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Arlington, TX 76010

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Texas Renewable Energy Industries Alliance (TREIA)

While they’re not exactly part of the same alliance, TREIA is like SEIA for Texans, and works with renewable companies that specialize in advocacy and building a diverse network within the Lone Star State. TREIA is somewhat unique from the other associations named in this week’s blog, in that it does not focus solely on solar but also includes other renewable sources like wind and hydro – which makes this group an excellent resource to learn about what’s going on in the Texas renewable energy market overall. According to their homepage, “TREIA is a network of diverse entities with interests in renewable energy who are working to scale renewable energy, grow the local economy, and create jobs. Members connect through conferences, in-person events, and business development networking opportunities. TREIA members are involved in solar, wind, biomass, biofuel, energy efficiency, geothermal, hydro, ocean, and energy storage” (http://conservenorthtexas.org/item/texas-renewable-energy-industries-alliance-treia), and having attended one of their seminars previously, I can tell you first-hand that their members have a deep knowledge of the inner-workings of the renewable industry. If you check out their site, as well as their LinkedIn page, you’ll see that they’ve set a pretty ambitious goal for at least 50% of the Texas energy demand to come from renewable sources by 2030 – less than a decade away! Thanks to our knowledge of the Department of Energy website (and corresponding U.S. Energy Information Administration database), we can see just how close we are to accomplishing that goal, and while this data is a little older (2019 is the latest displayed), we can see there’s still a long way to go – see for yourself here: https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=TX.

Thanks to associations like TREIA however, and their many members, we’re a lot closer to the goal of having 50% of our energy come from renewable sources by 2030, and hopefully with your help we can get there. Check out their website for more information about TREIA, their members, or give us a call today!

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Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)

If you enjoyed learning more about the global solar industry via the International Solar Energy Society webpage, you’re going to like our next featured group: the Solar Energy Industries Association, or SEIA (https://www.seia.org/ ).

What does SEIA do? Well, according to their ‘Advocacy’ page, “SEIA is the voice of the solar industry, advocating for the protection and expansion of the U.S. solar market. We represent the entire industry, from small-business owners to large, publicly traded companies. Along with our members and coalitions of allies, we advocate on behalf of solar and a transition to a clean energy economy at the federal, state, and local levels.” Because of their vast member network, they’re able to cover a wide range of topics relating to renewable energy, and are not limited to simply energy data (though they also produce charts/infographics/webinars to help), but are also able to better explain what financing options may be available to those hoping to diversify their energy production, discuss tax laws and how they apply to each system (residential and commercial), and break down the knowledge barriers to learning about the newest technology in renewable energy and how it will improve the overall effectiveness of each system.

As if this weren’t an extensive enough list, SEIA has partnered with the Smart Electric Power Alliance and other partner orgs to put on one of the largest solar conferences in the U.S. – Solar Power Intnernational (SPI), https://www.solarpowerinternational.com/. Every year thousands of energy industry experts gather to share the latest knowledge, gain insights into the energy industry, and to build their network of energy professionals at SPI – including small and big businesses, researchers and manufacturers alike. For more details about the incredible work SEIA is doing, check them out here: https://www.seia.org/initiatives-advocacy.

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International Solar Energy Society (ISES)

A couple of years ago I went to an energy conference where I met someone from the International Solar Energy Society, or ISES (https://www.ises.org/ ), who gave a talk on the global reach of solar power, and our collective role in promoting it and helping others do so. After his talk I approached him to thank him for the work they were doing, but also to ask him about the origin of their acronym which, I hate to admit, had been bugging me ever since I heard him say it. He laughed, as this was not the first time someone had asked him this question, and then assured me that the International Solar Energy Society had been around for a long time (60+ years in fact), and was in no way related to the group that seemed to share, at least phonetically, a similar acronym. 

