Clean Energy Program

“The conservation of natural resources is not, and should not be, a partisan issue. Both Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals want a strong economy, and an economy with excess waste is not as strong as it could be. For the good of the economy, we should be pursuing opportunities to use energy more efficiently.” 

-Doug Lewin, Executive Director of the South-central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource (SPEER)

With wind power and natural gas thriving side-by-side with oil production, Texas is the largest energy producer in the nation. Texas also happens to be the fifth largest consumer of power in the world. The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation recognizes both the deep challenges and unique opportunities that this situation presents. As the nation’s energy leader, getting clean energy policy right in Texas is of the upmost importance. 

With our Clean Energy Program wrapping up its eighth year, CGMF remains committed to ensuring that electricity demand in Texas is minimized and supply is clean and water-lean. To help meet this goal, the 2015 Clean Energy Program strategic initiatives focused primarily on reducing the demand-side of the electricity market minimizing the air and carbon dioxide emissions from, and water use for, electricity production, and designing and promoting water-energy integrated utility models.

The South-central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource (SPEER) is a diverse group of energy efficiency advocates including members from utilities, retail electric providers, trade associations, non-profits, and former elected officials. With support from CGMF, the SPEER Commission on Texas Energy Efficiency Policy reached a consensus on over 20 recommendations, which include several supporting the inclusion of energy efficiency as a compliance strategy for air quality regulations, one focused on beginning an alternative ratemaking process at the PUCT, and some sets of recommendations about smart grid and energy efficiency financing, among others. Overall the suite of recommendations provides a powerful tool for efficiency advocates.

Funded in part by CGMF, the Texas Clean Energy Coalition (TCEC) and the Brattle Group developed a white paper of policy options for Texas to create a uniquely Texan clean energy plan. The paper builds off an earlier report developed by the Brattle Group in June 2014 that analyzed the potential role of demand response, energy efficiency, and combined heat and power resources in the Electricity Reliability Council for Texas (ERCOT). Broadly, some of the options outlined in the draft include: (1) Shifting from high carbon fuels to lower carbon generation (primarily natural gas), while increasing the use of solar and wind power; (2) Promoting demand response and energy efficiency programs for consumers; (3) Improving the efficiency of existing power plants, transmission, and distribution systems; and (4) Reducing methane emissions. 

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), with support from CGMF, has started along the path to making Texas become a state that uses technology to increase water efficiency and promotes policies that reflect the value of water conservation in the power sector. This year EDF began working with Pecan Street Inc. to design data collection programs in San Antonio and Austin water utilities and to create the statewide University Municipal Water Consortium.

EDF also finished the landscape analysis and strategic planning process to underpin a successful initiative to establish a strong water-energy connection in Texas and completed the first steps to raise awareness among stakeholders and policymakers about the possibilities of using renewable energy in water production.

On August 3, 2015, a landmark piece of clean energy legislation was unveiled. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed the final version of its Clean Power Plan (CPP), which uses state-by-state targets to cut emissions 32 percent by 2030 from levels recorded in 2005 — up from 30 percent in the draft version of the rule. The EPA predicts the CPP will ultimately save about $45 billion a year, by both shrinking Americans’ energy use and reducing health costs for asthma, lung cancer, and other illnesses caused by air pollution. CGMF remains dedicated to the idea that market-based tools can provide the path towards the nation’s clean energy future. 

© 2012-2018 Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.