Efficiency is what Texas Can (and Should) Do Best

SPEERI have been involved in Texas’ energy sector for a long time, particularly from an environmental perspective.

I was there when the state’s metropolitan centers and their robust industrial sectors were challenged to reduce ozone-forming pollution. I was there when Texas deregulated its energy market to increase competition, improve choices for residents and businesses, and lower electricity prices. And now, I’m here to witness the state’s transition to a clean energy economy – one that harnesses more West Texas wind energy, rooftop solar, and natural gas (with the right controls in place) than any other time in history.

The one thing that ties all of these events together is efficiency – something Texas has led in the past.

Energy efficiency is Texas’ most cost-effective way to reduce energy use and carbon pollution from power plants. It also creates other benefits to the power grid, like improving reliability and lowering costs for infrastructure maintenance. Plus, saving energy saves water, which is critical in a state like Texas under the pressure of a multi-year drought.

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Texas was actually the first state to set an energy efficiency resource standard, when the electricity market was restructured in 1999. Since then, 25 other states have followed Texas’ lead by creating an energy efficiency goal.

Unfortunately, Texas’ targets and national rankings have been on a downward slope ever since. But, I’ve seen Texas put its top minds to work before and innovate to lead the nation. And, last week, our energy efficiency experts laid out a blueprint to do exactly that.

The South-central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource (SPEER), of which our own Jim Marston is a board member, recently released a series of recommendations developed by more than 23 individuals, including former regulators and legislators, representatives of electric companies, non-profits, manufacturers, academic institutions, and more.

This report explicitly asks our elected officials “to designate and empower an existing state agency and hold it accountable for proposing, developing, and publicizing coordinated policies that advance energy and water efficiency.” Further, it lists seven commonsense, achievable policy recommendations that will put Texas on a path toward lower electricity bills, job creation, national competitiveness, and improved public health. These recommendations include:

  • Coordinate state activities to support energy efficiency
  • Ensure high energy performance in new buildings
  • Enable access to financing for energy efficiency upgrades
  • Align electric companies’ interests with increasing efficiency programs
  • Leverage the smart grid to drive efficiency actions
  • Use energy efficiency to improve air quality and regulatory compliance
  • Increase public sector efficiency to save taxpayer money

I’m encouraged to see a well laid out plan for Texas, especially given McKinsey & Co. estimates that by 2020, the U.S. could reduce electricity use by 23 percent, save more than $1 trillion dollars, and cut more than a gigaton greenhouse gas emissions – the equivalent of taking the entire U.S. fleet of passenger vehicles and light trucks off the road – with efficiency measures alone.

As our state leaders convene in Austin to create the policies that will dictate Texas’ future, I impress upon them to lead on energy efficiency. It is, after all, part of Texas’ history.

If you are interested in discovering the benefits of energy efficiency, it’s time to join the conversation. In April, SPEER will hold its 3rd Annual Summit in Dallas to feature members of its Commission on Texas Energy Efficiency Policy, as well as host a series of workshops highlighting efficiency financing, energy codes, local government initiatives, smart energy, efficiency and air quality, and utility efficiency programs. I, for one, will be attending and I hope to see you there.

This post originally appeared on our Texas Clean Air Matters blog.


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