believes did not accurately represent the job creation potential of wind energy

If we are to believe a recent report from the comptroller’s office (“An Analysis of Texas Economic Development Incentives 2010”), wind energy creates only 500 jobs in Texas.

And if we are to believe another claim by the comptroller’s office, a weekend of Formula One racing at a taxpayer-subsidized track in Austin will bring 5,000 jobs. In other words, even though Texas is the sixth-largest producer of wind energy in the world, with enough installed capacity to power 2.5 million homes, we are supposed to believe it produces one-tenth the number of jobs as expensive cars driving along a track.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has indicated she does not believe the statute authorizing her report on economic development incentives allows her to look at the total economic impact of wind energy as she did for a Formula One race.

So, let’s introduce some facts missing from the comptroller’s report. (more…)

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The Texas Railroad Commission added an emergency item to their agenda today so it could hear from the Texas Energy Reliability Council about natural gas service’s impact on the rolling blackouts that swept the state.  They told the Commission that Texas was never in danger of a natural gas shortage during last week’s statewide deep freeze and no electric generating company with an “uninterruptible” contract for gas had to do without.

Of course, one could also read that as gas supplies could have been interupted at generating facilities that chose to purchase their fuel under contracts offered at a lower price, but with the risk that delivery cannot be absolutely guaranteed in all circumstances.  That is, in fact what happened, so if those plants had been able to get delivery of natural gas, it is possible that the state might have been in danger of a natural gas shortage.

During the prolonged winter storm, gas production in the Barnett Shale was shut down as well as some others around the state. But that short-term gap in supply was filled by tapping reserves warehoused in underground salt domes, at least for those power plants that had uninteruptable contracts.

But be forwarned,  the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) warns that more blackouts might be needed as state braces for Arctic Blast Round 2 and  issued another plea for conservation, especially during the peak-use hours of 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., saying the grid is still down some 2,700 megawatts of capacity and that rolling blackouts might return with the next round of sub-freezing weather.

ERCOT said tomorrow’s peak demand is projected to exceed 54,000 megawatts between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. , and then top 58,000 megawatts between 7 and 8 Thursday morning. That would surpass the current winter peak demand record of 56,334 megawatts, which occurred Feb. 2.

Today’s hearing at the Railroad Commission was the first public review of the circumstances surrounding the rolling blackouts. It focused solely on natural gas supplies and production.

A more comprehensive hearing will occur Feb. 15 when the Senate Business and Commerce Committee meets jointly with the Natural Resources Committee to review issues surrounding the outages.

If you want to watch today’s hearing, you can catch it online at www.texasadmin.com.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas

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Dr. Carey King of the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin

In a paper published this November in the journal Environmental Research Letters by energy expert Dr. Carey King of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, a center based at the  University of Texas at Austin’s  Jackson School of Geosciences, he concluded that an overlooked cause of the economic recession in the United States is a decade long decline in the quality of the nation’s energy supply, often measured as the amount of energy we get out for a given energy input.

King suggests the real estate bubble burst because individuals were paying a higher percentage of their income for energy — including electricity, gasoline and heating oil — leaving less money for their home mortgages.  He goes on the state that economists don’t think of energy as being a limiting factor to economic growth that, in fact, they believe continual improvements in technology and efficiency have completely decoupled the two factors.  His research, however, is part of a growing body of evidence that says energy still plays a big role. 

The paper focuses on a new way to measure energy quality, the Energy Intensity Ratio (EIR), which measures how much profit is obtained by energy consumers relative to energy producers. The higher the EIR, the more economic value consumers (including businesses, governments and people) get from their energy.  Further, King’s analysis suggests if EIR falls below a certain threshold, the economy stops growing.

To get the U.S. economy growing again, Americans will have to produce and use energy more efficiently as the U.S. did after the last energy crisis by raising fuel efficiency standards for cars, increasing use of natural gas for electric power generation and developing new technologies like the distributed energy sources of wind and solar.

“If we aren’t fundamentally changing the way we produce or consume energy now, don’t expect the economy to grow as much as the past two decades,” he says.

Dr. King is engaged areas of study that include the economics of carbon capture and sequestration, the design of beneficial combinations of renewable energy and storage systems, and the creation of tools to help the public and policymakers understand the tradeoffs among different electricity generation sources.  To read Dr. King’s paper, click here.

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Today the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) continued their decades-long campaign of ineptitude and inadequacy as they approved the air quality permit for the White Stallion Coal Plant proposed for Matagorda County on the Texas Gulf Coast. Their ruling was unanimous despite the fact that the administrative law judges, who spent weeks presiding over and then deliberating the aspects of this case, recommended that this permit should not be issued. On top of that the TCEQ’s own staff at the Office of Public Interest Council (or OPIC) reiterated their position that this permit should be denied.

"Clean coal" is about as realistic and honest as this image.

It seems simple things like common sense and logic are completely absent from the regulatory fantasy world the TCEQ commissioners live in. It is their opinion that the thousands of tons of toxic pollution they have permitted this coal plant to emit are “acceptable,” even though they are likely to lead to the deaths of over 600 Matagorda County residents over the plant’s estimated lifetime, at a price tag of over $5.4 billion in health care costs (according to a report from MSB Energy Associates). Also “acceptable” to these TCEQ commissioners is an air monitor White Stallion used for their air modeling report (a vital part of the air permitting process), despite the fact that it is located outside of Corpus Christi, 100 miles downwind of the proposed site. They may as well have used a monitor in China, as the emissions from White Stallion would likely never head in that direction.

TCEQ commissioners have also completely ignored the fact that the EPA has set new standards for National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and they are not requiring White Stallion to adhere to them, despite the fact that this plant would be on the doorstep of the existing Houston non-attainment region. In fact, once the new EPA ozone standards come into effect, Matagorda County is slated to be included in the Houston non-attainment region. By that time, however, thanks to the expedient and enthusiastic permitting approval by the TCEQ, White Stallion will be “grandfathered” and its effects on a non-attainment region will stand.

The most egregious assault on common sense and logic, however, is this plant is completely unnecessary and dangerous to all of Texas, and in fact the entire world. At a time when we need to be shifting our infrastructure and development to renewable and sustainable forms of energy generation, a CO2 and toxin-belching coal plant is the last thing we should be permitting in Texas. This plant represents not only an assault on the health of Matagorda County citizens, but a furthering of reliance upon these dirty, old methods of power generation. We have the technology now to be shifting to responsibly generated electricity. To fail in this is not just a failure by the TCEQ towards the people of Matagorda, but the failure of the state of Texas to lead this country in the direction we desperately need to go.

In the end, however, we can all take heart in the fact that the ultimate decision on whether this plant gets built or not is not only in the hands of the TCEQ.  That power lies in the hands of the people – both those who are opposing the project and those attempting to build it. This plant still requires a waste water permit from TCEQ, a water contract from LCRA, and another permit from the Army Corps of Engineers before it can operate. It is also expected that this decision from the TCEQ will be challenged at the state courts. Ultimately, as long as the people of Matagorda continue to say “NO” to this plant, and as more and more people rally to help them in their cause, this plant will be defeated.

Go to NoCoalCoalition.org for more information and to get involved in the fight against White Stallion.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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