Tag Archives: Efficient energy use

Texas Bi-Partisan Victory for Energy Efficiency

Oooooo la la!  Victories like this are sweet in the current Legislature and we are HAPPY.  Thank you, Legislators!

Today, the Texas House of Representatives passed SB 1125, an overhaul of the state-required utility energy efficiency programs,  on third reading on a 99-34 vote.

The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Republican Senator Carona and in the House by Democratic Representative Anchia enjoyed bipartisan support.  It updates the energy efficiency programs that investor-owned utilities are required to manage by increasing and updating the goal for Energy Efficiency to 30 % of load growth by 2013, while transitioning to an equivalent percentage of peak winter and summer demand, and continuing to grow the programs beyond 2013.

The bill also requires ERCOT, the operators of Texas’s electrical grid, to allow market-based demand response programs for all customers, and allows utilities outside the competitive areas to directly interact with their customers on energy efficiency programs.

“This bipartisan bill should help customers gain more access to energy efficiency programs throughout the state while growing green jobs,” noted Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Energy efficiency is the cheapest, quickest and cleanest way to meet our energy needs.”
For more information, contact Cyrus Reed, 512-740-4086

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Changes in Committee Heads in House, Solar Legislation and Sunset heat up

So the Legislature is moving. The budget hearings on the House side began already, with key agencies up for public testimony beginning early Monday morning = including the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality — in House Appropriations, again led by Jim Pitts. Much as we like to malign the agency for failing to protect public health, that doesn’t mean we want major cuts to their programs. Look for more info on it here — on this blog in coming days.

IN other leg news from the Capitol, some key committees changed heads. Most notably for energy and the environment, Byron Cook is no longer chair of Environmental Regulation, but instead will be the head of State Affairs, which often deals with issues related to energy and the electric grid. Leaving his post as head of State Affairs is Burt Solomons, who will still have a seat at the table, but now heads over to Redistricting Committee, which may take some time. Taking over the reins at Environmental Regulation is Republican Wayne Smith from the gulf coast. Energy Resources, which will deal with natural gas, as well as likely some renewable and energy efficiency issues, is still being lead by Republican Dallas-area Jim Keffer. Unfortunately, one of our strongest allies on environmental issues — Rafael Anchia — is no longer on that committee, instead being placed over on Land Resources

In Sunset news, the leaders of the bills have yet to be announced, but in the Senate, inside sources tell us Senator Hegar will be the lead on Railroad Commission, and Senator Huffman will be lead on TCEQ. Bonnen, Vice-Chair of Sunset, will decide next week on House sponsors.

Solar legislation is also heating up — Senator Fraser filed his solar incentive bill — SB 492, which would create a state solar incentive for both rooftop and utility-scale solar, while Senator Seliger filed his Clean Energy Districts — allowing cities to loan out money to individuals for solar, water conservation and energy efficiency — and then pay it back over time through property taxes – as SB 459. Senator Watson’s Non-Wind Renewable Bill — SB 330 — was referred to Senator Fraser’s Natural Resources Committee, though a hearing has not been set. In energy efficiency news, Senator Corona filed SB 552, which would create a Energy Efficiency Coordinating Council between the different state agencies to coordinate programs and policy on energy efficiency.  All three of these bills are supported by the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director, Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club

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Energy Efficiency produces jobs says Businesses for Energy Efficient Texas, Texas is Hot and Sierra Club at forum at the legislature

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.

Ringdale shows off their energy efficient LED lighting manufactured in Georgetown.

Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director, Sierra Club

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Big Voting Victory for Clean Energy…in Charlotte Building Codes Meeting

New Building Codes Can Save Texas Home and Business Owners $500/Year, Reduce Air Pollution

AUSTIN—Largely unnoticed in the shadow of upcoming midterm elections, the International Code Council—a body of building officials from local and state governments across the country—convened in Charlotte, North Carolina during the last week of October to make what is arguably the most significant energy policy decision of 2010. The Council meets every three years to consider updates to the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), the standard by which new homes and businesses are built, and this year, they voted overwhelmingly for stronger energy efficiency standards.

Over 400 delegates—including representatives from Houston, San Antonio, and other cities across Texas—voted on the new codes, which represent a major increase in the stringency of energy provisions for both homes and commercial buildings. If adopted statewide, the new code would represent at least a 30% improvement in the energy performance of buildings compared to the requirements currently in place.

