Environmental group calls on Legislature to address power supply

In a report issued this week, the Environmental Defense Fund called on legislators to act on measures it said could address the state’s growing problem in meeting demands for electrical power.

Colin Meehan, an energy analyst for the group, said the Public Utility Commission has identified several opportunities for addressing what he calls “the energy crunch” but hasn’t acted.

That, he said in a post on the Environmental Defense Fund’s Energy Exchange Blog, “has left businesses hesitant to engage directly in the Texas market without a good understanding of the long-term outlook.”

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The specter of 2011 — drought, blistering heat and rolling blackouts — continues to hang over the state’s electric market, and Meehan contends that the problem won’t be solved with “the same thinking that got us here.”

Much of the state has slipped back into severe drought, and executives with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the power grid for 85 percent of the state, said last month that there is a “significant chance” they will need to issue emergency alerts and ask consumers to reduce energy use this summer.

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Meehan calls for market-based solutions including demand response, energy efficiency programs and the continued addition of renewable energy into a smart grid. Wind and solar power consume almost no water and can be built out more quickly than gas or coal-fired electric plants, according to the Environmental Defense Fund’s report, The State of the Energy Crunch in Texas.

The report outlines pending legislation and listed support for a number of bills, which it divided into three broad categories: allowing all customer classes to compete in electric markets, either directly or through aggregators; fair compensation for consumers who provide services, including demand response and excess electric generation from distributed generation; and the development of innovative financing mechanisms like Property Assessed Clean Energy to allow businesses to develop clean energy and reduce water usage.

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