Texas can meet all our energy needs for next decade through efficiency alone, save $330 per household and create 130,000 new jobs says new report from Georgia Institute of Technology and Duke University

Texas is growing.  In fact, we’re one of the fastest growing areas of the country.  Growing communities and growing business usually means building more power plants, which would add to our already significant air quality problems not to mention all of the greenhouse gases we would spew.

But, rather than building Megawatts, we should be looking at Negawatts, or “creating” energy by simply using less of it, or at least so says a new study from Duke University’s Nichols Institute and Georgia Institute of Technology.

This would save us from not only pollution and global warming, but also from the cost of building new power plants.  Efficiency gives a double payback, because not only are you not paying for more oil, gas, and coal, you save money on your electric bills because you use less electricity.  And no, efficiency doesn’t mean turning off your air conditioner more in the summer so you sweat more– it means properly insulating your home to keep the cool in and the hot out, or vice versa in the winter, and it means using a better a/c unit that gives you more chills for less bills.

How much money? Well, investments in efficiency would save  $13.7 billion  in 2020 and $21.5 billion in 2030. These savings are equivalent to the amount of energy used by almost a million Texas households, or an average savings of $330 per household a year.  Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, we also get Jobs, Jobs, Jobs:  96,300 jobs by 2020, and 132,100 new jobs from efficiency in 2030.

And how do we get these magical green jobs and billions in savings? Why, through efficiency mandates, similar to the ones proposed in federal green energy bills like Waxman-Markey.  Unfortunately, those goals were too weak to really produce the type of change we need, so it’s up to the Senate to do better.  Early word of a draft bill by Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman doesn’t look promising, and could even be WORSE than the anemic efficiency investments and mandates in Waxman-Markey.

Original story in the Houston Chronicle:

Texas could halt energy consumption growth for the next 20 years if households and businesses adopt aggressive energy-efficient practices, according to a study released this week.

The research on energy efficiency in the South, conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology and Duke University’s Nicholas Institute — a nonpartisan research and policy-analysis institute that focuses on environmental issues — found that Texas has the potential to generate the equivalent of 17 power plants’ worth of electricity by 2020 just by becoming more energy efficient.

The study notes that Texas already has some energy-efficiency polices in place, but it needs additional policy initiatives to encourage households, businesses and industries to up their game.

Without energy efficiency, the state’s total energy consumption is projected to increase 18 percent in the next 20 years.

Energy-efficiency practices will result in $13.7 billion in total energy savings in 2020 and $21.5 billion in 2030, the study found. And 96,300 jobs can be made in 2020, with further growth to 132,100 jobs in 2030.

Policies needed to decrease energy consumption in homes, include stricter building codes, improve appliance standards and incentives, expand the Weatherization Assistance Program and retrofit incentives and increased equipment standards, the study said:

“Their implementation could reduce Texas’ projected residential consumption by about 9% (180 Trillion British thermal units) in 2020 and 14% (310 TBtu) in 2030.

This could mean energy required to power by 950,000 Texas households could be avoided. Another way to look at it would be an average of $330 in energy savings per year per household.

If Texas’ commercial sector adopted energy-efficiency policies, it could reduce consumption in 2010 by 250 TBtus. Efficiency in the industrial sector could save $404,000 annually, the study said.

And these energy savings could be made through new and existing technologies:

New residential products can provide greater energy savings without sacrificing performance. For instance, recently available heat pump water heaters can cut annual energy costs for water heating from 50-62% and pay back initial costs within three years.

Opportunities for commercial energy efficiency may be obtained through technologies like the geothermal heat pump (ground-source heat pump), which can reduce energy consumption by up to 44% when compared to air-source heat pumps and by up to 72% when compared to electric resistance heating with standard air-conditioning equipment. Though the installation cost is higher, the long lifetime of 20-25 years ensures energy bill saving benefits over time.

Super boilers, which represent over 95 percent fuel-to-steam efficiency, can be implemented in the industrial sector. This technology is able to improve heat transfer through the use of advanced firetubes with extended surfaces that help achieve a compact design through reducing size, weight, and footprint. The advanced heat recovery system combines compact economizers, a humidifying air heater, and a patented transport membrane condenser.

Overall, energy consumption in the South is expected to grow 16 percent between 2010 and 2030. If all Southern states adopted energy-efficiency policies, growth could stopped for the next 20 years, the full report said.

Energy savings in the 16 states that comprise the South would allow 25 gigawatts of old power plants to be retired and end the need to build 49 gigawatts of new plants to meet growth in electricity demand.

In 2020, energy bills in the South would be reduced by $41 billion, electricity rate increases would be moderated, 380,000 new jobs would be created, and the region‟s economy would grow by $1.23 billion.

The study found that energy efficiency would also conserve 8.6 gallons of
freshwater in 2020.

Currently, the 16 Southern states and District of Columbia account for more than half of the nation’s total industrial energy use, the study said. The region also uses 43 percent of the nation’s electric power, 40 percent of the energy consumed in residences and 38 percent of the energy used in commercial buildings.

Of note is the study’s breakdown of what factors might be influencing the “energy-intensive lifestyle” in the South:

  • the South‟s historically low electricity rates,
  • the significant heating and cooling loads that characterize many southern states,
  • its relatively weak energy conservation ethic (based on public opinion polls),
  • its low market penetration of energy-efficient products (based on purchase behavior) and
  • its lower than average expenditures on energy-efficiency programs.

The New York Times noted that a report by Forbes magazine in 2007 that ranked states according to carbon footprint, policy initiatives and energy consumption found the Southern states at the bottom of the list. Texas ranked 34th.

CleanEnergy.org pointed to this report by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency that also found the South lagging behind the rest of the country in energy efficiency.

The Hill’s E2 Wire said this study may come up in the next few weeks as the Senate climate bill continues to be pushed forward.

Democrats are pushing new renewable and energy efficiency standards to lower greenhouse gas emissions along with a cap on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

Historically, members from the Southeast have resisted the mandates because they fear they would raise rates for consumers in their states.

And while this is an oldie, we can’t help but throwing up for another view our favorite rap song about efficiency.  Please to enjoy “Double Panes”