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Marston, continued from page 15 protect God’s creation from the threat of global warming. And finally, TXU’s plans angered everyday Texans who are simply concerned about their children’s health and futures. TXU has awakened the environmental consciousness of Texans, and I believe the political landscape of our state will never be the same. But while we’ve won a major victory in the fight to clean up our air and reduce Texas’ contribution to global warming, it’s important that we forge ahead and let Texans know there are plenty of cleaner and cheaper ways to meet our future energy needs. Efficiency produces no dirty emissions and costs a whole lot less. irst, we can stay above the state target of a 12.5 percent reserve margin above peak energy demand in the summers of 2008 and 2009 through energy efficiency, interruptible load, and the refurbishing of a few mothballed, gas-fired “peaking plants.” Unlike the proposed TXU plants, these sources of electricity can be put in place in time to maintain an optimal reserve margin. Energy efficiency simply means employing technology to make our existing supply of electricity go furtherit does not mean asking folks to wear cardigan sweaters \(as President Jimmy Carter famously urged in the late fully employed efficiency to reduce their need for new power plants and to lower consumers’ electric bills. We don’t have to look outside of Texas for proof that efficiency can help meet our electricity needs here. All we need is to follow the lead of Austin Energy, the municipally owned electric company. In 2006 alone, by doing simple things like providing incentives for everything from insulating attics to replacing old air-conditioners with more efficient units, Austin Energy shaved 57 megawatts from electricity demand. Austin Energy represents only 4 percent of the state’s electricity load. That means that if the Austin program were applied throughout Texas, we could save more than 1,300 megawatts of electricity annually, almost the amount of electric ity from two of TXU’s proposed coal plants. Efficiency produces no dirty emissions and costs a whole lot less. The Austin Energy efficiency program costs only $280 per megawatt. TXU said the coal plants it was proposing would have cost $1,100 per megawatt for capital costs alonea number other electric companies say is unrealistically low. Moreover, with efficiency programs, consumers use less electricity and save on their electric bills. We’ve just released a report we commissioned by the respected American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy detailing the major efficiency opportunities in Texas, their potential to reduce demand, and the costs of various programs. \(The study is posted on our Web site at this report will serve as more than shelf liner: In our negotiations, TXU’s new owners pledged to double the company’s energy efficiency program to $400 million over five years. We’ll happily provide them with a menu of measures we’d like to see them promote. Efficiency could meet all the shortterm needs in Texas. If policymakers want additional energy security, we merely need to utilize a strategy widely employed in the past called interruptible load. In one shining example, Austin Energy provides free, programmable thermostats to customerslike our officewho want the savings we get when the high-tech thermostat auto matically dials down our air-conditioning during hours we’re not there. In exchange for this free benefit, we agree that Austin Energy can cycle our airconditioning off for 10 minutes each half hour during a hot summer afternoon in the rare event it appears that capacity is stretched to its limit. There are similar programs for large industrial customers. Currently 1,100 megawatts of capacity in Texas are categorized as interruptible load. We could easily go to 3,200 megawatts of interruptible load, as existed during the year 2000, by using interruptible tariffs more widely, as we have in the past. Another way we can provide additional electricity security is to assure that natural gas is fully utilized to meet peak loads and that plants are not mothballed unnecessarily. In the Houston area alone, according to utility Reliant Energy, there are 3,000 megawatts of mothballed natural gas plants that have been retrofitted to reduce their nitrogen oxide emissions; these plants could be brought on line quickly to “push out the need for new generation by several years:’ In addition, now that natural gas prices have come down, there is a role for new gas-fired generating capacity. In Greenville, just northeast of Dallas, Cobisa Corp. plans a 1,750-megawatt, gas-fired project that can be built much faster than coal plants. Neither this plant nor the mothballed plants are factored into the state’s forecasts of shortages in reserve margin. 22 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MARCH 9, 2007