HOUSTON - Energy efficiency programs in Texas reduced air pollution by as much as put out by 2.2 million cars, while saving consumers billions of dollars last year, according to new data obtained from the Energy System Laboratory at Texas A&M University. Community groups shared the data as part of Energy Efficiency Day, an annual nationwide event (energyefficiencyday.org) held on October 5 and officially recognized by proclamations issued by the cities of Dallas and Austin.
“We can have better health and a more sustainable environment, while also paying less for utility bills,” said Brian Zabcik, Clean Air & Water Advocate at Environment Texas. The member-based nonprofit group today also released It’s Time to Take Charge: A Citizens’ Guide to Saving Energy, which guides the public through the steps that they can take to conserve energy and reduce wasted energy. “Efficiency improvements pay for themselves,” Zabcik said. “This guide is designed to help families cut through the clutter of information and pick the improvements that will help them minimize energy waste.”
According to data obtained from Energy System Laboratory at Texas A&M University, last year, tighter building efficiency standards, utility rebates and other efficiency programs reduced air pollution by as much as 2.2 million cars and saved enough water to fill 1143 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Efficiency requirements on single family homes saved consumers $6.7 billion last year while utility efficiency programs save Texans another $50 million each year on their electric bills.
Every year, BakerRipley helps hundreds of Houstonians renovate their homes to save energy and save money. “Our Weatherization Assistance Program is an energy efficiency program that enables low income families to permanently reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient,” said Sommer Harrison, BakerRipley’s Home Restoration Program Director. “Neighbors we work with see a significant reduction of their energy bills.”
BakerRipley can help families with things such as: sealing air conditioner ducts so that cold air leaking into the attic is reduced; adding attic and wall insulation to today’s recommended levels; installing solar screens to block heat from entering through the windows; replacement of inefficient refrigerators and air conditioners; and installation of energy efficient light bulbs which use 70% less energy and produce less heat.
Experts estimate that the United States could reduce its overall energy consumption by 40–60% by 2050 simply by using better technologies and eliminating waste across our economy. Much of the energy waste is due to inadequate insulation, inefficient heating and cooling systems, and out-of-date appliances and technologies. But our individual, everyday actions — forgetting to shut off the lights, overheating our water heaters, machine-washing half-full loads of clothing — also add up.
In 1999, Texas became the first state in the nation to adopt an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard, but since then has fallen significantly behind in energy efficiency. While 40 states saw increases in energy efficiency compared to total energy consumption between 2008 and 2016, Texas was among the states that experienced decreases, according to a July report by Environment Texas Research and Policy Center.
Among the changes that Texas could embrace to boost its use of clean energy technologies:
Raising the energy efficiency goal for private transmission and distribution utilities to one percent of sales;
Allowing distributed resources like energy storage and local solar installations to bid directly into the energy market;
Creating regulations to allow “non-wire” alternatives like battery storage and demand response to be used as transmission assets by transmission and distribution utilities.
“Americans across the country are shifting to cleaner, less risky energy sources such as solar and wind, but regardless of where our energy comes from, wastefulness is unacceptable,” concluded Zabcik. “Creating a clean, healthy future for our kids and grandkids will require not just replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources, but also maximizing how much energy we get from those renewable sources.”
Environment Texas is a non-profit advocate for clean air, clean water and open spaces.
BakerRipley (formerly Neighborhood Centers) provides a range of resources for low-income families and individuals at locations through Houston.
HARC is a nonprofit research hub providing independent analysis on energy, air, and water issues to people seeking scientific answers. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization building a sustainable future in which people thrive and nature flourishes.