After the release of a staff memo recommending rejection, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) is widely expected to deny an energy efficiency rulemaking petition that had been supported by numerous environmental organizations and business groups. The PUC will announce a final decision at its meeting on Oct. 6 at 9:30 a.m. (livestream here). [Editor's note: Commissioners unanimously voted to deny our rulemaking petition.]
The petition, submitted by the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter in August, would have required Texas’s eight largest private utilities to increase their energy efficiency programs to levels comparable to those required by many other states. Its proposals would have helped residential and commercial customers reduce their energy usage, thus strengthening the grid and lowering bills. It also would have limited the outrageous bonuses that utilities can pay their shareholders using ratepayer money.
Commission staff claimed that they do not have the bandwidth to implement such a rulemaking now because they’re still busy with rulemakings based on 2021 legislation. They also referenced an upcoming stakeholder meeting on energy efficiency and noted that PUC Commissioner Kathleen Jackson has been tasked with all things energy efficiency.
“We have to wonder for how long PUC will keep kicking the energy efficiency can down the road,” said Cyrus Reed, conservation director of the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter. “This rulemaking was needed now – not next year or two years from now. Extreme weather and volatile gas prices are hurting our communities and our wallets, all while we still worry about the grid failing in the most energy-rich state in the nation. This denial largely amounts to another bureaucratic slowing down of real solutions that Texans deserve.”
Not surprisingly, six of the eight private utilities filed comments asking the PUC to deny the petition. Meanwhile, members of the public have been rallying at the PUC and calling for more energy efficiency at its meetings, which typically are attended just by corporate lobbyists. Almost three dozen organizations and small businesses urged the PUC to adopt the petition in a sign-on letter, and over 700 individuals supported our petition in a separate letter we submitted. In addition, a number of other organizations, business alliances, and individual businesses submitted comments supporting the petition or calling for another rulemaking embracing many of our proposals. Some of these supporters included:
- Google Inc.
- The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy
- City of Houston
- Environmental Defense Fund
- The Office of Public Utility Counsel
- South Central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource
- Recurve Analytics
- The Alliance for Retail Markets and Texas Energy Association for Marketers (collectively the REP Coalition)
- Texas Advanced Energy Business Alliance.
Sierra Club will participate in the Oct. 18 meeting and will continue to press these important issues and proposals. It remains to be seen if this meeting will result in the PUC taking any meaningful next steps on energy efficiency.