The only constant in the world of energy is change. As time goes on, of course, the rate of change only accelerates. This quality makes it pretty hard to keep up with the news in the energy sector. Power companies are always discovering new sources of electricity. Government agencies are always figuring out new and better ways to balance power requirements with environmental necessities. Let's take a look at the energy news in February 2010. If you read this news time capsule one year from now or five years from now or more, it will be interesting to see how big or how little an effect the new developments had on how you receive and use power.
In the view of many, smart meters are the future of residential electricity billing. These meters are "smart" because they are capable of sending you feedback regarding how much energy you use in real time. Once you are able to read, for example, an e-mail containing charts detailing your electricity consumption, you can take steps to decrease your bill before the billing period is over. One of the big problems with smart meters is the cost to purchase and install one. Once that money is spent, however, they pay for themselves in the long run.
Loren Stuffy, a blogger with the Houston Chronicle, brings up a smart meter concern most people might not have considered: will people actually use them? Stuffy notes that after a brief time as the proud owner of a smart meter, he and his wife simply stopped looking at it. The readout device itself became a countertop nuisance. As time passes, will a smart meter actually become a part of your energy savings plan?
Global climate change has been accompanied by a rise in the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
CO2 is, of course, a byproduct of burning the fossil fuels used in electric plants: coal, oil and natural gas. Texas has been particularly lucky when it comes to devising ways to reduce the effects of this discharge. Skyonic, a company in Austin, received a 3-million-dollar contract to chemically change carbon dioxide into baking soda (NAHCO3). Instead of trapping heat in the atmosphere, power plant emissions could instead be used to make baked goods in a few short years.
The possible benefit of a wide-scale rollout of solar energy collectors has a lot of people excited in February, 2010. Tom Fowler, a reporter for the Chronicle, affirms that Texas is number one in solar energy potential, but is only number nine in actual power generation. The goal, according to a group of business, government and environmental leaders, is to boost solar production to 1000 megawatts by 2015, all the way up to 5000 megawatts by 2025. Even better, Texas companies are in great position to take advantage of this increase. Fort Worth's ExelTech and Entech Solar, for example, both produce components that are required by solar farms.
Nuclear energy, when properly used, is a safe and plentiful source of electricity. While Texas already has four nuclear reactors (the South Texas Project and Comanche Peak), there has been a push to add capacity. Due to concerns over costs, a planned nuclear power plant in San Antonio is looking increasingly likely. Elizabeth Souder, a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, detailed this latest step in NRG Energy's hopes to build a new facility.
These and other projects are part of the larger story with regard to Texas energy. One of the most striking facets of the story is the gradual increase in consumption (as well as the accompanying increase in generation). In five or ten years, today's figures will probably look anemic when compared to the latest figures. In the short period between 1990 and 2007, the total amount of energy generated in the United States rose to 405,653 megawatts from 281,560 megawatts. That's a big jump!
In October of 2009, Texans used 14,000 barrels of oil for electricity generation (0.4% of the total United States figure). During that same month, the state's residents consumed 108,243 million cubic feet of natural gas, nearly twenty percent of the amount consumed by the entire country. Texans also used nearly 11% of the coal burned by American power plants.
Whatever these numbers will be in the future, or whichever alternative sources of energy we choose to utilize, it will be interesting to see what happened to stories that were important to the Texas energy community in February 2010.