Energy experts and policymakers are asking questions about the Texas electricity grid. In February, customers experienced several days of power outages due to the winter storm. In April and June, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) appealed to customers to conserve energy as reserves ran low. Deciding how to stabilize the grid for the years to come is, therefore, a key question. It’s made even more urgent because energy demand is expected to grow with a rising population and more extreme weather events.
Alison Silverstein is a former staffer with the Public Utility Commission of Texas. She believes the answer lies in reducing energy demand. She argues that more investment in energy efficiency, demand response, and energy storage could cut peak energy demand in Texas. One term commonly used to describe these policies is demand-side response.
According to Silverstein, insulating Texas homes to make them more energy efficient could cut electricity usage by 11 to 14 percent. Currently, overall energy demand goes up by about 44 percent when the weather gets cold. A large reason for this spike is that many Texas homes lack insulation. Insulating homes would help keep them warm in the winter and stop them from warming up so rapidly on hot days.
“The Houston Advanced Research Council estimates that we could weatherize 250,000 Texas homes for $802 million per year,” Silverstein writes in a recent article for Utility Dive. This action would save 672 megawatts and 1,133 gigawatt-hours of energy. In addition, it would reduce customer electric bills by $159 million.