Tag Archives: Renewable Portfolio Standard

ERCOT sets another wind power record… yet again

Wind power keeps helping meet Texas’ electricity needs. Last week, ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees Texas’s electricity grids and markets for about 80% of the state, reported that wind power set a record on Wednesday evening, March 26, when instantaneous output reached a record 10,296 megawatts (MW) at 8:48 p.m. 

At that time, wind generation was providing about 30 percent of the 35,768 MW of electricity being used on the ERCOT grid. The new record beats the previous record set earlier this month by more than 600 MWs. Of the total generation at the time, 1,433 MW came from wind generators on the Gulf Coast, while 8,863 MW came from other regions. Most came from West Texas, where Competitive Renewable Energy Zones were recently completed, as authorized by the Texas Legislature. 

“When Texas first approved a Renewable Portfolio Standard in 1999, no one could have imagined Texas wind topping 10,000 MWs in instantaneous use less than 15 years later,” noted Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director with the Lone Star Chapter. “The even better news is even after meeting the RPS goals ten years early, wind developers continue to build new capacity throughout the state. The transition to clean energy is happening right before our eyes.” 

 

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PUC, Make New Jobs with More Solar Power

Rooftop Solar array on Texas urban big box

Clean Energy, Green Jobs Advocates Call on the Public Utilities Commission of Texas to Act Now on 500 MW Renewable Energy Rule

Texas Apollo Alliance Asks PUC to Expand Solar and Geothermal with Increased Renewable Power Rule at June 30th Meeting

AUSTIN – The Texas Apollo Alliance, a diverse coalition of businesses, organized labor, community organizations, and environmental groups are encouraging the Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUC) to adopt and implement a rule to increase non-wind, renewable energy goals for solar, geothermal, and biomass energy to 500 megawatts of the State’s energy mix at their next open meeting scheduled for June 30th or July 14th.

“With the legislature again telling the PUC to act on their own to implement the 2005 Law, we strongly encourage the PUC to not only adopt the increase in solar and geothermal power in their January proposal, but to also require the full implementation of these new standards by 2015 instead of the proposed 2018 deadline,” said Dave Cortez with the Apollo Alliance. “This expanded clean energy rule will send a strong signal to investors that Texas is truly open for business and it will sow the seeds for a larger, green-collar jobs boom. The PUC has a unique opportunity to help put Texans back to work by implementing this small, but very important renewable energy goal.”

The PUC published the rule back in January and held a public meeting at which the Texas Apollo Alliance announced its support for full implementation of the 500 MW rule, which was initially authorized by the Texas Legislature in 2005 with adoption of SB 20. Because the proposed rule was published in late January, the PUC Commissioners must act at one of the next two meetings, or the six-month timeline for action runs out. If that happened, they would have to republish the rules, again delaying action on the rule.

“While the Legislature did not pass any new laws related to the Renewable Portfolio Standard, they did pass laws related to registration and third-party ownership of renewable energy devices through SB 981, and they also made clear during a House floor discussion on that bill that they want the PUC to go forward on the 500 MW rule,”  said Cortez.

Cortez noted that two other bills passed by the Legislature could also spark other renewable energy jobs in Texas:

  • HB 362 by Solomons and West – which eases the use of solar devices in Homeowner Associations – and
  • SB 943 – which allows electric generators to also build renewable storage devices and sell the resulting electricity into the competitive market.

A recent report published by ERCOT – Report on the Capacity, Demand and Reserves in the ERCOT Region, May 2011 – lists nearly 800 MWs of proposed solar plants that could be constructed in 2012, but many of these developments are awaiting word from the PUC that a market for Renewable Energy Credits will be created through implementation of the rules.

“Not only will these new solar plants help Texas meet its electricity needs over the coming years, they’ll help create a new clean economy that will bring thousands of good-paying, sustainable jobs to our communities,” noted Cortez.

The Texas Apollo Alliance is united in the effort to organize for a rapid transition into the clean energy economy. Together, we are working to devise and promote sound policy aimed at sparking a clean energy rush to Texas that will make Texans energy independent, make us a leader in efficiency, cut our state’s carbon emissions, and help create a new generation of safe, good-paying, green-collar jobs.

For more information visit:

http://www.apolloalliance.org/state-local/texas

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Who Wants to Retire 4,000 MW of Coal in Texas?

We do!

