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Posts Tagged ‘Energy Efficiency’

Most of us, when watching “the big game” do not really stop to think about the enormous amount of energy it takes to power such an event. This year, the Super Bowl, as well as the parties and events surrounding it, are going to use about 18 megawatts of energy, enough to power about 12,000 homes, according to the San Francisco Gate.

That article also points to efforts that the National Football League has been making efforts over the years to “green” the big game. The league has even gone as far as to hire an environmental communications firm to oversee the process of reducing the footprint of the game. This year they will be using several different innovative solutions to reduce the footprint of the game. A couple of the big efforts are biodiesel and composting. The biodiesel will be used to power the events around the game, and the composting will be for the food waste in the stadium.

Solar Panels on an NFL stadium (http://m.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Daily/Issues/2012/03/02/Facilities/Eagles.aspx)

Solar panels on an NFL stadium
(Sports Business Daily)

This is not the only step the NFL has taken towards becoming greener. There are at least five NFL stadiums that use solar power in some capacity. The San Francisco 49er’s new stadium will be the first net-zero professional sports arena in the United States. Net zero means that its power generation will offset its consumption over a year.

So, while watching the big game this year, keep in mind the efforts the NFL and its teams are making to reduce their carbon footprint and reduce waste.

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A new report by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has Texas ranked 33nd in the nation for programs to promote energy efficiency. This unimpressive ranking shows Texas has a wasteful reliance on fossil fuels which contribute to air pollution and global warming and cost Texas families and businesses more and more each year.

While Texas was an early leader in energy efficiency investments, other states have dramatically increased their energy savings programs, leading to Texas’ decline in the overall state rankings. In a December 2008 report, the PUC found vast potential for energy efficiency in the state which, if tapped, could save Texans as much $11.9 billion on their electric bills. As the PUC considers restructuring the electric market, we would urged the commission to develop a plan that incentivizes greater use of energy efficiency and demand response and avoids subsidizing some of the state’s dirtiest power plants.

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SAN ANTONIO – The newly formed Re-Energize San Antonio Coalition called on CPS Energy to meet a set of conditions before following through with an October rate hike.

Describing the hike as an increase that will “unfairly burden residential taxpayers,” coalition members called on CPS to take steps to reduce pollution, waste and costs for consumers.

The coalition presented its demands in a petition handed off to the utility during the Monday, Sept. 9 CPS Rate Case Input Session held at the TriPoint Grantham Center.

“We oppose the rate hike because it promotes unsustainable growth, driven by dirty energy, on the shoulders of the poor and working class folks who already pay the most for energy costs relative to income and quality of housing stock,” said Dr. Marisol Cortez, scholar-in-residence at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center.
(more…)

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The newly formed Re-Energize San Antonio Coalition put its opposition to CPS’s proposed rate hike on the record during a Sept. 9 citizen’s input meeting. Coalition representatives presented the utility with a plan of action that they want addressed before an increase goes into effect. Here’s the petition.

PETITION FOR CPS ACTIONS PRIOR TO PROPOSED RATE INCREASE

Submitted to CPS Energy during the CPS Rate Case Input Session, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013.
(more…)

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Texas Capitol - north viewWith the regular session behind us and energy and environmental issues not likely to find a place in the special session, it’s a good time to look at what we accomplished.

Our wins came in two forms – bills that passed that will actually improve policy in Texas and bills that didn’t pass that would have taken policy in the wrong direction.

We made progress by helping to get bills passed that:

  • Expand funding for the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) by about 40%;
  • Create a program within TERP to replace old diesel tractor trailer trucks used in and around ports and rail yards (these are some of the most polluting vehicles on the road);
  • Establish new incentives within TERP for purchasing plug-in electric cars; and
  • Assign authority to the Railroad Commission (RRC) to regulate small oil and gas lines (these lines, known as gathering lines, are prone to leaks); and
  • Allows commercial and industrial building owners to obtain low-cost, long-term private sector financing for water conservation and energy-efficiency improvements, including on-site renewable energy, such as solar.

We successfully helped to stop or improve bad legislation that would have:

  • Eliminated hearings on permits for new pollution sources (the contested case hearing process is crucial to limiting pollution increases);
  • Eliminated additional inspections for facilities with repeated pollution violations;
  • Weakened protections against utilities that violate market rules and safety guidelines;
  • Eliminated property tax breaks for wind farms, while continuing the policy for other industries;
  • Granted home owners associations (HOAs) authority to unreasonably restrict homeowners ability to install solar panels on their roofs; and
  • Permitted Austin City Council to turn control of Austin Energy over to an unelected board without a vote by the citizens of Austin.

