Clean Energy Program FAQs

Q: What is the energy landscape in the state of Texas?

A: Texas leads the nation in total electricity consumption, and, on a per capita basis, Texans consume more electricity than the national average. Widespread use of air conditioning and a relatively heavy reliance on electricity for residential energy needs contribute to the high consumption levels.

Texas also has a high percentage of large, energy-intensive industries, including petroleum refining and petrochemical production, aluminum and glass manufacturing, and the paper and wood industries.

Both residential and commercial electricity consumption have increased in recent years as the Texas population and economy have grown. Industrial consumption has shown little growth, fluctuating year to year due to economic conditions, energy prices, and efficiency improvements.

To date, Texas has not pursued significant energy efficiency measures as aggressively as other states. The Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), an independent 501(c)(3) governed by a board of directors and subject to oversight by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Legislature, manages the flow of electric power to 23 million Texas customers (representing 85 percent of the state’s electric load).

ERCOT and the PUC debate whether there is adequate generation capacity in the system to ensure electricity reliability in the future. As the agencies make decisions about the appropriate wholesale market structure for ERCOT to avoid blackouts, the foundation supports efforts to promote the adoption of strategies such as demand response that can quickly and efficiently address reliability problems. During the hot, dry summer of 2011, ERCOT implored Texans to cut back on electricity demand. Residents and industries responded much more vigorously than expected, demonstrating a significant capacity to conserve energy through demand response measures. 

Q: What is the intent of the foundation’s Clean Energy Program?

A: The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation’s Clean Energy Program focuses on the following priorities to promote the cleanest and water-leanest electricity market possible in the state of Texas: 

  1. efforts to bring an array of diverse, centrist-thinking communities to bear on clean energy policy issues.
  2. policies and innovative mechanisms that increase cost-effective energy efficiency activities.
  3. the development of renewable energy markets to help fill the efficiency gap in electricity supply.
  4. reduced reliance on traditional coal-fired electricity production.
  5. continued in-depth analysis and policy development related to the energy-water nexus. 

Q: Why is renewable energy good for the state of Texas?

A: Texas has a tremendous opportunity to benefit from a green economy based on clean energy sources. With abundant sun and wind, Texas is blessed with plentiful natural resources for clean energy generation, a vibrant high technology industry. With increased reliance on renewable energy resources, Texas can dramatically cut its greenhouse gases and still meet its projected growth in demand for electricity while simultaneously adding new jobs in the state and conserving the precious water resources required for electricity generation.

Q: Why is energy efficiency a top priority?

A: The practice of energy efficiency is the least costly, most abundant “resource” in Texas, and it is an obvious solution to meeting much of the state of Texas’s future energy needs.

The state can meet a significant portion of load growth with energy efficiency practices, but there are a number of obstacles that are keeping this from happening. For instance, industrial energy consumers—the real driver of energy policy in Texas—vigorously oppose public policy that mandates or provides incentives for energy efficiency.

Analyses commissioned by the foundation’s grantees, and confirmed by a state report on energy efficiency potential in Texas, conclude that half of the predicted load growth due to a growing population and increased demand for electricity can be met utilizing efficiency measures. These include more energy efficient buildings and incentive programs, which would also provide tens of thousands of jobs.

Research shows that energy efficiency

  1. pays for itself quickly;
  2. reduces healthcare costs through reduced air emissions;
  3. cuts water demand in an era of scarcity; and
  4. saves billions of dollars for retail customers.

Q: Why are energy efficient building codes and appliance standards important?

A: Energy efficient building codes and appliance standards are important for the following reasons:

  1. The state of Texas leads the nation in the generation and consumption of electricity.
  2. Buildings and homes represent 40 percent of the state’s overall energy use and are recognized as a key opportunity for efficiency gains.
  3. Building codes for new construction are improved on a regular basis, but the state must follow a Byzantine and inefficient system of adopting the new codes at the state and local levels.
  4. Retrofitting existing buildings to be more energy efficient is an important step in reducing the electricity load in Texas and creating stable, skilled jobs.

Q: Why does the foundation support the reduced use of coal for power generation?

A: The motivation to cut reliance on coal is driven simply by environmental and health protection while benefiting the state’s economy. George P. Mitchell was a vocal advocate for research and planning for a more sustainable planet since the early 1970s.  

With greater energy efficiency, building codes, new low-cost natural gas supplies, and expanded renewable resources, the state of Texas no longer needs to rely on coal for power generation supply.

The foundation is confident this approach will add to, rather than subtract from, job gains in the state of Texas.

© 2012-2017 Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.