Tag Archives: Wind power

Austin’s Electric Utility Commission approves new wind contract; considers proposed rate case

In a further boost to Austin Energy’s clean energy mix, the Electric Utility Commission unanimously recommended that the municipal utility go forward with a proposed contract with Iberdrola Renewables to get up to 200 MWs of coastal wind energy from their Kenedy Ranch project known as Peñascal Wind. The proposal would double Ibedrola’s current capacity, as Ibedrola currently serves power to CPS Energy in San Antonio and the South Texas Electric Cooperative. The proposal will now go to Austin City Council for final approval.

Penascal Wind Farm

According to Austin Energy’s Michael Osborne, the price per megawatt hour will be in the $40 to $45 dollar range, competitive with natural gas. With the proposed additional 200 MWs from Ibedrola, plus the Webberville Solar Project and two previous wind contracts approved by Austin Energy last week, Austin Energy should be well on their way to meeting their city-approved goal of 35 % renewable energy by 2020. Importantly, Iberdrola has agreed to continue to use avian radar technology to curtail the wind power during migratory, low-visibility events.

In addition to the contract, the EUC held a three- hour public hearing on Austin Energy’s proposed rate increase. Dozens of individuals and organization presented their views, which for the most part felt Austin Energy’s proposal put too much of a rate increase on residential customers, and in particular, on those not using much electricity, the wrong message for a utility committed to a large energy efficiency goal. Sierra Club made its own presentation about how to align the rate case with our generation plan to grow renewables and lessen our dependence upon dirty coal. For more information about the rate case and our efforts to get Austin off coal, see this facebook page. Look for a fullscale website soon!

Cyrus Reed, Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club

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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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Public Citizen, Sierra Club call for investigation of black-outs

For Release:  February 4, 2011

Contact:  Cyrus Reed, 512.740.4086 or Tom “Smitty” Smith, 512-797-8468

Sierra Club and Public Citizen Call on Texas Legislature, Public Utility Commission, and ERCOT to Investigate Cause of Forced Outages

Outages show why State Must Renew Efforts for a Comprehensive Energy Plan for Texas

(Austin)  As Texans experience forced, intermittent electricity outages, Sierra Club and Public Citizen call on Governor Perry and the Commissioners at the Public Utility Commission, (PUC) and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, (ERCOT) to investigate the cause of the outages and the response by the state’s regulated and unregulated electrical utilities.

“The Texas State Legislature, the PUC, and ERCOT must conduct a thorough investigation at this time into public allegations that the power outages appear to have been at least partially caused by 1) unweatherized pipes at two new coal plants – Oak Grove and Sandow, and mostly, 2) by the lack of a better organized and comprehensive demand response system to reduce peak demand during these types of extreme weather events,” said Cyrus Reed with Sierra Club.
A reserve margin is set to ensure the reliable operation of the bulk power grid in case of major outages or unusual temperature extremes.

“Texas’s electricity grid has plenty of power. In fact, ERCOT recently increased Texas’s reserve margin from 12.5 percent to 13.75 percent with assurances that the grid would perform safely and adequately for years to come,” said Reed.  “The problem is not about availability of power.  The problem is our current over-reliance on large, centralized fossil fuels with all of their pollution, associated risks, and increasing costs.  Consumers and smaller retailers need more control over energy price spikes through such tools as accessible energy efficiency programs, demand management tools, and distributed generation like on-site solar power.”

INDUSTRY MADE MILLIONS ON OUTAGES

During the power outages this week, electricity prices peaked at the cap of $3,000 per megawatt hour. Real-time Texas electricity prices are available for viewing online at ERCOT’s website – http://www.ercot.com/content/cdr/html/20110202_real_time_spp

Tom ‘Smitty’ Smith with Public Citizens reviews the recent history of price spikes during power outages, “Wednesday’s blackouts are reminiscent of the market manipulation by Luminant on a cold and icy night in 2003.  This is also similar to the blackout that occurred just before TXU announced their plan for 11 new coal plants in April 2006.  This Wednesday morning, electricity prices shot up 66 times from 3:00 through 11:00 AM and the electricity companies made hundreds of millions overnight.  There should be an investigation to see if Luminant pulled off a fast one and shut down 2,900 megawatts  of coal because the ‘pipes froze’ — and  then profited as the prices skyrocketed.”

