As the brutal summer of 2022 at least has an ending in sight, looking back on what transpired and what could/will happen as the legislative session of 2023 looms around the corner, leads to the question…what is the breaking point? What is the breaking point for us as Texans, and what is the breaking point for legislatures as they continue to kick the proverbial can down the road in making substantive changes to the way energy efficiency is viewed and “used” as a force multiplier for the Texas power grid.
With power reserves, on more than one occasion, being less than the “buffer” that ERCOT traditionally operates within, energy efficiency could have played a major role in increasing that reserve component, and in essence lowering the cost of power to all Texans. 105 degrees, or higher at times, accompanied by increasing energy demand additions to the grid as homes and business come online each day are driving the margin for ERCOT in an increasingly volatile direction. For reference, one megawatt of power is required to operate roughly 200 homes on a hot summer day.
Add in other obstacles, such as the lack of wind during the summer of 2022 due to normal and in some cases extreme weather phenomenon that reduce that normally abundant natural resource, inadequate transmission to get wind and solar from south and west Texas out to much needed congestion areas, and in the end what we have are Texans wondering if they are going to be hit by rolling blackouts and sky high electric costs during one of the hottest, if not the hottest, summer on record across the Lone Star State. While it shouldn’t be necessary, we must clarify that renewables are not driving the increased megawatts or the lack of reserve within ERCOT’s market. They are, in fact, helping to keep energy prices lower than they otherwise would be for Texans by offsetting the need for costly generation plants.
Sadly, as SPEER has been touting, over the last decade had there been stronger measures put into place to offer more energy efficiency within the market, that margin of buffer, or reserve, could be MUCH larger today. Using less energy by all is a continual FORCE MULTIPLIER that helps to offset the increasing strain on the Texas power grid through an overall reduction in the amount of energy being consumed by the state. Energy Efficiency would not stop the grid from having resiliency issues, or even stop the potential for rolling blackouts, but energy efficiency would help alleviate the need to build more polluting and expensive fossil fuel power plants and would ease transmission congestion as efficiency allows us to perform the same tasks, while using less energy. Implementing more efficiency measures would save Texans MILLIONS OF DOLLARS in cost each year.
Texas remains at the top of the heap in one very dubious honor…having the MOST energy efficiency savings potential. What does this mean? Texans could save more than 15% of their cost in electricity by 2035 if stronger energy efficiency measures were implemented by the utilities. This could save Texans well over $1 billion dollars on their power costs during that time, and could be closer to $2 billion based on the average costs per MWh during that time.
Are we at the Breaking Point? That is tough to say, but one thing is for sure…. we as Texans need more energy efficiency opportunities across the board to help ensure reliable and affordable power to help our growing state survive.