Quick question: what US state has the best chance of beating California in electric vehicle sales eventually? If you guessed Texas, run right out and buy yourself a cigar. The Lone Star State made headlines last weekend after a noisy, fossil-fueled convoy of Trump supporters stalled traffic on I-35 and attacked a Joe Biden campaign bus, but the latest move by the state’s grid operator suggests that the quiet hum of EVs will dominate Texas roads in the future.
What Is This Texas Grid Operator Of Whom You Speak?
Texas, of course, is in a unique position when the topic turns to grid operation. By and large the Texas electricity grid is not connected to other nearby states, unless you count its electricity deals with Mexico, which ripple over to Arizona and California. So much for building that wall!
Where were we? Oh right, Texas. About 90% of the state’s electric load is a deregulated market that comes under the territory of ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation answerable to the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
As an independent entity that counts innovation-friendly rural electric cooperatives under its umbrella, ERCOT can be an agile platform for adapting to new energy technology. The organization can also lean on new research at the University of Texas and other leading state-based institutions, which means that Texas pops up regularly on the CleanTechnica radar.
It’s no accident that Texas nailed down the title of nation’s top wind energy producer early on. It is among the first to hop on the wind-plus-storage trend and the solar-plus storage trend, too. More recently the state has become a test bed for new energy storage and smart grid technology, both of which tie into the electric vehicle trend.
Texas has also become a magnet for global renewable energy firms, the UK’s EDF Energy being one good example. In the latest development on that score, last week the nation’s largest rural electric cooperative inked a deal with
ERCOT Hearts The (Global) Electric Vehicle Revolution
ERCOT has not let the electric vehicle trend skip under its radar, either. Texas does experience heavy electricity demand for air conditioning in hot weather, which complicates matters for EV charging on a mass scale. On the plus side, Texas’s transmission system is designed to handle passive peak loads, so off-peak electric vehicle charging would put that excess capacity to use, which is especially significant considering that the state’s ever-growing population of wind turbines hits peak production during off-peak hours.
By 2012, ERCOT was already planning an EV future for Texas with an eye on smart technology enabling vehicles and charging stations to participate in demand-response programs that motivate off-peak charging.
Of particular interest, the ERCOT plan zeroes in on coordinating electric vehicle charging with periods when renewable energy output is highest. That could involve solar power under some circumstances, which is interesting on account of the Energy Department’s promotion of small-scale solar power and affordable community solar, in addition to its work in the distributed wind area.
That brings us to the latest news from ERCOT. Last month the grid operator joined a global organization called G-PST, for the Global Power System Transformation Consortium, with the aim of tearing down technical barriers to renewable energy integration.
They are not kidding around. Including ERCOT, G-PST is driven by six of the top system operators around the world. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s Australia Energy Market Operator, National Grid Electricity System Operator UK, California Independent System Operator, Ireland’s System Operator, and Denmark’s System Operator. More than two dozen other system operators from other parts of the world are also on board, including up-and-coming markets in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.
On the technology side, the new venture sports A-listers Energy Systems Integration Group, Imperial College London, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence for Integrated Energy Systems, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the Danish Technical University, and ASEAN Center for Energy.
USA Hearts Electric Vehicle Charging
If you’re wondering where the US sits on the technology side, we saved the best for last. The US is actually over-represented on G-PST with not one but two top-ranked research institutes, the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, and the Californa-based network of labs under the Electric Power Research Institute banner, which includes a lab in Dallas, Texas.
In addition, IEEE (aka the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) also makes the G-PST cut. Though global in scope, the organization is still influenced by deep roots in the US, with C-suite headquarters in New York City and a business office in New Jersey.
In terms of rapid electric vehicle adoption, that New York-New Jersey connection could ripple right on over to Texas. New York already has big plans for renewable energy and EV integration and EV charging, beginning in 2014 with the launch of a coordinated zero emission vehicle effort that also includes California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
New Jersey was originally intended to be part of the zero emission collaboration, but the idea was quashed by then-Governor Chris Christie, as one of several economic development ventures that he either ripped up (the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative) or slow-walked (offshore wind development) during his time in office. However, since elections have consequences, collaborative activity has picked up again under the tenure of Governor Phil Murphy.
That includes a new EV rebate program along with aggressive goals for public electric vehicle charging stations and electric vehicle sales.
Like It Or Not, The Global EV Revolution Is Here
The President* of the United States is quite skilled at pulling the fossil fuel wool over the eyes of his supporters, but apparently nobody else is getting fooled.
Through the G-PST collaboration, the US Department of Energy, EPRI, IEEE, and ERCOT are all aligned with a powerful global consortium in support of decarbonization. In that context, the President’s fossil friendly rhetoric lands somewhere on the scale of a lone flea landing on the great charging elephant of the global energy transformation.
The President himself seems well aware that all his promises about coal, oil, and gas are just so much hot air. In the run-up to Election Day 2020, we’re not hearing too much about saving coal jobs or, for that matter, supporting oil and gas workers. All that’s left is a generous helping of racism and a side of misogyny, served up on a platter of ginned-up violence.
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Photo: Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory promotes renewable energy and electric vehicles (credit: Denis Schroeder, NREL).