MORE DEMAND RESPONSE NEEDED FOR ENERGY SECURITY

Sierra Club and Public Citizen applaud progress in demand response and call for more.  Much of ERCOT’s grid already includes mechanisms to decrease energy use during peak hours to help avoid energy constraints and control energy use during times of extreme heat or cold weather. However, in Texas, these programs are generally only available to large industrial customers, whereas many other electrical grids in the country take advantage of programs to help smaller businesses and residential customers cycle down their use during certain times — and even allow them to get paid for it.

Cyrus Reed with Sierra Club explains, “Increasing demand response capacity in the ERCOT grid will help stabilize the grid and help avoid future power outages.  Right now, some utilities like CPS Energy and Austin Energy have programs for homeowners to help reduce power use and save money, but with some changes at ERCOT and the PUC — or through legislative action — we could allow retail electric providers, utilities and third-parties to work with smaller energy users to bid into the market with demand response programs and get paid for reducing demand in the same way that electrical generators get paid by the market for selling generation.”

RENEWABLE POWER KEEPS THE LIGHTS ON

Sierra Club and Public Citizen emphasize transitioning Texas’s electric sector away from pollution heavy coal plants to cleaner, more reliable alternatives — energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal power.  During the current extreme winter weather, wind power performed reliably according to a statement issued by the American Wind Energy Association:
Cold and icy conditions caused unexpected equipment failures at power plants, taking up to 50 fossil-fired power plants totaling 7,000 megawatts of capacity offline.  Wind energy played a major role in keeping the blackouts from becoming more severe. Between 5:00 and 7:00 AM,  this morning (Wednesday the peak of the electricity shortage) wind was providing between 3,500 and 4,000 MW, roughly the amount it had been forecast and scheduled to provide. That is about 7% of the state’s total electricity demand at that time, or enough for about 3 million average homes.

Texas is currently number one in the nation for wind power production and, with 10,000 megawatts of wind energy, easily surpassed modest initial goals set by the Texas Legislature in 2001 in the state’s first Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS).  The PUC is currently considering a rulemaking that would finally implement a provision of the RPS that would required that 500 MWs be generated by renewable resources other than wind such as solar and geothermal power.

Cyrus Reed continued, “Wind power performed strongly and reliably during these recent outages.  Texas’s initial RPS set goals for the state a decade ago in 2001 and drove over 10,000 megawatts of investment in West Texas, why wouldn’t this state legislature look to drive that aspect of Texas’s economy again by pursuing a stronger RPS to drive more investments now in solar and geothermal power?  This will also have the great benefit of addressing serious air pollution problems by reducing the burning of coal for electricity. ”

COMPREHENSIVE TEXAS ENERGY PLAN NEEDED

Sierra Club and Public Citizen call on the Texas State Legislature to avail of its opportunity in the current 82nd Texas State Legislature to continue the efforts to develop a comprehensive Texas Energy Plan that will increase energy security and create a stable grid in times of extreme weather.
“We appreciate ERCOT’s response to minimize these forced outages as much as possible, but this event demonstrates why Texas needs a comprehensive energy plan that includes efficiency,  renewables, and demand response with accountability measures,” said Cyrus Reed of the Sierra Club.

Reed urged — “We recommend that Texas’s comprehensive Energy Plan do the following:

·        Expand our energy efficiency goals to lower overall electricity use;

·        Further open up our market for demand response in order to lower energy demand during peak times of use during extreme weather;

·        Expand our renewable portfolio standard to include solar and geothermal power either through regulatory action at the PUC or legislative action; and

·        Most importantly, make the market work for distributed forms of generation like on-site solar and geothermal heat.

Reed concludes, “These measures will give us more tools in the future to deal with extreme weather conditions.”

Tom ‘Smitty’ Smith urges State leadership to respond, “Now is the time for some vision by the Texas Legislature to make Texas a leader in energy production again. While ERCOT should be applauded for its rapid response, the legislature should focus on providing a way forward with more emphasis on renewables and efficiency measures and less on coal generation that can’t responsibly manage a three-day cold spell.”