We did lose ground on the issue of radioactive waste disposal.  Despite our considerable efforts, a bill passed that will allow more highly radioactive waste to be disposed of in the Waste Control Specialists (WCS) facility in west Texas.  Campaign contributions certainly played an important roll in getting the bill passed.

We were also disappointed by Governor Perry’s veto of the Ethics Commission sunset bill, which included several improvements, including a requirement that railroad commissioners resign before running for another office, as they are prone to do.  Read Carol’s post about this bill and the issue.

With the legislation over and Perry’s veto pen out of ink, we now shift our attention to organizing and advocating for a transition from polluting energy sources that send money out of our state to clean energy sources that can grow our economy.

We’re working to:

  • Promote solar energy at electric cooperatives and municipal electric utilities;
  • Speed up the retirement of old, inefficient, polluting coal-fired power plants in east Texas;
  • Protect our climate and our port communities throughout the Gulf states from health hazards from new and expanded coal export facilities;
  • Fight permitting of the Keystone XL and other tar sands pipelines in Texas;
  • Ensure full implementation of improvements made to TERP; and
  • Develop an environmental platform for the 2014 election cycle.

Our power comes from people like you getting involved – even in small ways, like writing an email or making a call.  If you want to help us work for a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable future, email me at kwhite@citizen.org.  And one of the best things you can do is to get your friends involved too.

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While Austin City Council continues to move forward with an ordinance to transfer governing authority of Austin Energy from our elected City Council to an unelected board, Austin democracy is being attacked at in the state legislature as well.  Senate bill 410, sponsored by Senator Kirk Watson and Representative Paul Workman, would allow the city to establish an unelected board without a charter election, as our city charter calls for.

The issue of who should govern Austin Energy is important, but it’s also local in nature.  There is no need for state to amend Austin’s charter.  That is a right reserved for the citizens of Austin.  If the changes proposed by City Council are truly in the best interest of our city, that case should be made to the voters and decided upon at the ballot box. 

To have a state representative who doesn’t even live in Austin carrying a bill to change our charter is unacceptable.

The Austin City Charter was adopted by the people of Austin and the people of Austin approved a governance structure for Austin Energy that is accountable to the people through elections.

An unelected board won’t be directly accountable to the ratepayers and wouldn’t necessarily represent our values.  As we debate this issue in Austin the unelected board at San Antonio’s CPS Energy is slashing the rate customers with solar installations will receive for their energy in half without first consulting the public or the solar industry.  Austin Energy customers could be facing similar changes if we don’t act now to protect our rights.

SB 410 has passed the Senate and will be heard by the House Committee on State Affairs tomorrow.

Please consider attending the hearing and speaking against SB 410.

What: Hearing on SB 410 to change Austin’s charter to move Austin Energy governance to an undemocratic board without a vote by the citizens of Austin, as our charter requires.

When: 1:00pm on Wednesday, May 1

Where: John H. Reagan (JHR) building, room 140 – 105 W. 15th St., Austin, TX, 78701

Why: Because Austin Energy’s governance structure will impact decisions going forward, including on renewable energy and energy efficiency programs and rates.  This is the decision that will determine how other decisions are made.

You can register against the bill at the kiosks outside of room 140.  Even if you don’t wish to speak, registering against the bill would be helpful.  We hope you’ll consider saying a few words about the value of local democracy though.  Speakers will be limited to 3 minutes each.

SB 410 is anti-democratic and is one more example of the state government trying to interfere with Austin’s internal policies and governance.

We need your help to stop this bill.

Public opposition to SB 410 at Wednesday’s hearing may be the only thing that can ensure that our Austin representatives don’t let this bad bill move forward.

Please email Kaiba White at kwhite (at) citizen.org if you can attend the hearing at 1:00pm on Wednesday.

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You may have never heard of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), but it has the potential to make a huge difference in adoption of distributed renewable energy systems, such as rooftop solar installations. PACE allows businesses to borrow money from local governments to work on energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in the buildings they occupy.

Since PACE is funding is loans, there is no real expense to the taxpayer.  On the other side of the coin, it allows businesses to spread out the costs of becoming more environmentally friendly over time, all while lowering their monthly utility costs.  This strategy is a win-win-win for Texans.  Business save money, the environment benefits, and it cost Texans nothing.

