Report Lays Out Path For Houston to Become America’s Clean Energy Capital

Media Contacts
Tessa McClellan

Environment Texas

HOUSTON- Today Environment Texas released a new report showing that, by 2030, improvements in energy efficiency and expanded solar power could reduce demand for electricity from fossil fuel sources by 7.8 percent, or enough to power 627,000 Houston homes, while expanded deployment of electric vehicles would avoid consumption of more than 104 million gallons of gasoline annually. The release of the report, America’s Emerging Clean Energy Capital: How Houston Can Lead the Nation to a New Energy Future, comes a week before the Houston City Council will vote on energy efficiency standards for new residential buildings. Council members will have the opportunity to consider adopting codes that offer significantly greater energy efficiency at a cost that is quickly recouped by energy savings.

“Houston has firmly established a reputation as the ‘Energy Capital of the World,’ based on its status as the hub of America’s oil and gas industry. In recent years, however, Houston has begun to stake a claim as a clean energy capital as well,” said Tessa McClellan, Environment Texas Field Associate. “Houston must capitalize on this by deploying more clean energy strategies to position the Houston region as the energy capital of a cleaner, less fossil-fuel dependent world.”

In a year that saw threats of rolling blackouts and continued concerns about oil dependence, the report calculates the potential energy savings and emissions reductions of “zero energy homes”, rooftop solar, and electric vehicles.  The report highlights Houston’s establishment of strong energy efficiency standards, investment in renewable energy, and promotion of hybrid-electric vehicles. It also suggests policy makers should continue to adopt strong standards for energy efficiency, invest in rooftop solar, develop infrastructure for electric cars, and incentivize clean energy.

Representative Jessica Farrar, Ralph Parrott, President of Alternative Power Solutions, and Rick Ehrlich with Houston Electric Car Corporation joined Environment Texas Research and Policy Center in releasing today’s report in front of the Zemanek residence, one of the homes featured on the 2011 Solar Tour.

“Houston has a long history of energy leadership, and more recently, we’ve developed a reputation as a clean energy leader as well,” said Representative Jessica Farrar. “We need to take advantage of the momentum we’ve built and our potential for growth by continuing to invest in and promote clean energy technologies.”

The City of Houston has adopted strong, energy-saving building codes, ramped up purchases of clean, renewable energy, and begun laying the groundwork for widespread-adoption of electric cars. In 2008, Houston set standards for building energy efficiency that exceeded the international model standard by 15 percent. The report shows moving toward net-zero energy homes, which produce as much energy as they use, by 2030 could save roughly 7.8 percent of greater Houston’s annual electricity use. It would also prevent 2.3 million metric tons of global warming pollution, 1,150 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxide, and nearly 60 tons of highly toxic mercury. The Houston City Council will set new standards for energy efficiency in residential homes on December 7, 2011.

“Houston’s leadership in 2008 propelled the state to adopt minimum standards that match those of Houston,” McClellan said. “To maintain its roles as a leader in energy efficiency, Houston will need to once again set standards 15% stronger than the state minimum.”

Rep. Farrar also said the Houston City Council should adopt standards for residential buildings that secure 15 percent greater energy efficiency than the new state minimum.

The City of Houston is the largest municipal purchaser of renewable electricity in the country and was named a Solar America City in 2009 by the Department of Energy for its commitment to clean energy and work developing solar incentives.

“Alternative Power Solutions has created more than 50 jobs over the past 3 years in Texas and we are proud to be a part of the solar economy that is creating real, sustainable, domestic jobs. We’ve seen more than 400 percent growth in our business over each of the last four years.  In addition, we are working to help homeowners and businesses better control their energy costs while reducing harmful pollution,” said Ralph Parrot, Vice President of Business Development for Alternative Power Solutions.

The report shows that Houston could generate 5.4 billion kWh of solar electricity by achieving 15 percent of its solar rooftop potential. If Houston also worked to develop net-zero energy homes, energy savings could reach 9.2 billion kWh, allowing Greater Houston to avoid 5.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. These savings are equivalent to taking approximately one million cars off the road per year.

The City of Houston also has the third-largest hybrid-electric municipal vehicle fleet in the country, has installed dozens of electric vehicle charging stations for its municipal fleet, and has helped several private firms develop plans to build at least 1500 more publicly available electric vehicle charging stations. The new Environment Texas report finds that increasing electric vehicle sales to 22 percent of all new light-duty cars and trucks sold annually by 2030 would result in oil savings of more than 104 million gallons of gasoline per year.

“The only solution to pollution is to stop polluting. To make maximum personal use of renewable energy, the largest citizen impact item by far is the automobile,” said Rick Ehrlich with Houston Electric Cars Corporation. “It falls on committed municipalities to establish real incentives for citizens and fleets to acquire and use electric vehicles.”

Environment Texas suggests the City of Houston build upon its current track record as an environmental leader by implementing more clean energy policies and programs.

“Houston should facilitate the widespread installation of solar power, create incentive for solar and electric technologies, develop clean energy infrastructure, and adopt building codes 15 percent more energy efficient than the new state minimum,” McClellan said.