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Get Your Cycle Down, Cycle Up going, Texas

Sierra Club and Public Citizen Call on Texas Legislature, Public Utility Commission, and ERCOT to Investigate Cause of Forced Outages

Outages show why State Must Renew Efforts for a Comprehensive Energy Plan for Texas

(Austin)  As Texans experience forced, intermittent electricity outages, Sierra Club and Public Citizen call on Governor Perry and the Commissioners at the Public Utility Commission, (PUC) and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, (ERCOT) to investigate the cause of the outages and the response by the state’s regulated and unregulated electrical utilities.

“The Texas State Legislature, the PUC, and ERCOT must conduct a thorough investigation at this time into public allegations that the power outages appear to have been at least partially caused by 1) unweatherized pipes at two new coal plants – Oak Grove and Sandow, and mostly, 2) by the lack of a better organized and comprehensive demand response system to reduce peak demand during these types of extreme weather events,” said Cyrus Reed with Sierra Club.

A reserve margin is set to ensure the reliable operation of the bulk power grid in case of major outages or unusual temperature extremes.

“Texas’s electricity grid has plenty of power. In fact, ERCOT recently increased Texas’s reserve margin from 12.5 percent to 13.75 percent with assurances that the grid would perform safely and adequately for years to come,” said Reed.  “The problem is not about availability of power.  The problem is our current over-reliance on large, centralized fossil fuels with all of their pollution, associated risks, and increasing costs.  Consumers and smaller retailers need more control over energy price spikes through such tools as accessible energy efficiency programs, demand management tools, and distributed generation like on-site solar power.”

INDUSTRY MADE MILLIONS ON OUTAGES During the power outages this week, electricity prices peaked at the cap of $3,000 per megawatt hour. Real-time Texas electricity prices are available for viewing online at ERCOT’s website –  http://www.ercot.com/content/cdr/html/20110202_real_time_spp

Tom ‘Smitty’ Smith with Public Citizens reviews the recent history of price spikes during power outages, “Wednesday’s blackouts are reminiscent of the market manipulation by Luminant on a cold and icy night in 2003.  This is also similar to the blackout that occurred just before TXU announced their plan for 11 new coal plants in April 2006.  This Wednesday morning, electricity prices shot up 66 times from 3:00 through 11:00 AM and the electricity companies made hundreds of millions overnight.  There should be an investigation to see if Luminant pulled off a fast one and shut down 2,900 megawatts  of coal because the ‘pipes froze’ — and  then profited as the prices skyrocketed.”

MORE DEMAND RESPONSE NEEDED FOR ENERGY SECURITY Sierra Club and Public Citizen applaud progress in demand response and call for more.  Much of ERCOT’s grid already includes mechanisms to decrease energy use during peak hours to help avoid energy constraints and control energy use during times of extreme heat or cold weather. However, in Texas, these programs are generally only available to large industrial customers, whereas many other electrical grids in the country take advantage of programs to help smaller businesses and residential customers cycle down their use during certain times — and even allow them to get paid for it.

Cyrus Reed with Sierra Club explains, “Increasing demand response capacity in the ERCOT grid will help stabilize the grid and help avoid future power outages.  Right now, some utilities like CPS Energy and Austin Energy have programs for homeowners to help reduce power use and save money, but with some changes at ERCOT and the PUC — or through legislative action — we could allow retail electric providers, utilities and third-parties to work with smaller energy users to bid into the market with demand response programs and get paid for reducing demand in the same way that electrical generators get paid by the market for selling generation.”

RENEWABLE POWER KEEPS THE LIGHTS ON Sierra Club and Public Citizen emphasize transitioning Texas’s electric sector away from pollution heavy coal plants to cleaner, more reliable alternatives — energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal power.  During the current extreme winter weather, wind power performed reliably according to a statement issued by the American Wind Energy Association:

Cold and icy conditions caused unexpected equipment failures at power plants, taking up to 50 fossil-fired power plants totaling 7,000 megawatts of capacity offline.  Wind energy played a major role in keeping the blackouts from becoming more severe. Between 5:00 and 7:00 AM,  this morning (Wednesday the peak of the electricity shortage) wind was providing between 3,500 and 4,000 MW, roughly the amount it had been forecast and scheduled to provide. That is about 7% of the state’s total electricity demand at that time, or enough for about 3 million average homes.

Texas is currently number one in the nation for wind power production and, with 10,000 megawatts of wind energy, easily surpassed modest initial goals set by the Texas Legislature in 2001 in the state’s first Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS).  The PUC is currently considering a rulemaking that would finally implement a provision of the RPS that would required that 500 MWs be generated by renewable resources other than wind such as solar and geothermal power.

