Science

Houston to become the capital of renewable energy in the United States?

By James Maynard , Jun 22, 2013 10:05 PM EDT

Houston, Texas has announced that it will be purchasing two million dollars worth of electricity created by renewable sources. This will make Houston, Texas, once a symbol of oil, the largest municipal consumer, by dollars, of renewable energy.

This buy of 140 megawatts (MW) of power from renewable sources is equal to half of the city's electrical demand. Consumers are usually charged for electricity by the kilowatt-hour - one thousand watts of electricity used over the course of one hour. The renewable energy that will be delivered to the people of Houston is equal to 623,000,000 kilowatt hours (kWh), or 623,000 megawatt hours (mWh) - enough to power 55,000 homes.

This new purchase, at least for the next two years, makes Houston the largest municipal buyer in the nation. The eco-friendly electricity will be delivered by Reliant Energy Inc., electrical supplier for the metropolis, beginning July 1. The contract will extend through June 30, 2015.

"Houston is already known as the energy capital of the world, but we are committed to becoming the alternative energy capital of the world as well." Houston Mayor Annise Parker said in a statement.

This purchase is in the form of renewable energy credits (REC's), and does not entail any new construction. The certificates are Green-E certified, and were purchased for less than one cent a kWh above the price of power to the city.

Solar installations already exist in the Space City in locations including the George R. Brown Convention Center, Discovery Green, the City Hall Annex and the Houston Permitting Center.

Municipal operations by the city have reduced their CO2 emissions by 26 percent since 2007. This was done through the retrofitting of six million square feet of public buildings to and expanding the city's use of hybrid and electric vehicles. Houston has also made 17 solar generators available for use during blackouts. These eco-friendly emergency generators were delivered to fire stations. Neighborhood centers, parks and schools around the city.

"Historically, investing in clean energy has been a matter of cost, but wind prices right now are incredibly competitive with natural gas prices, so it's become easier than ever to invest in clean energy. And not only do you get clean air, but you are able to show leadership by making these investments. It shows the world that it's doable," Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, citizen-funded advocacy group, said.

If the Houston Oilers had not left for Tennessee in 1996 to become the Titans, they might just have to change their name.

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