The Texas Legislature is currently considering legislation that would move PACE forward for our state.  Senate bill 385 has already cleared the hurdle of the Texas Senate, and now is pending in our House of Representatives. House bill 1094 is still waiting be voted out of the House Committee on Energy Resources.  The House should move forward to adopt this common sense measure.

As of 2013, 27 states and the District of Columbia have PACE legislation on the books to help combat harmful emissions from electric generation.  States from California to Wyoming have enacted PACE programs.  Generally, in these states, the financing terms are 15-20 years.  It works very much like taking out a home loan, or perhaps a better example would be a home improvement loan, but for commercial properties. Disbursing the payments over a longer period of time makes these efficiency upgrades affordable for a wider variety of business.  It also makes upgrades attainable for smaller businesses.

I urge fellow Texans to get in touch with their State Representative and tell him or her to support the PACE bills (HB 1094 and SB 385).  This is common sense legislation that benefits everyone.

Click here to find out who represents you. 

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The South-central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource (SPEER) enters its second year with an exciting Summit, designed to explore, further develop, and prioritize policies and strategies needed to push energy efficiency forward in new buildings, existing buildings, and electric markets in Texas and Oklahoma.

Ed Mazria, founder and CEO of Architecture 2030, will deliver the keynote address to kick off the Summit in Austin on February 25. Mr. Mazria is an international leader on efforts to make buildings dramatically more energy and water efficient, leading the movement to establish 2030 districts in cities with goals to reach carbon neutrality by 2030. These districts have been established so far in Los Angeles, Seattle, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh.

Public Citizen members can receive a $50 discount off the registration. On the registration page, select “Early Registration- Supporting Organization” and then select “Public Citizen” from the drop down menu.

Sponsors of the SPEER Summit include Dow Chemical, CCRD Partners, Mitsubishi, Environments for Living, TexEnergy Solutions, BASF, the Texas Home Energy Raters Organization, and the CleanTX Foundation.

To learn more about the Energy Efficiency Summit, please visit: www.eepartnership.org/summit

 

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The worst drought in more than 50 years in Texas is expected to continue as a weak La Nina weather pattern is predicted to strengthen this winter.  Drought has already reduced cooling water needed by coal-fired power plants and may limit electric output from power plants next summer, an official from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT – the grid operator)  reported.

At this time, only one small generating unit is currently curtailed due to a lack of adequate cooling water, however a continuation of the severe drought in Texas could result in as much as 3,000 MW being unavailable next summer, Kent Saathoff, vice president of ERCOT grid operations told the board last week.

The drought has lowered the water level at nearly every reservoir in the state, according to the Texas Water Development Board. A lack of cooling water limits the ability of a power plant to operate at full capacity.

Texas’ hottest summer on record pushed power consumption to record levels, straining the state’s electric resources on many days in August.

Grid officials and lawmakers are worried that the drought will compound existing issues that impact the state’s power supply: looming environmental regulations that will curtail output from coal-fired power plants and a lack of new power-plant investment.

ERCOT predicts about 434 megawatts would be unavailable next summer if Texas gets about half its normal rainfall over the winter and spring months and if there is no significant rainfall, as much as 3,000 MW could be unavailable by May.

Power plant owners are taking steps to increase access to cooling water by increasing pumping capacity, adding pipelines to alternate water sources and securing additional water rights.  Some water authorities have already curtailed new “firm” water contracts, so it may be harder for plants to secure additional water.

Right now, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) is working to implement new energy efficiency legislation.  If we just used our energy more efficiently, we wouldn’t have come so close to a grid crisis even under the extreme circumstances of this past summer.  Other states have used energy efficiency to keep the lights on for their families and businesses when they were having problems by cutting energy demand by 20% or more on the hottest days of the summer.
Studies have shown that Texas could cut 23% of our peak energy use on the hottest days and it would be cheaper than generating electricity.
To prevent rolling blackouts next summer, the governor and the PUC could improve the energy efficiency and market-based conservation programs that will keep our air conditioning running on hot summer days and keep our local  businesses operating . 

The Texas Public Utility Commission should:

  • Reward utilities that exceed their energy efficiency goals.
  • Use the money from a program set up to provide utility assistance for eligible Texans that is funded by fee Texans pay on their electric bills every month for the weatherization of low-income homes.

And the governor can issue an executive order that requires all state agencies, schools, municipal and county governments to reduce energy use by 5% next summer and report their savings to the state.

