Energy Efficiency Could Save Texans $11.9 Billion on Electric Bills

AUSTIN, Texas, January 2, 2008 (ENS) – Texas could reduce electric usage by 23 percent if utilities invest more in efficiency measures, saving Texans as much $11.9 billion on their electric bills, according to a report written by an energy consulting firm for the state Public Utilities Commission.

The findings released in December support 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 when it convenes for the new session on January 13.

“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, an environmental advocacy group.

In 1999, Texas became the first state in the nation to pass an energy efficiency resource standard. But, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, today Texas ranks 25th in the nation for utility spending on efficiency.

Now more is being demanded of Texas utilities.

In 2007, lawmakers increased the amount of new electricity demand utilities had to meet through efficiency to 15 percent in 2008 and 20 percent in 2009.

They asked the PUC to study whether those goals could be raised to 30 percent by 2010 and 50 percent by 2015 and still be met cost-effectively.

The report, written by California energy consulting firm Itron with funding from the Public Utilities Commission, concludes that the goals proposed by the legislature for 2015 can be achieved by the majority of investor-owned electric utilities.

TXU’s Montecello power plant burns lignite and
sub-bituminous coal. (Photo credit unknown)

Some utilities will face substantially more difficulty than others in meeting the legislature’s preliminary energy savings goals because the goals are based on a percentage of incremental load growth rather on standards such as total system demand or electricity consumption,” the report states.

The study recommends the 30 percent milestone be delayed by two years, from 2010 to 2012, to give smaller utilities more time to “ramp up” their programs.

In December, a group of more than 100 well known Texans, including El Paso Mayor John Cook and former Shell Oil company president John Hofmeister, sent to the Legislature a letter asking the lawmakers to require utilities to eliminate the growth in demand for electricity by the year 2020 through investments in energy efficiency.

The new report finds that such a requirement is economically feasible and would save the state $2 on electricity costs for every dollar invested.

Texas environmental groups are pleased with the report’s findings.

“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,” said Cyrus Reed, conservation director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Reed suggests that the Legislature could reduce energy use, cut pollution and create jobs even more by improving building codes for new construction. He would like to see the energy efficiency programs adopted by fast-growing electric cooperative and city-owned utilities.

Low-income weatherization could be funded through the Systems Benefit Fund, Reed suggests, and the Texas LoanSTAR program for energy efficiency upgrades in public buildings could be expanded.

“The Legislature can put Texans back to work weatherizing homes, engineering high efficiency lighting systems, and putting solar panels on every rooftop in Texas,” Metzger said.

The report found that Texas utilities could reduce demand for electricity 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.

“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 believes that the report underestimates the state’s true potential for efficiency measures.

“We could save more than 1/5 of the energy we use just through retrofits alone,” he said. “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.”

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