Fraser’s Energy Plan a Good First Start On Cleaning the Air in Texas But Environmental and Community Stakeholders Must Be Part of the Process

Sierra Club commends the recent filing of the proposed Texas Energy Policy Act by Senator Fraser in the state Senate but calls on the Texas legislature to ensure that environmental and community stakeholders are included in this plan.  The bill, entitled Energy Policy Act, SB15, proposes a robust planning process where an appointed Texas Energy Policy Council examines Texas’s electricity needs.  A key provision in the proposed plan asks the Council to reduce air pollution in the state to help major metropolitan areas like Dallas/Ft. Worth and Houston meet the minimum health safety guidelines of the Clean Air Act.  Currently, close to 20 counties are in non-attainment, meaning that the air is so polluted, it does not meet minimun standards of safety.

“This proposed bill is an important first step at addressing Texas’s air pollution within our borders, as well as our role in regional pollution.” said Jen Powis Senior Regional Representative for Sierra Club.  “But while a year long planning process is an important first step, all of the key stakeholders, including the environmental community, must be at the table.”

The bill as drafted amends Texas’s electricity industry deregulation bill (Texas Utilities Code, Chapter 39) and calls for the plan to retire the dirtiest 4000 MWs of power plants.  In 2002, when the deregulation bill was originally filed and adopted, the legislature created a strong renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to encourage new jobs and new growth in emerging industries like wind generation.  Texas currently leads the nation in wind generation and has met that aggressive RPS over a decade earlier than anticipated.  Sierra Club points to the need for doing the same for energy efficiency programs and solar power with a non-wind RPS.

“Texas needs a stronger goal for efficiency and policies that allow solar industries to set up shop here.” said Cyrus Reed, Sierra Club’s Conservation Director for the Lonestar Chapter.  “If this bill only retires coal in order to ramp up existing natural gas, it misses a huge opportunity to bring new jobs and clean energy industries to Texas.  By many accounts, Texas could lead in job creation in these sectors if the Legislature were to adopt policies promoting clean energy.”

The bill’s plan aimed at promoting Texas’s home-grown natural gas industries ignores the major threats to air and water pollution that citizens in the Barnett Shale are dealing with first hand.   The production of shale gas carries its own set of issues, including protection of water resources, benzene emissions, and ozone impacts. As shale gas production is currently expanding to other areas of the state, those issues must be resolved.

“If the state legislature is going to address energy and environmental issues on a comprehensive basis, it has to provide greater protections for public health from natural gas production as well as improve the state’s overall effort clean up our air,” said Ken Kramer, Director for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.  “We’re pleased to see that Senator Fraser recognized the state’s pollution problems in crafting this planning process.  But we need to move forward now in strengtherning the state’s pollution control programs while we develop a state energy plan that could further enhance a clean energy future for Texas.”


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Solar Rights bills moving at Texas Leg

Well they aren’t huge solar rebate bills, or required renewable portfolio standards, but two bills that got hearings earlier this week are actually moving through the process. Both HB 362 and SB 238 by Rep. Burt Solomons and Senator Royce West would make it hard for homeowner associations to limit the ability of people to put solar on their roofs or in their backyard. Both had public hearings and had a diverse group of folks — from Sierra Club, to solar companies, to residents to even the Eagle Forum — one of the most politically-conservative groups around — saying that it was time to put the reins on HOAs preventing solar from going up on Texas roofs. Even the homebuilders and HOA reps didn’t come out against the bill, only saying they wanted to work on the language to maintain some say-so in the look and location of solar panels. Today advocates met with the HOA and Homebuilders met to work on some “Compromise” language. STay tuned to see if we establish solar rights in Texas!

Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director, Sierra Club.

Utility Commission agrees to publish rule requiring 500 MWs of Solar, Biomass and Geothermal

Five years after the Texas Legislature passed a Renewable Portfolio Standard that included a target to get 500 MWs of renewable energy from sources other than wind, the Public Utility Commission today finally agreed to publish a rule that would require this provision of Texas’s RPS to be implemented. While the action today is only an agreement to publish for public comment – and not to actually adopt the rule — Commissioner Ken Anderson said he would be deciding whether to support the rule based upon comments received and also whether or not the Texas Legislature takes any action on its own to either modify or expand the 500 MW rule.

Under the proposed rule, Texas retail electric providers would be required to get a small percentage of their electricity — or purchase Renewable Energy Credits from another source — from solar, geothermal and biomass. However, the proposed rule does not begin to require any investments until 2014, with the goal for meeting 500 MWs not being required until 2018.

