it's not easy being green

Here's how Houston scores when it comes to promoting clean energy

Is the Energy Capital of the World on track with its clean energy? A new report finds, well, not so much. Photo by Katya Horner

The Energy Capital of the World has some work to do when it comes to ramping up its commitment to clean energy, according to a new report.

The report, published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), scores 100 major U.S. cities on their efforts to promote clean energy. Houston ranks 34th among the 100 cities.

On a 100-point scale, here’s how Houston fared in the report’s five categories:

  • Communitywide initiatives, 5 out of 15.
  • Building policies, 8.5 out of 30.
  • Transportation policies, 11 out of 30.
  • Energy and water utilities, 7.5 out of 15.
  • Local government operations, 4.5 out of 15.

While Houston ranked 34th, its scores were above the collective median scores for the 100 cities.

Elsewhere in Texas, Austin ranks No. 14 in the ACEEE report, with San Antonio at No. 37, Dallas at No. 43, and Fort Worth at No. 71.

San Francisco tops the nationwide list, followed by Seattle (No. 2), Washington, D.C. (No. 3), Minneapolis (No. 4), and Boston and New York City (tied at No. 5).

The ACEEE report casts doubt on Houston’s ability to achieve its goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 40 percent by 2030. A study published in 2021 shows Houston is making progress, though. According to the study, Houston; Seattle; Oslo, Norway; and Bogotá, Colombia are the four global cities that witnessed the largest per-capita reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The ACEEE report also faults Houston for enabling access to high-quality transit for just 30.7 percent of low-income households, and it dings the city for installing just 25.6 publicly available electric vehicle charging stations per 100,000 people.

The report’s five recommendations for improving Houston’s position in clean energy are:

  1. Publicize communitywide energy data.
  2. Establish and track metrics related to energy equity.
  3. Adopt building tune-up and audit requirements for improving the energy performance of existing structures.
  4. Expand high-quality transit access for low-income residents.
  5. Increase the number of charging stations for electric vehicles.

In 2020, the City of Houston rolled out the Climate Action Plan, aimed at reversing the city’s reliance on energy generated by fossil fuels. Last year, Turner told Yahoo News that Houston is poised to lead the world in the transition toward clean energy, with solar power and carbon capture technology among the primary solutions.

“We’ve got to change the way we have been doing things in the past, and that’s where we are partnering with the energy sector,” Turner told Yahoo News. “We’re trying to work to move the energy sector forward.”

In January 2021, Turner became chairman of Climate Mayors, a coalition formed to combat climate change.

“Cities are powerful drivers in the race against climate change. Mayors are investing in clean energy, greening our economies, and creating more sustainable and resilient communities across the U.S.,” Turner said when his ascent to the coalition’s chairmanship was announced.

Toward that end, Turner and his colleagues in the public and private sectors are shepherding Houston toward a future of cleaner energy. On the public-sector front, the City of Houston has reduced municipal emissions by 37 percent. In addition, the Houston consistently ranks as the No. 1 municipal user of renewable energy in the U.S.

As part of Houston’s drive toward clean energy, business leaders in November 2020 launched the nonprofit Renewable Energy Alliance Houston.

“As the headquarters for virtually every segment of the energy industry, Houston is the clear leader for our nation’s energy development,” Kay McCall, executive director of REAL Houston, said in a news release unveiling the alliance. “With the clean energy transition progressing, REAL Houston is poised to help Houston rise to meet these challenges and promote opportunities for Houston’s leaders to connect, share, and grow.”

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Building Houston

 
 

Rice once again is named the best collegiate value in Texas. Photo courtesy of Rice University

By one measure, earning a degree at Rice University is the smartest move in the Lone Star State.

In its eighth annual ranking of colleges and university that give students the best return on their educational investment, personal finance website SmartAsset places Rice at No. 1 in Texas and No. 10 in the U.S. It’s the only Texas school to break into the national top 10.

To determine the best-value colleges and universities in each state, SmartAsset crunched data in these categories: scholarships and grants, starting salary for new graduates, tuition, living costs, and retention rate.

While the tuition ($47,350) and student living costs ($17,800) at Rice are the highest among the top 10 Texas schools on the list, the average amount of scholarships and grants ($43,615), average starting salary ($77,900), and retention rate (97 percent) also are among the highest.

According to Rice, tuition, fees, on-campus room and board, books, and personal expenses for the 2022-23 academic year add up to $74,110. That figure, which excludes financial aid, applies to a full-time, degree-seeking student living on campus.

“Rice University is consistently ranked as a best value in higher education and is one of America’s leading teaching and research universities,” the school’s Office of Financial Aid says. “By attending Rice, you will not only receive a superior education at a reasonable cost, you also will benefit from having a Rice degree long after graduation.”

Three other schools in or near the Houston metro area appear on SmartAsset’s list of the biggest-bang-for-your-buck schools in Texas:

  • Prairie View A&M University, No. 4. The university posted the lowest retention rate (74 percent) among the 10 schools. The remaining figures sit roughly in the middle of the pack.
  • University of Houston, No. 5. The university’s tuition ($8,913) was the lowest in the top 10, as was the average amount of scholarships and grants ($6,544).
  • Texas A&M University-College Station, No. 6. The university’s living costs are the second highest among the top 10 ($17,636), while its average starting salary for new grads lands at No. 3 ($64,400).

Other schools in the state’s top 10 are:

  • University of Texas at Austin, No. 2.
  • University of Texas at Dallas (Richardson), No. 3.
  • Texas Tech University in Lubbock, No. 7.
  • LeTourneau University in Longview, No. 8.
  • University of North Texas in Denton, No. 9.
  • Texas State University in San Marcos, No. 10.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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