I was interested to learn more about how they were building their network of renewable energy providers, and what work they were doing to promote solar energy solutions at the international level. Upon doing just a little research online, I found that their vision for solar is pretty similar to ours: “For over 60 years the members of The International Solar Energy Society (ISES)have undertaken the product research that has helped the renewable energy industry to grow. ISES, through its knowledge sharing and community building programs, helps its global membership provide the technical answers to accelerate the transformation to 100% renewable energy and thereby achieve the following vision: The International Solar Energy Society (ISES) envisions a world with 100% renewable energy for everyone used wisely and efficiently” (https://www.ises.org/who-we-are/about-ises). So, their vision for solar answers the “what” question, but if you look further down on this same page you’ll find information about “how” they are currently working to accomplish this through advocacy: “ISES has members in more than 110 countries, and Global contacts and partners in over 50 countries with thousands of associate members, and almost 100 company and institutional members throughout the world.” In addition to making global connections, they provide information and presentations at seminars, and publish source material, webinars, and info-graphics dispelling myths about solar power (check out a few here: https://www.ises.org/what-we-do/dispelling-myths). Curious to learn more about solar? Feel free to check out other links within their website for some helpful tidbits!

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Department of Energy (DOE)

At the intersection of local and global climate information – from smaller-scale projects to foreign policy decisions – is the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Because they’re in charge of writing the micro and macro energy policies for the entire country – in coordination with the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA (https://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/downloads/mou/Summary_of_EPA-DOE_Partnership.pdf) – it would stand to reason that their online repository is a vast resource of information, and a great place to conduct your own research on what may be coming down the pipeline in the near future, or down the utility cable in this case (check it out here: https://www.energy.gov/). The most important information this site provides however, is insight into the U.S. energy budget, which more than words demonstrate just where environmental protection falls on the priority list. For example, if you check out the Energy Economy page, and scroll to the Funding & Financing tab, you’ll find a ton of potential resources for small business loans, large-scale utility grants, research grants for scientists and universities, and everything in between. Curious about our current national energy production? Check out the following link, which breaks down the data by energy source and/or global location: https://www.energy.gov/energy-economy/prices-trends. It’s safe to say there is a lot of good information on this site for contractors, scientists, and anyone with a curious eye towards the future. What’s something you’d like to see on this site in the future? Let’s discuss in the comments below!

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Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE)

In all honesty, unless you’re an industry professional, or are currently working on a related project, the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, or DSIRE as it is also known, might be a little robust for what you need – but that’s exactly the appeal as well. This platform houses the country’s entire online database for renewable incentives in the U.S., broken down by state, and further filtered down to the city/county level. Just take a look at the table at the bottom of this page: https://programs.dsireusa.org/system/program/tx for more information about energy rebates and efficiency incentives in Texas.

If you’re in the Dallas area, you’re probably aware that ONCOR has a solar rebate program, however if you click on the ONCOR rebate link within the DSIRE portal, and read through the page, you’ll see information about program eligibility as well as the key changes to the program year after year. If you’re in Austin, you can learn more about the Value of Solar rate and how it differs from a traditional net metering program. If you’re in San Antonio you can learn more about how CPS is implementing their renewable rebate program – which has helped thousands of home owners in the San Antonio area save money going solar.

No matter where you are in the United States, chances are there is help available for you – check out this link, and the others on this list and you’re sure to find at least one or two options – and feel free to give us a call if you have any questions!

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American Council of Renewable Energy (ACORE)

There are a ton of really great resources for you if you’re looking to learn more about renewable energy, that cover a wide array of topics from articles and research papers to virtual events and webinars – you just have to know where to look. It’s easy to say “check out our website or give us a call with any questions” because I know SUNTEX employees are happy to help, but what if you want to do a little research on your own ahead of time? That’s where experts and non-profit organizations can help, and the best place to start is on the American Council on Renwable Energy, or ACORE, website. They have curated information from local and federal governments to help you understand the total cost of renewable, and how they’re being implemented into our nation’s energy grid. Because part of their mission is to make the information more digestible for the every-day American (in other words, people outside of the energy industry not reading articles about it daily), their site includes a ton of great info that is easily digestible and based on the latest intelligence coming directly from the White House, so you don’t have to be an expert to understand it.