You can email the governor and express your opinion by clicking here.

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Electric Reliability Council of Texas

Image via Wikipedia

Its predicted that the entire state will have record temperatures this weekend. Please take all measures to avoid using unnecessary energy. They might have a hurricane on the east coast but we have a heat wave in Texas and there might not be enough electricity to go around.

Statement from ERCOT CEO Trip Doggett on the need for conservation through the weekend:

Our information indicates this weekend will be one of the hottest on record in some areas of Texas. Electric demand and usage will be extremely high and we need every person to help us conserve electricity between the hours of 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Please help us keep the power flowing to every Texan in ERCOT by turning up your thermostat a few degrees if you’re able, turning off unnecessary lights and appliances and doing dishes and laundry in the morning or after 7 p.m.

Your efforts do make a difference and are appreciated.

Conservation Tips
Consumers can help by shutting off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances between 3 and 7 p.m., and delaying laundry and other activities requiring electricity-consuming appliances until later in the evening. Other conservation tips from the Public Utility Commission’s “Powerful Advice” include:
Turn off all unnecessary lights, appliances, and electronic equipment.
When at home, close blinds and drapes that get direct sun, set air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, and use fans in occupied rooms to feel cooler.
When away from home, set air conditioning thermostats to 85 degrees and turn all fans off before you leave. Block the sun by closing blinds or drapes on windows that will get direct sun.
• Do not use your dishwasher, laundry equipment, hair dryers, coffee makers, or other home appliances during the peak hours of 3 to 7 p.m.
• Avoid opening refrigerators or freezers more than necessary.
• Use microwaves for cooking instead of an electric range or oven.
• Set your pool pump to run in the early morning or evening instead of the afternoon.

Businesses should minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible. Large consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing non-essential production processes.

Media Contact: Theresa Gage
tgage@ercot.com

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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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Over the past couple of years, there has been a heated debate involving the potential EPA implementation of allowing a greater percentage of ethanol in gasoline.  The current volume percentage of ethanol allowed is 10% for vehicles made between the years 2001 and 2006. Recently, the EPA has been discussing the approval of what is known as E15 (15 volume percent ethanol blended with gasoline), and in October of 2010, the request was waived for the implementation of E15 to be allowed in vehicles made in 2007 and later.  Taking these two decisions into consideration, this now allows for E15 use in vehicle makes 2001 and newer, lighter-make vehicles into the commerce division.  Studies have shown that E15 is likely to result in somewhat lower evaporative emissions compared to fuel currently sold in much of the country (E10) as a result of the lower volatility of E15 under the partial waiver conditions. There are currently two conditions that must be met.  These conditions take into consideration the concerns of the community.  One condition of the waiver involves the mitigation of the possibility of citizens misfueling E15 in the wrong vehicles.  The other condition addresses the fuel and quality of the ethanol.

Sign indicating ethanol at gas station

On January 21, 2011, the EPA did in fact grant a partial waiver for E15 for use in MY2001-2006 light-duty motor vehicles. These decisions were based on test results provided by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and other information regarding the potential effect of E15 on vehicle emissions. Taken together, the two actions allow, but do not require, E15 to be introduced into commerce for use in MY2001 and newer light-duty motor vehicles if conditions for mitigating misfueling and ensuring fuel quality are met. The EPA is still in the process of completing work on regulations that would provide a more practical means of meeting the conditions.

These new waivers implemented earlier this year by the EPA have cattle ranchers in an uproar as well.  But what could the Texas livestock industry possibly have to do with the newest ethanol implementations? According to the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA), the new 50% increase in ethanol-gasoline allowance, is detrimental to the costs of their livestock production.  The TSCRA claim that such a dramatic increase in ethanol permittance will have serious negative repercussions for their cattle ranches.  A statement made by TSCRA president and fellow rancher, Dave Scott, indicated that these high levels of corn based ethanol are one of the most influential factors in driving price increases in corn products, including the feed for cattle.  This is a clear indication of the dangers we create once we begin to place our food and fuel in competition against one another.  In 2008, according to the US Department of Agriculture, feed for livestock reached its record high at $45.2 billion.  This was an increase of more than $7 billion from 2007.  With the cost of feed for livestock and newer, higher levels of ethanol being so intertwined with each other, we will only be seeing an even more dramatic rise in the cost of feed for cattle production…and more unhappy ranchers.

Our nation’s food supply and methods of transportation must find a way to compromise and divert their routes of competition elsewhere because both are at serious risk in the future.