Cyrus Reed continued, “Wind power performed strongly and reliably during these recent outages.  Texas’s initial RPS set goals for the state a decade ago in 2001 and drove over 10,000 megawatts of investment in West Texas, why wouldn’t this state legislature look to drive that aspect of Texas’s economy again by pursuing a stronger RPS to drive more investments now in solar and geothermal power?  This will also have the great benefit of addressing serious air pollution problems by reducing the burning of coal for electricity. ”

COMPREHENSIVE TEXAS ENERGY PLAN NEEDED Sierra Club and Public Citizen call on the Texas State Legislature to avail of its opportunity in the current 82nd Texas State Legislature to continue the efforts to develop a comprehensive Texas Energy Plan that will increase energy security and create a stable grid in times of extreme weather.

“We appreciate ERCOT’s response to minimize these forced outages as much as possible, but this event demonstrates why Texas needs a comprehensive energy plan that includes efficiency,  renewables, and demand response with accountability measures,” said Cyrus Reed of the Sierra Club.

Reed urged — “We recommend that Texas’s comprehensive Energy Plan do the following:

  • Expand energy efficiency goals to lower overall electricity use;
  • Further open up the market for demand response in order to lower energy demand during peak times of use during extreme weather;
  • Expand our renewable portfolio standard to include solar and geothermal power either through regulatory action at the PUC or legislative action; and
  • Most importantly, make the market work for distributed forms of generation like on-site solar and geothermal heat.

Reed concludes, “These measures will give us more tools in the future to deal with extreme weather conditions.”

Tom ‘Smitty’ Smith urges State leadership to respond, “Now is the time for some vision by the Texas Legislature to make Texas a leader in energy production again. While ERCOT should be applauded for its rapid response, the legislature should focus on providing a way forward with more emphasis on renewables and efficiency measures and less on coal generation that can’t responsibly manage a three-day cold spell.”

Posted by Donna Hoffman, Communication Coordinator, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club

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Obama knows we’re right!

Sierra Club and Obama agree that creating clean energy jobs is the way to go!

Last week, in his weekly address, Obama announced that a solar energy company will put 1,000 people to work building a new facility in this blogger’s home state of California.  This solar power plant will power 140,000 homes and will be the biggest plant of its kind.

In order to rebuild our economy we have to invest in jobs here “and there is perhaps no industry with more potential to create jobs now – and growth in the coming years – than clean energy.”

This is exactly why Texas Sierra Club opposes the outdated and dirty coal industry and instead supports a clean energy economy lead by solar and wind power.   Currently, Texas is the leader in wind energy BUT also in the production of coal.  While the rest of the country is moving beyond coal, Texas’s broken state environmental agency (TCEQ) continues to pursue it by issuing illegal permits to proposed coal-fired power plants.

We say: out with the old and dirty and in with the new and clean! It’s better for our future, our families, our health and our security.   Clean energy jobs just make more sense.

Go to http://www.sierraclub.org/coal/tx/ to learn more about dirty coal in Texas.

Obama’s weekly address: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/10/02/weekly-address-president-obama-lauds-clean-energy-projects-key-creating

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Texas featured in NYT Green Column

The New York Times’ Green Column wrote this article about Texas’ leadership in renewable energy.

A couple key passages:

“If Texas were its own country, it would generate more wind power than all but five nations — the United States, China, Germany, Spain and India.”

If only! Just kidding. Sort of.

“In Texas, wind accounts for 6 percent of the electricity on the grid. But after a decade of rampant growth, wind is running into a significant constraint: There are too few transmission lines to carry the power.”

“Wind advocates, stung by assertions that their industry depends on federal largesse, point out that fossil fuels and nuclear power receive subsidies and tax breaks as well”

“Texas seems likely to remain the leader in U.S. wind power for a long time. A big reason is that it is simply easier to erect turbines there than in other states. With its oil and natural-gas history, Texas is less concerned about environmental effects of the big machines than states like California.”

“More than 90 percent of Texas is private land, and the state imposes virtually no permit requirements on that land. Randy Sowell, a 10-year veteran of the Texas wind industry, puts it this way: “In Texas, you can put anything you want on your own private land and nobody can say a thing about it.””

Weigh in on the future of wind in our comments section.

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