Energy experts from across Texas converged Tuesday on Tyler for the inaugural Energy Innovation Conference.
Austin-based Sustainable Energy & Economic Development Coalition, or SEED, and Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association sponsored the conference, put on by Clean Energy Coops and attended by about 65 people at the Tyler Rose Garden, organizers said.
Alison Silverstein, president of The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, was the keynote speaker at the all-day event. She is a consultant, lecturer and writer on electric transmission and reliability, infrastructure security, energy efficiency, smart grid, renewable energy and technology adoption issues.
Ms. Silverstein replaced Tyler native Pat Wood, chairman of the board for Dynegy, Inc., as keynote speaker after Wood was called by Gov. Rick Perry to help Brandy Marty, newly appointed Public Utility Commissioner.
Ms. Silverstein worked as senior policy advisor to Wood when he was chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from 2001-04 and as his advisor when he was chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas for six years.
Ms. Silverstein discussed the electricity situation in Texas; capability versus capacity energy markets; energy efficiency and demand; energy and water; and cooperatives and the future of utilities.
She said 23 percent of consumption within the Electric Reliability Council of Texas is coal, 57 percent is natural gas, 6 percent is nuclear and 13 percent is wind.
In the last year, energy use for appliances and electronics has increased for the first time. In the past, it has been heating and cooling homes that affected utility bills the most. But now with more than 25 devices, not counting appliances, in the average home, the net usage of electricity is increasing even though the devices are becoming more efficient, she said.
Consumers can do their part by installing energy efficient air conditioners and appliances, windows and other things for their homes, which start paying off immediately in energy costs, Ms. Silverstein said, adding that they are seeing 10 percent to 30 percent in energy savings from those technologies. She said it creates lower energy bills, increases business competiveness and bill savings are usually pumped back into the local economy.
"There are absolute benefits with almost no risk," she said.
Ms. Silverstein said there is a huge amount of energy embedded in water, as well as water in energy.
The average household in Texas uses 267 gallons of water per day, but the No. 1 way to save water is to use less electricity, she said, adding that so much water is embedded in electricity, it is more than people use in their showers or on their lawns.
"Saving water is the only way we can solve the water availability problem and the drought problem," she said.
Other ways to save water, in addition to conserving electricity, include xeriscaping lawns, buying water-efficient appliances and fixing leaking water and wastewater pipes.
She said the members and owners of coops are its customers and they should help them find, install and finance energy efficient solutions to help them save energy and money to invest back into the community.
"Here in East Texas you have a lot of opportunities that individually are small but are huge in terms of benefits they create," she said. She asked the audience to think through the rifts, benefits and costs and consider the tradeoffs when making decisions.
Karen Hadden, executive director of SEED, said some local businesses are in the early stages of providing energy services, such as retrofitting houses to make them more efficient, putting in better lighting, windows and insulation. But, she said, there is room for more work in the solar and renewable energy realm, as well as geothermal, heat pumps for houses and buildings and small scale wind.
They chose Tyler for their first conference because, "There are a lot of people who have already started down this path in Tyler. It's a great regional center."
Speakers from Tyler included Gary Bristow, senior vice president of Estes, McClure and Associates Inc.; and Phil Parks, president of Texas Responsible Energy and Efficiency, or TREE, in Tyler.
Ray Beavers was also one of the lead speakers. He is the general manager/CEO of United Services Cooperative, a utilities company based in Cleburne. Additional panelists included experts working for cooperatives, businesses and organizations Ms. Hadden said the discussions will be posted at www.CleanEnergyCoops.org.