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Texas Mail-in Rebate Program

If you’ve considered participating… 

Funds are still available for the Texas Appliance Mail-In Rebate Program. Texas has already approved over $12 million in rebates and funds are limited, so act soon!

Funding for the program is available to Texas residential consumers on a first-received, first-issued basis according to the application’s postmark date until funds are depleted. 

  • You can check available rebate funds to see daily updates on the estimated rebate funds remaining. As funds near depletion, we will issue a notice of closure on our website.
  • Review the Rebate Eligibility Program Rules and search eligible appliance models before you purchase and install an appliance.
  • To be eligible for a rebate, program rules require that you remove and properly dispose of your old appliance. In doing so, you have one of two options to choose from: Recycling or Disposal

    NOTE: If you do NOT have an existing appliance to recycle/dispose of, OR if you keep, gift, donate or sell your old appliance, you will NOT be eligible for an appliance or recycling rebate.

  • Completely fill out an Official Rebate Application Form (PDF, 116KB), including the “Disposal/Recycling Information,” and submit according to program rules.
If you’ve already mailed in an application…
  1. It may take up to eight weeks to review and approve your application. You can check your rebate status online or call toll-free (855) 556-1312.
  2. Double check your application form to make sure it was filled out completely and accurately. An incomplete application form is the most common error; you may have overlooked something as simple as selecting the check box for “Option One: Disposal” vs “Option Two: Recycled.” You may resubmit missing information to ensure your application is processed. Please write your Rebate ID number on all resubmitted forms and supporting documentation. Check your rebate status online or contact customer service to retrieve your Rebate ID number.

    NOTE: If you do NOT select an option under the “Disposal/Recycling Information” section, then “Option One: Disposal” will automatically be selected for you and you will NOT qualify for the additional $75 bonus recycling rebate.

For other program questions, please see the Texas Comptroller’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), contact customer service or call toll-free (855) 556-1312.

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Seal of Travis County, Texas

Image via Wikipedia

Austin Energy hired a consultant to help determine how its rates compare to those of other utilities in preparation for its plan to substantially raise electricity rates in 2012.   The work is ongoing, but an eye-opening statistic has already emerged.  Estimates indicate that the average US household’s energy costs are equal to 7% of household income, but the study shows that on average, the poorest 5 percent of Travis County households spend about 45% of their incomes on electricity.

That is a staggering statistic and points out the need to provide more energy efficiency funding for low-income families.  The short and long term benefits are economic relief and cost-effective home improvements. While assistance relieves pressure on individual households, the benefits also ripple into the community. With less money spent on energy, more money is available for other goods and services. If this money is spent locally, Austin captures this revenue, with further benefits rippling out from there.

Keep in mind, most low-income households are renters.  There should be incentives put in place to encourage landlords to increase the energy efficiency of their properties.  And don’t forget, there are environmental benefits to reducing our energy usage.  This seems like a win win for our city.

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According to an American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) study, Texas now ranks 32nd among U.S. states in energy efficiency, down from 23rd in 2009. The current 10 top-ranked states in energy efficiency are shown below:

1. California
2. Massachusetts
3. Oregon
4. New York
5. Vermont

6. Washington
7. Rhode Island
8. (tie) Connecticut
8. (tie) Minnesota
10. Maine

SOURCE: ACEEE

Even Arizona and New Mexico have recently outstripped Texas, with Arizona adopting new energy-saving targets that moved them from 29th to 18th, and New Mexico climbing from 30th to 22nd with the passage of stringent new building codes, coupled with performance incentives for utilities to become more energy-efficient.

In 2007,  another ACEEE report found that, with ambitious energy-efficiency efforts, Texas could eliminate about 75 percent of the projected growth in electricity demand over the next 15 years. Since then, the Public Utility Commission has raised the utilities’ target for energy efficiency – now at 20 percent – to 25 percent by 2012 and 30 percent by 2013.

Several major Texas cities, notably Austin, Dallas and San Antonio, have adopted forward-looking codes, but even they could step it up a notch. Backing from the Legislature would signal to other Texas cities that improving energy efficiency isn’t a local option but a statewide priority.

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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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Some great points from the director of Environmental Defense Fund‘s Texas Regional Office (and Energy Program), Jim Marston.

If you’re concerned about government spending, consolidating existing efficiency programs and oversight into one agency has the potential to reduce overlap and redundancy in government and create more opportunities for consumers and businesses to save money. (more…)

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