“The new energy code protects new home and business owners by locking in energy savings at the beginning of the building’s life, when it is most efficient to do so,” stated Joyce Yao, Clean Energy Associate for Environment Texas. “In addition, buildings account for 40 percent of the country’s energy use and half of our global warming pollution, so improving the energy performance of Texas buildings will help move us towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.”

“We are proud of the efforts of our joint partners with the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition to get our Texas cities to send representatives to this important decision-making meeting, and we are especially proud of our Texas cities, whose representatives supported moving our national building codes to be 30% more efficient than the 2006 code,” noted Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Their action will save Texans money as cities begin to move from the 2009 IECC codes to the 2012 codes over the coming years, and help reduce pollution from power plants, while creating jobs in the private sector.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the new energy codes have the potential to net Texas homeowners an average of $500 each year in reduced energy costs, even considering the incrementally higher cost of constructing a more efficient new home. The codes call for the use of “off-the-shelf” measures that are already used by builders across the country, including better insulation, more efficient windows, and sealing of leaky heating and cooling ducts.

While the national model energy codes are now 30% stronger, those energy savings are not yet guaranteed for Texas home and business owners. Each state will now consider adoption of the new codes, which could occur as soon as the beginning of next year.

“Code officials today passed measures that increase energy efficiency and will save on electricity, gas, and fuel oil bills for people across the U.S,” commented Steve Rosenstock, manager at Edison Electric Institute, a coalition that represents private utilities across the nation

Recently in Texas, the State Energy Conservation Office adopted the 2009 IECC code as the minimum code for new construction, beginning in April of 2011. Many cities like El Paso, Austin, Waco, San Antonio and Laredo have already adopted the 2009 IECC.

“Our next step is to encourage states and localities to begin to adopt the 2012 IECC so that all new homebuyers will benefit from improved efficiency,” stated Reed.

“The officials who have supported these dramatic improvements to the energy efficiency of our nation’s buildings deserve tremendous credit. They’ve given Texas an important tool to help meet our nation’s energy, environmental, and economic challenges. Adoption of these changes will save home and business owners billions of dollars and keep energy money in our local economies while avoiding the pollution that comes from burning fossil fuels,” said Yao.

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Energy Codes: El Paso Does It! Corpus Next?

On September 21st, the El Paso City Council approved new building codes, including the 2009 IECC energy code, designed to make new homes, commercial buildings and businesses more energy efficient. The measure — required by a new state ruling supported by Sierra Club from the State Energy Conservation Office –earlier this year, will mean El Paso becomes the latest city to adopt the latest version of the IECC codes, joining San Antonio, Waco, College Station, Austin, and Beaumont among others. The new codes are some 10 to 15 percent more energy efficient than existing state codes. While Dallas and Houston rely on the 2006 IECC codes, they have local amendments that already meet the 2009 IECC standards, though Houston will be proposing some additional amendments soon. At the El Paso meeting, both the AIA — the Architects — and the local Homebuilders supported the adoption of the 2009 codes, only a few months after the Homebuilders had vociferously opposed it after which Sierra Club and the City sponsored a forum to reassure folks it wouldn’t break the bank. In other local news, District 2 Councilmember Susie Byrd is working on a local resolution supported by the Sierra Club, many local businesses and the American Institute of Architects local chapter to create a greenbuilding task force to look at other measures to increase energy efficiency in local buildings. Look for a public meeting on the resolution October 5th.

Meanwhile, the Builders Association of Corpus Christ and their local greenbuilding effort, Coastal Bend Green Built, is teaming up with the City and utility AEP to begin discussing the mandatory adoption of the 2009 IECC code in the coming months. Corpus already has a robust greenbuilding program, but how the new codes would impact their energy star homes has some builders concerned. Sierra Club will be working with our friends in the building industry and the City to suggest local amendments that can help Corpus save money, save energy and produce local jobs! Look for news here on an upcoming public forum on the issue.

Bryan has also announced they will be holding meetings on the 2009 IECC codes in the coming weeks as cities throughout Texas get more efficient. Never knew building codes could be so exciting.

Finally, a bunch of cities will be sending folks to the International Code Council meeting next month in North Carolina, where the 2012 codes will be discussed. Sierra Club is part of a coalition supporting the 30% solution to make energy codes even more efficient.

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