Today, the Sierra Club called on Governor Greg Abbott to add to a special session for urgently needed solutions to help Texans through extreme temperatures and the grid crisis, as temperatures across Texas soar to record highs and electric bills reach unaffordable levels for families and businesses trying to stay cool.
The call comes on the heels of Abbott’s veto of SB 2453, a bill that would have led to more energy efficient buildings. In his veto, Abbott noted he did not object to the bill on its merits, but it was part of a larger political leverage play to cajole the legislature to pass his preferred version of property tax policies.
Sierra Club’s letter noted that, in the last week, Gov. Abbott has added some two dozen counties to a disaster declaration due to extreme weather, but in the meantime virtually every county in Texas is suffering from extreme heat fueled by climate change. Specifically, the Sierra Club asked the Governor to consider adding the following measures to a special session:
- Legislation similar to SB 258 (Eckhardt), a measure approved by the Senate but not the House, that would have for the first time updated energy efficiency goals for private utilities for the first time since 2011. Setting a one percent annual goal by 2030 for utility programs would help stabilize the grid and quadruple current savings goals.
- Legislation similar to HB 4811 (Anchia), a measure that passed the House but not theSenate, that would have created the Texas Energy Efficiency Council to help coordinate state agency and local utility programs to bring needed relief to Texans with programs that reduce energy use and bills, and also take advantage of hundreds of millions of dollars available in federal funds.
- Legislation similar to SB 2453 (Menéndez), vetoed by Gov. Abbott, which would have allowed the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) to set new energy efficiency construction standards for both state-funded and private buildings, subject to a rulemaking process and cost-benefit analysis.
- Direct bill relief for electric and gas customers by paying off securitized debt that is currently being paid back by electric and gas customers on a long-term basis as a result of Winter Storm Uri. SB 30 (the 2023 supplemental appropriations bill) as it passed the Senate included $3.8 billion in relief but that was not included in the version signed by the Governor.
While Texans are struggling through a heat wave, Sierra Club called out electric utilities for their proposed 2024 energy efficiency plans, which are small in size but large in performance bonuses. Since the proposed plans are for next year, the Sierra Club also asked Gov. Abbott to direct state agencies to maximize federal funding opportunities, such as rebates for modern heat pumps and weatherization funds, to bring as much relief to Texans as soon as possible this year
“The legislature made some progress on electric industry reform through measures like the PUCT sunset bill,” noted Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter Conservation Director Cyrus Reed. “However, they failed to pass any demand side solutions that would help Texans through extreme weather events like this heat wave.. Governor Abbott has the power to help millions of Texans now and in the future by taking these bipartisan actions and adding these items to a special session."