All posts by Yanette Jimenez

The ABCs of the Power Industry

Tackling the industry’s terms one letter at a time.

How many of us have looked at our electricity bills and been slightly puzzled by what exactly a “kilowatt” is or heard about “ERCOT” and wondered what it stands for? Every now and then, we could all use a refresher on some of the power industry’s terms.

Enjoy your power industry ABCs!

  • A – Alternating Current (AC): An electric current that reverses direction of flow at regular intervals and has alternately positive and negative values.
  • B – British thermal unit (BTU): The amount of heat energy necessary to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.
  • C – Combined cycle: The combination of a gas turbine and steam turbine in an electric generating plant. At a combined cycle plant, the waste heat from the first turbine cycle provides the heat energy for the second turbine cycle.
  • D – Direct Current (DC): An electric current that flows in only one direction.
  • E – ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas): One of the ten regional reliability councils that make up the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC). ERCOT manages the flow of electric power to 24 million customers in Texas.
  • F – Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC): An independent agency that regulations the interstate transmission of natural gas, oil and electricity.
  • G – Gigawatt (GW): A gigawatt is a unit of measurement used to measure electric power. One gigawatt is equal to 1,000 megawatts (MW), 1 million kilowatts (kW) or one billion watts.
  • H – Hertz: A measure of the number of cycles or wavelengths of electrical energy per second. The U.S. electricity supply has a standard frequency of 60 hertz.
  • I – Interconnection: A connection between utilities that enables power to be moved in either direction and allows for enhanced system reliability.
  • J – Joule: A unit used to measure energy where one joule per second equals 1 watt and 1 BTU is equal to 1,055 joules.
  • K – Kilowatt (kW): A unit of electrical power measurement that is equal to 1,000 watts.
  • L – Load: The power needed to run a refrigerator, air conditioner, building, electric distribution system, etc. Also synonymous with the term “demand.”
  • M – Municipal Utility: A provider of utility services owned and operated by the municipal government.
  • N – NERC (North American Electric Reliability Council): An international regulatory authority designed to ensure the reliability of the bulk power system in North America including the U.S., Canada and the northern portion of Baja California, Mexico.
  • O – Off-Peak: Periods of low power demand. The opposite of peak demand.
  • P – Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT): The state’s regulator of electric, telecommunication, water and sewer utilities. Also implements legislation and offers assistance with customer complaints for these industries.
  • Q – Quad: One quadrillion BTU (1,000,000,000,000,000 BTU).
  • R – Reactor: A device in which a controlled nuclear chain reaction can be maintained and produce heat energy.
  • S – Spinning Reserve: Generation capacity that is on-line but has not yet been unloaded; usually the first type of capacity used when there is a shortfall.
  • T – Turbine Generator: A device that uses steam, heated gases, water or wind to create a spinning motion that activates electromagnetic forces and produces electricity.
  • U – Uranium: A radioactive element that can be used to create electricity by splitting the atoms.
  • V – Volt: The unit of measurement of electromotive force that is equivalent to the force required to produce a current of one ampere through a resistance of one ohm.
  • W – Watt: A unit of measurement for electric power that describes the rate of which electricity is used at any given point in time.
  • X – X-Ray: A type of electromagnetic radiation with low energy levels.
  • Y – Yellowcake: A solid uranium-oxygen compound that is the source material used for fuel enrichment and fuel pellet production.
  • Z – Zoning: The act of grouping rooms within a structure according to similar heating and cooling patterns.
POV: Power Breakfast

Power Breakfast for September 8, 2016

Former EPA administrators praise nuclear energy's role in reducing carbon emissions; Energy storage deployment set to grow in 2016

POV: Power Breakfast

A nearly daily update of energy-related news:

  • Former EPA administrators, Christine Whitman and William Reilly, discussed nuclear energy’s role in achieving the country’s goal of reducing carbon emissions at the Stanford School of Public Policy. Part of their discussion included the economic and political factors of closing nuclear facilities and its impact on air quality and quality of life. Whitman praised nuclear energy’s role in reducing carbon emissions and stated that nuclear energy currently represents 63 percent of the country’s clean energy and about 19 percent of the overall energy produced.
  • According to the U.S. Energy Storage Monitor, there was a 126 percent increase in total energy storage deployed in Q2 over Q1 with 41.2 megawatts of energy storage deployed. Executive Director of the Energy Storage Association, Matt Roberts, believes that the energy storage industry is set to grow another 30 percent in 2016 helping to add flexibility and efficiency to the country’s power grid.
POV: Power Breakfast

Power Breakfast for September 6, 2016

ERCOT releases Fall SARA; House and Senate committee drafting energy compromise bill

POV: Power Breakfast

A nearly daily update of energy-related news:

  • ERCOT released its Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy (SARA) for this fall as well as its preliminary outlook for winter which states that there should be sufficient generation to meet the electricity demands for the region this upcoming fall and winter. The fall report forecasts a peak demand of about 54,400 MW and more than 82,000 MW of total generation capacity. The initial winter SARA forecasts sufficient generation with approximately 59,000 MW of peak demand expected.
  • The House and Senate committee will meet this week to draft an energy compromise bill to reform the federal energy policy. Led by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), the committee wants to include provisions to expand exports of liquefied natural gas, renew a conservation fund, expand energy efficiency programs and improve the grid’s security.
POV: Power Breakfast

Power Breakfast for September 1, 2016

Comparing power sources; Texas economy on the rise

POV: Power Breakfast

A nearly daily update of energy-related news:

  • The Motley Fool’s “What Would the United States Look Like Without Nuclear Energy?” examines what would happen to emissions in the U.S. if all nuclear power was replaced by coal, natural gas or other energy sources. The results found that when nuclear power was replaced with fossil fuels, emissions rose; if replaced with sources like wind or solar, the generation produced could not match that of nuclear energy. These comparisons help to highlight the importance and efficiency of nuclear energy in the power mix.
  • According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ the Texas leading index, the state’s economy could be on the upswing. This index, which looks at a variety of factors including the state’s employment growth and well permits, has shown recent signs of growth after holding steady earlier in the year.
POV: Power Breakfast

Power Breakfast for August 31, 2016

EV batteries as grid-connected energy storage; Natural gas prices fluctuate during hurricane season

POV: Power Breakfast

A nearly daily update of energy-related news:

  • It is estimated that by 2020, there will be approximately 1,250,000 EV batteries approaching the end of their initial use. According to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report, discarded EV batteries with remaining storage could be repurposed as grid-connected energy storage to help smooth fluctuations in the grid’s power supply. There is currently no definitive answer on if this would be an economical and/or practical solution.
  • The beginning of September marks the midpoint of this year’s hurricane season. With potential storms hitting the Gulf of Mexico in the near future, natural gas prices have fallen due to the uncertainty on the region’s production capabilities.
POV: Power Breakfast

Power Breakfast for August 26, 2016

Energy efficiency ranks as third largest electric power resource; Texas economy holding strong

POV: Power Breakfast

A nearly daily update of energy-related news:

  • According to the ACEEE, energy efficiency is the nation’s third largest electric power resource and could become the most significant resource by 2030. The ACEEE also estimates that efficiencies reduced annual carbon dioxide emissions by 490 million tons in 2015.
  • The Texas economy added 23,600 jobs in July. Job growth in the state has continued for 15 out of the last 16 months and Texas’ unemployment rate, at 4.6 percent, remains below the national average of 4.9 percent.

Cooler Temperatures Heading for the Lone Star State

Getting your home ready for the fall and winter seasons.

Fall_ducksWith September just around the corner and these cooler than usual August temperatures, many of us have begun to daydream about the joys that fall can bring, including pumpkin-flavored everything, football season, cozy scarves, fall foliage and the return of our favorite TV shows.

Although many of us in Texas don’t experience the fall and winter temperatures the way our neighbors to the north might, now is the time to start preparing your home for the cooler months ahead. There are many small changes that you can implement to get ready including:

  • ThermostatAdding weatherstripping to prevent air leaks and drafts
  • Checking your HVAC for efficiency and changing your air filter
  • Covering windows with curtains to further minimize heat loss
  • Testing your home safety devices including smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide devices and
  • Updating your home with a smart thermostat to better control your electricity use.

These small changes can not only make an impact on your home’s electricity bill, but can make the fall and winter seasons even more enjoyable.

Visit Energy.Gov for more energy-saving tips.

POV: Power Breakfast

Power Breakfast for August 23, 2016

DOE funds 12 cybersecurity projects to improve infrastructure; Amtrak to implement community microgrid; UK to review coal policy post-Brexit

POV: Power Breakfast

A nearly daily update of energy-related news:

  • The DOE is providing up to $34 million towards 12 cybersecurity projects to improve the country’s energy infrastructure. The funds will cover five cybersecurity areas including: detecting and responding to operational threats, integrating renewables securely, reducing exposure, detecting malware already in the supply chain and identifying gaps in the cybersecurity roadmap released in 2011.
  • Amtrak is planning to implement a community microgrid on its transit system so that it can continue to operate in the event of a power outage. The proposed $31.3 million microgrid with operate with 17.2 MW of energy generation and 4 MWh of storage. Costs (operation, maintenance and fuel costs) total $7.2 million annually with forecasted revenue streams of $10 million annually.
  • The U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union could have ramifications on the country’s power supply and lead to a potential review of the U.K.’s policy on coal. As a non-EU member, the U.K. could be excluded from creating the rules that govern the EU’s wholesale power and gas markets leaving its energy market vulnerable.