According to their website, ACORE was “Founded in 2001, the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is a 501(c)(3) national nonprofit organization that unites finance, policy and technology to accelerate the transition to a renewable energy economy” (https://acore.org/). It was created in effort to connect real-working people with Washington and Capitol Hill policy decision-makers, and has been an enormous asset for our team as we navigate the changes in this industry.

SUNTEX is a proud member of the ACORE community, and we’re happy to share what we learn with communities in Texas that may not have access or resources to tackle these questions themselves. As a member of ACORE, we’re able to leverage their database of information, attend events to learn more about what’s coming down the pipeline in renewables in the U.S., and expand our network to incorporate other ideas and solutions into our market offering. We’re happy to help you go solar, but more importantly we want to make sure we’re helping you make the best energy decisions for you and your family – which is why we believe it’s important to have access to the right information so you’re able to do just that! Please do check out their website to learn more, and feel free to respond in the comments section if you still have questions about ACORE or how they can help you to learn more about the renewable industry and how it impacts you.

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Texas Energy Grid: Deep Dive into ERCOT’s Governance Structure

Okay mi gente, this week we’ll explore the Texas electrical grid as-is. There has been a lot of scrutiny over the past week about how and why the Texas electrical grid works the way that it does, and who’s to blame when an outage occurs – so let’s take a deep dive and explore the system responsible for providing heat in the winter and cool in the summer.

You’ve likely heard of ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, and perhaps you’ve understood their role in the energy equation – here is a link to their home page for more information about how they serve Texas: here.

Their website outlines exactly how they’re set up, saying:ERCOT is a membership-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation, governed by a board of directors and subject to oversight by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Legislature. Its members include consumers, cooperatives, generators, power marketers, retail electric providers, investor-owned electric utilities, transmission and distribution providers and municipally owned electric utilities,” so we know by their own definition, that their Board of Directors, along with the Public Utilities Commission and the Texas Legislature are their “bosses” if you will.

So, who is on the Board, or within PUC, or within the Texas Legislature, and who makes up the members of the oversight committee that protect us from price surges and is in charge of equitably distributing energy to our great state? Again, you need only go to the ERCOT website to see for yourself – http://www.ercot.com/about/governance/directors. Please count the number of people on the board with oil & gas backgrounds, and then count the number of people on that board with renewable energy backgrounds. Find anything interesting? What is the average tenure of each ERCOT board member? How many board members are Latino, or Black, or female – how might this impact their visibility into these Texas communities?

Some of these board members have even worked for specific Retail energy providers in Texas, begging the questions: 1) who do they know, 2) who has their phone number from prior work experience, and 3) who are they most likely to help in a crisis? We often think that experience equates to know-how, but I think we need to ask whether or not there is enough diversity in our current power structure, pun intended, to allow for equal representation or new creative solutions to address an energy grid that will need to tackle climate change.

Now let’s take a look at those next couple of governing bodies: the PUC (Public Utilities Commission), http://www.puc.texas.gov/, and the Texas legislature, including the Texas House of Representatives https://house.texas.gov/members/ and the Texas Senate https://senate.texas.gov/members.php – and ask yourself the same questions as above. Do you know who represents your district? Did you know these are elected officials? If not that’s okay! However it may be time to start paying more attention, because it seems that while some communities kept the lights on or only had intermittent power failures last week, other communities were left without lights or heat in the most dire conditions all week long. These people are your advocates, did they advocate for you?

Without diversity in thought and representation, we will continue to attempt to tackle new climate change problems with existing, outdated solutions. Without green energy advocates or even just Texans within the ERCOT board of directors, or PUC, or even the Texas legislature charged with governing our electrical grid, we will not have a voice prepared to face the challenges our state faces today. It is time for a change to the way we govern the electrical Grid in Texas. Please note that this article does not mean to advocate for federal regulation, however some regulation at all that advocates for you and me, the end customer, would be ideal, and our current governance structure does not seem equipped to handle the problems we face today.

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