PUC Report: Texas Can Meet Growing Energy Needs with Efficiency Measures

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Efficiency Investments Could Save Texas Consumers $11.9 Billion

AUSTIN- A new report commissioned by the state Public Utilities Commission shows that Texas could reduce electric usage by 23% if utilities invest more in efficiency measures, saving Texans as much $11.9 billion on their electric bills. The findings bolster the call by a coalition of local elected officials, business leaders, community groups and faith leaders for the Legislature to increase the mandate on utilities for energy efficiency investments.

“This report is technical proof of what is already common sense: Using our electricity more efficiently will save Texans money and avoid the need for new dirty power plants,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “The Legislature can put Texans back to work weatherizing homes, engineering high efficiency lighting systems, and putting solar panels on every rooftop in Texas.”

Last week, a group of more than 100 prominent Texans, including former Shell Oil company President John Hofmeister and El Paso Mayor John Cook, sent a letter calling on the Legislature to require utilities to eliminate the growth in demand in electricity by the year 2020 through investments in energy efficiency, saving two percent of peak power by that year alone. The PUC report, mandated by the Legislature in 2007 and written by energy consulting firm Itron, confirms that such a requirement is economically feasible and would save the state $2 on electricity costs for every dollar invested.

“The PUC report gives the Legislature the  recommendation to move beyond today’s narrow growth in demand goal toward actually cutting energy use and peak demand through our electric utilities,” noted Cyrus Reed, conservation director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “But the report could look further, beyond the investor-owned utility programs themselves, and the Legislature can reduce energy use, cut pollution and create jobs even more by improving building codes for new construction, expanding the programs to fast-growing electric cooperative and city-owned utilities, funding low-income weatherization through the Systems Benefit Fund, expanding the Texas LoanSTAR program for energy efficiency upgrades in public buildings, and creating a parallel on-site renewable goal of 2,000 MWs by 2020.”  

In 1999, Texas became the first state in the nation to pass an energy efficiency resource standard. However, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), today Texas ranks just 25th in the nation for utility spending on efficiency. By offering expanded programs to promote home energy audits and weatherization programs, switching out incandescent lighting for energy efficient compact fluorescents, providing rebates to consumers to replace old appliances with new energy efficient appliances, and providing incentives for manufacturers to replace inefficient equipment with more efficient technologies, the report found that Texas could reduce demand for electricity.  

“This study shows how we can save money while reducing pollution and creating jobs”, said Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. Smith pointed out that the report likely underestimates the true potential for efficiency measures. “We could save more than 1/5 of the energy we use just through retrofits alone. It does not include the savings from building integrated solar, better building efficiency standards, use of high tech meters to reduce peak demand, nor the use of combined heating and power equipment to recycle energy all of which could reduce significant amounts of energy.”