$10 million grant for clean power research

Southwest Research Institute has been awarded almost $10 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop new and cheaper ways of processing the carbon dioxide removed from power plant emissions, to keep it from polluting the air. Along with sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide is a pollution-causing byproduct of burning fossil fuel, and power plants are a major source of those emissions.

Power problems might be worse next year

A prolonged drought, looming environmental rules and shortcomings in the incentives for building new power plants could cause even more problems with Texas’ electric grid in the next year. A number of Texas power plants may need to cut back operations or shut down completely if the state’s severe drought continues into the fall, as water levels in many plant cooling reservoirs continue to drop, said Kent Saathoff, vice president of system planning and operations for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Although a municipal utility provides electricity in San Antonio, it is part of ERCOT, so high power demand, conservation advisories and potential rolling blackouts affect its electric customers along with others in the state. In July the Environmental Protection Agency issued the final version of its Cross-State Air Pollution Rules, which require reductions in nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate emissions that cross state lines and contribute to ground-level ozone. The Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees lignite mining operations in Texas, on Tuesday asked Attorney General Greg Abbott to sue the EPA over the rule, saying it fails to take into account economic effects and could harm both the lignite coal industry and power grid reliability.

Energy conservation urged this afternoon

The Texas power grid operator asked the public to conserve energy until 7 p.m. today because power levels were short.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which controls most of the state’s power grid, declared an emergency again Tuesday but has avoided rolling outages.
ERCOT had warned that demand could exceed supply this week as schools and universities reopened and temperatures remain high across the state.
warned this week could be tight as schools reopen.
ERCOT is urging businesses, school districts, government agencies and individuals to watch their power use between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays.

Waste Management aims to turn trash into energy

By any measure, Waste Management is a giant in the U.S. garbage collection and recycling business, but its future might lie in a different service: turning trash into energy. If we lose the waste, we’ve certainly lost the business, said Carl Rush, vice president of the company’s organic growth group, the chief vehicle for its energy investments. The shift in thinking comes at a time when U.S. landfill collections are hitting a plateau as Americans recycle more, consumer products makers reduce packaging and many large corporations adopt “zero waste” goals. Demand for renewable energy and fuels also is increasing, in response both to regulations requiring them and to public concerns about the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels and their environmental impact. Waste Management also has its own pilot plant in Oklahoma that converts landfill gas to diesel fuel for its trash collection trucks. […] it’s in a joint venture with Linde in an Altamont, Calif., plant that turns landfill gas into liquefied natural gas and powers 1,000 garbage trucks there. The company now has a portfolio of nearly 30 acquisitions, joint ventures and investment projects at various stages of development.

Customers help CPS save energy

Demand response, which is aimed at large commercial and institutional customers, together with CPS’ Peak Saver thermostat program for residential customers, save the utility between 80 and 90 megawatts a day on the hottest days of the summer — enough power for more than 16,000 households.

AACOG weatherization program granted extension

The Alamo Area Council of Governments’ weatherization program last week was granted a funding extension through Dec. 31 — allowing AACOG to keep and expend federal stimulus funds that just a month ago were thought to be in jeopardy.

David Hendricks: Mexico, S.A. on same energy page

Castro, accompanied by his chief of staff, Robbie Greenblum, Deputy City Manager A.J. Rodriguez and others, visited Monday with the ministry’s undersecretary for energy planning and technological development, Sergio Alcocer. Castro briefed Alcocer on CPS Energy’s new thrust to combine alternative energy investments with job creation. Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission, known as CFE, is experimenting with solar but, as with nearly everywhere else, the challenge of wide deployment of residential rooftop solar panels persists because of upfront costs. For energy efficiency, Mexico already has advanced consumer programs in place, including replacing lighting, or bulbs, in houses and small businesses and the replacement of electricity-gobbling refrigerators. Mexico’s desert state of Sonora, with its large solar potential, is setting up a national research laboratory jointly with the University of Arizona.

Rolling blackouts possible this week

Rolling blackouts are “a possibility” throughout the week, as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas could cut off power for 15 to 45 minutes at a time in different areas to avoid full-on blackouts, said CPS Energy spokesman Victor Robledo.

ERCOT in level 1 emergency again

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees the high voltage distribution system for about 85 percent of the state, has started to pull in power from neighboring grids and is asking for conservation until 7 p.m. Friday. Thursday about 5,000 megawatts of power plant capacity were offline, more than 7 percent of the state’s total capacity, pushing the state to the verge of rolling blackouts.More mechanical breakdowns occur during prolonged periods of hot weather, according to power plant operators, as units tend to run for longer hours.

Grid operator avoids rolling blackouts

At one point during the afternoon, grid operator ERCOT — the Electric Reliability Council of Texas — warned there was a “high probability” of rolling blackouts.

Yet if the scorching weather should prompt ERCOT to call for wider rolling blackouts in the coming days, CPS and other utilities connected to the grid would be required to comply — and within 15 minutes, CPS spokeswoman Christine Patmon said.

CPS would not cut power to critical customers, such as hospitals and emergency services handled by the fire and police departments, she said, but residential customers would be affected.

Every degree a person lowers the thermostat below 78 adds an additional 7 to 10 percent to their electric bill as well as additional stress to the power grid.

State faces electricity shortage today

Texas is in danger of running short of electricity today and is asking residents and businesses to cut their power use from 3 to 7 p.m., the peak hours for demand. “We are expecting the statewide power supplies to be very tight over peak today, primarily due to the forecast for continued temperature extremes which causes higher than normal electricity use, and because of unexpected unit outages,” said Kent Saathoff, vice president of grid operations and system planning for ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Shut off all unnecessary lights, appliances and electronic equipment, such as cable boxes and computers,