About 120 folks huddled together at the Legislative Conference Center over at the capitol yesterday to hear why Energy Efficiency is the “Conservative Approach to Securing Texas’s Energy Future.” Sponsored by the Businesses for an Energy Efficient Texas, TexasisHot.org, Sierra Club, EDF, Public Citizen, and state Representative Rafael Anchia and Senator Carona, a mixed group of state representatives, staffers, and interested parties heard that businesses from HEB to Texas Instruments had fully embraced energy efficiency as a good business model, and the need for state policies — including incentives — to drive people and businesses toward the practice of avoiding electricity through new technologies and behavioral changes. Joining the presenters were a number of companies showing off the latest technologies in energy efficiency, including thermal cameras, LED lighting produced up the road in Georgetown, computer controlled thermostats, and advanced computer energy tracking technologies.
Theresa Gross, with the PUC, pointed out that PUC required energy efficiency programs had already saved enough energy — about 1400 MWs since the programs began — to prevent four 350 MW peaking gas plants from having to be built, while saving money and producing jobs. Currently, PUC is raising the required goals on investor-owned utilities from 20 percent of growth in demand today to 30 percent of growth in demand by 2013. Rep. Anchia said he and Corona are considering legislation to increase the goals in a few years and grow the energy efficiency programs, based on a 2009 PUC study.
HEB’s Bob Manning pointed out that with 300 stores spending some $130 million in utility bills each year, energy efficiency has become over the last five years a huge investment and priority of the food retail giants. He pointed out that while the company has saved $22 million in utility bills over the last five years through these efforts, regular paying customers at HEB are also suffering from high electricity bills, and sometimes it is a choice between food, gas and electric bills. Therefore, it is good for his business and the state to promote energy efficiency for commercial and residential folks.
Jeff Moe, with the company Ingersoll Rand, pointed out that while his manufacturing facilities in Tyler and Waco had cut their own energy use, his company actually sells the energy efficiency products like HVAC systems and insulation that help make people more efficient with their energy use. He called on the legislature to adopt policies that helped drive technology and innovation.
Finally, Paul Westbrook said that at Texas Instruments not only were they making their chips using a fraction of the energy they used to through green building features at their manufacturing facilities, they were participating in the development of chips and other technology that used less energy. He said while wind and solar were sexy and needed to be part of Texas’s energy mix, energy efficiency was the nerdy stuff which actually makes good business sense right away. He noted that for every 100 units of fuel input into a power plant, only 9.5 units actually makes it to the end user as electricity because of the extraction of fossil fuel, inefficiencies in the plant, and losses on the transmission and distribution system.
Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director, Sierra Club