Juwi Solar Plant, San Antonio

With one solar power plant of 14 MWs recently opened by CPS Energy, and some 150 MWs more of planned solar in 2011, the delay seems inappropriate. The Public Comment period is expected to begin in early 2011. Look here for how to participate in ensuring a clean energy future.

For more information on the rule, please visit

This PUC webpage on the proposed rule.

Here is a great blog from Colin Meehan on EDF

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SunPower coming to Austin?

While it’s not a manufacturing plant, SunPower, one of the largest solar PV manufacturing and installation companies in the world, is scheduled to open a corporate operations office in Austin, Texas sometime next year, under a proposed economic development agreement with the City of Austin. Under the proposal, SunPower would agree to invest at least $7.5 million in property improvements at the proposed site, as well as $2.5 million in machinery, and create at least 450 jobs over a ten year period. SunPower says all of those job hirings should occur in the next four to five years. In return, they will be eligible for up to $901,710 in grants, in addition to a grant of $2.5 million from the State of Texas.

The agreement will go to City Council next Thursday at 4 PM for a public hearing and possible action. The proposal is the second involving a solar company and Austin. Earlier this  year, Chinese PV manufacturer Yingli Solar announced it was considering opening up an assembly factory in Austin. While City Council did approve that proposed economic development agreement with Yingli, the Chinese company later decided to wait until announcing whether it will go ahead with its plans for a US assembly operations.

Austin is also home to solar companies like Heliovolt, which makes building intergrated solar products, and SolarBridge Technologies, which makes the micro inverters that can go on the back of solar panels.

Analysts say that if the Texas legislature were to approve legislation creating either incentives for solar power, or expanding the Renewable Portfolio Standard to favor solar, many more companies might be willing to locate throughout Texas, creating jobs in the Clean Energy economy.

Recently, as reported here on this blog, a company called Juwi Solar recently opened Texas’s first major utility-scale solar plant, just south of downtown San Antonio.

Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director, Lone Star Chapter

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New Solar Plant Unveiled in San Antonio – PUC to propose new rule to boost renewables in December

Attendees at the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association annual meeting in San Antonio this week got a double dose of good news. First, in a ribbon cutting ceremony with CPS Energy and local politicians, Colorado-based Juwi Solar opened up the 14 MW thin-film utility-scale “Blue Wing” solar plant just south of San Antonio. Secondly, Chairman Barry Smitherman with the Public Utility Commission announced in response to a question that the PUC still intended to publish a rule to finally implement the target to obtain 500 megawatts of renewable energy from sources other than wind by 2015. Indeed a note on the PUC website has confirmed that a proposal to publish a rule will be considered at the December 16th PUC meeting.

CPS Energy contracted the Blue Wing Solar plant back in June of 2009 to Juwi, which after construction and months of testing, threw the switch on providing enough electricity to power 1900 homes in San Antonio through 4290 thin-film solar arrays, each with 50 solar modules over 112 acres of farmland. That’s 215,000 photovoltaic panels in all. In addition, the solar farm includes 500 kilowatts of demonstration technologies — a concentrated solar array, various thin-film technologies as well as more traditional PV crystalline solar modules. CPS Energy and Juwi will thus have a live laboratory of other solar technologies to assess over the coming years.

The San Antonio plant is only one of six utility-scale plants being planned for construction in Texas. Thus, CPS Energy is also contracted with SunEdison for 30 MWs of solar in the San Antonio area, while Austin Energy is contracted with a private company to build 30 MWs of solar east of Austin in Webberville. A new company, RRE Austin Solar has plans to build two 60 MW solar PV plants in Pflugerville and Big Spring.

All of these plants are being built without an active market for solar renewable energy credits through Texas’s Renewable Portfolio Standard largely because they involve public entities — like CPS Energy, Austin Energy and the Pflugerville ISD — that want to invest in solar energy to meet their own goals. To really spur the solar market, implementing the Legislature’s law that Texas should have at least 500 MWs of solar, and other non-wind technologies by 2105 is a must.

During the TREIA conference, Smitherman said that as long as he could get one of his fellow commissioners — Commissioner Anderson — to propose a reasonable rule, he would support publishing it for further comment in December. That being said, actually turning the proposal into the rule in Texas will either take the PUC actually adopting it before June of 2011, or the Texas Legislature passing any additional renewable goals during the 2011 Legislative Session. Stay tuned for more on this issue.

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