By Kenneth Flippin
Original article here
Despite the horror of Winter Storm Uri, when many Texans froze to death of hypothermia in their own homes, the Legislature has not taken a full court press approach to preventing disaster in the future. It has moved forward Senate Bill 3, which intends to remedy the aspects of our energy infrastructure that failed us, yet the bill in its current form focuses only on the production side of the energy equation. There is no question that a lack of weatherization of power plants contributed greatly to the failure of the grid, and the provisions in SB 3 do make significant progress toward fixing this half of the energy equation.
What SB 3 is missing is the demand half of the energy equation that failed just as spectacularly as the supply side. Texas homes and businesses were ill equipped to deal with plummeting temperatures. The inefficiency of the aging Texas housing and commercial building stock wasted energy so badly that even if all the power plants that failed because of lack of weatherization had been protected, we still would have been far short of the power needed to prevent the extended blackouts.
Texas led the nation 20 years ago in energy efficiency when we were the first to adopt an energy efficiency standard, pushing our utilities to offer rebates and low interest loans to weatherize or install energy efficient appliances, but Texas has plummeted to 29th because the electric utilities have allowed these programs to lag far behind other states.
These same electric utility companies quietly opposed and killed Senate Bill 243 and House Bill 4556 which would have pushed them to grow the weatherization and energy efficiency programs they already have running to create energy savings of 1 percent over four years. It is a very modest proposal similar to legislation that kick-started energy efficiency standards and this new 1 percent increased efficiency could help up to a million Texans use mostly their own money to weatherize their homes or housing units. For every $1 investment in energy efficiency, consumers would save $2.80 on their monthly bills. These improvements increase the value of the home while giving the Texans it shelters increased protection from extreme cold and heat even if the power goes out.
The energy saved through home energy efficiency improvements cost less per watt and is cleaner per watt than any energy produced by either fossil or renewable sources. Utilities like Oncor that manage and fund these programs know very well that the best investment our utilities can make to ensure the lights are kept on during the next weather-created energy crisis is a more efficient housing stock.
There has been plenty of outrage at the energy companies of all stripes dominated by corporations with lobbyists ready to defend their shortcomings However, little attention has been paid to energy demand which is where we the people live (and die) when the power does go out.
There are some lawmakers from both parties who understand this and support it, but many are still stuck thinking that building more big, expensive, polluting power plants is the way to go rather than focusing on the most affordable energy which is the energy we save when we make our homes energy efficient.
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