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Texas energy companies, leaders look to improve energy efficiency programs

Power companies, energy efficiency advocates, lobbyists, consultants and state leaders are looking at ways to increase energy savings.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: The residential energy efficiency amount was updated and load management data was added to the story.

Energy leaders said they will try to create a better standard for energy efficiency in Texas.

The Public Utility Commission regulates electricity in Texas. On Tuesday, it hosted the Fall Energy Efficiency Implementation Project meeting.

Consulting firm Tetra Tech Inc. released a report on the State’s energy efficiency implementation. It showed power companies met legislative demands and had the largest demand reductions and energy savings than the five previous years.

“The utilities continue to significantly exceed their legislated demand reduction goals; however, this is due primarily to the load management programs … if demand reductions from load management programs were excluded, utilities only met the legislated demand goal once in the last five years (2020),” the report stated.

When the State and energy companies asked users to cut back on power, residents and commercial users responded with thousands of kilowatts saved.

The report shows, “The statewide program year (PY) 2021 (PY2021) evaluated gross savings from residential sector programs (excluding load management) were:

  • 126,187 kilowatt (kW) (demand reduction); and
  • 383,530,997 kWh (energy savings).”

For residential load management, the report shows,  “The total PY2021 evaluated savings for the four utilities (CenterPoint, Oncor, El Paso Electric, and AEP Texas) were:

  • 72,848 kW (demand reduction), and
  • 2,899,088 kWh (energy savings).”

The report shows, “The statewide program year (PY) 2021 (PY2021) evaluated gross savings from commercial sector programs were:

  • 83,314 kilowatt (kW) (demand reduction), and
  • 387,003,857 kWh (energy savings).”

Commercial load management in the report shows, “The total PY2021 evaluated savings of all eight commercial load management programs were:

  • 288,304 kW (demand reduction), and
  • 1,220,194 kWh (energy savings).”

During the meeting, energy experts talked about ways to save more.

“It's never going to be perfect. But we also try to remove barriers and target new technologies as identified,” Derek Neumann, senior engineer at Frontier Energy Inc. said.

The report showed utility companies added new winter load management programs after Winter Storm Uri in February 2021. That storm left millions without power for nearly a week. Hundreds of people died across Texas.

“The current focus is definitely on outreach and information and saying these are the programs that are available,” said Eleanor D'Ambrosio with the Texas Energy Association for Marketers (TEAM).

Energy leaders discussed ways to increase energy savings. Ideas include ways to make heat pumps available to more people, better insulate homes and encourage smart thermostat participation.

But energy savings come at a cost.

"As consumers use less electricity, revenue goes down for TDUs. The question is how do we compensate for that," Garry Jones, director of energy efficiency at Oncor Electric Delivery, said.

The report showed Oncor was the first company to offer a winter load management pilot on Dec. 1, 2021.

“Can we at least get to sort of the middle of the pack of states? Like, can we at least get to Arkansas levels of energy efficiency?” said Craig Nazor with the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter.

Energy efficiency advocates said Texas falls behind every other state in energy efficiency demands.

“The main message is we can do more and we can work together collaboratively,” Nazor said.

The report looked at the deregulated market in Texas. Electric cooperatives and municipal utilities were not included in the report.

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