TEXAS Falling Further Behind in Race for Energy Efficiency

AUSTIN, TX – In the middle of a statewide debate about how to ensure Texas has enough power to meet its needs, the State of Texas is falling behind other major states in utilizing the cheapest and cleanest energy resource – energy efficiency.

According to the 2012 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, released last week by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Texas is lagging by most measures of energy efficiency and retained its ranking as 33rd in the nation, a disappointing result given that in 1999 Texas became the first state in the nation to require its major utilities to run energy efficiency programs. The report looks at building energy codes, utility and public benefit energy efficiency programs, state government initiatives on energy efficiency, appliance and equipment standards, combined heat and power and transportation policies. Leading states included Massachusetts, California, and New York, but other large industrial states like Ohio (22), Pennsylvania (20), Colorado (14) and Michigan (12) ranked well above Texas.

“As the second most populous state in the country, and the leading user and producer of electricity, it is time for our Public Utility Commission (PUC), State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) and our legislature to learn the lessons from other states, and implement those programs and policies that can cost-effectively reduce electricity bills and electricity demand, lower emissions from power plants and grow jobs in Texas,” noted Cyrus Reed, Acting Chapter Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Reed said there were three areas where Texas leaders could immediately take action to improve our energy efficiency resource: utility efficiency programs, state building codes and natural gas efficiency programs.

“Our PUC just adopted a new rule that does raise our energy efficiency goals in 2013 for utilities to either 30% of growth in demand or 0.4% of peak demand, but they have put in such tight cost caps – about $1.20 per month per customer– that some utilities won’t even meet their goals in 2013,” Reed complained. “It is time for the PUC or the Legislature to adjust these caps and raise the goals so utilities have the flexibility to meet and exceed them in 2014.”

While Texas received relatively high marks for having adopting the 2009 International Residential Code for single-family homes and the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) for other construction back in 2010, the report noted that ten states had gone beyond 2009 codes, and two states – Maryland and Illinois – have already adopted the 2012 IECC as their minimum code.

“Right now, our Energy Systems Laboratory at Texas A&M has told the State Energy Conservation Office, under the leadership of State Comptroller Susan Combs, that Texas should adopt the 2012 IECC Code as the minimum standard,” noted Reed. “Combs and SECO should do it, because the average new home built under the 2012 standards would save from 10 to 20 percent in energy use compared to the current state standard.”

Finally, Reed noted that unlike other large gas-producing and consuming states, Texas has no requirement that natural gas utilities offer gas efficiency programs.

“The Railroad Commission should work with our gas utilities to offer consumers cost-effective gas efficiency programs like other states – even Oklahoma – have done. When even Oklahoma beats you on gas efficiency, you know you are falling behind.”

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