4 Ways Texas Businesses Can Save on Energy
By Ted Leonard, VP Market Operations - June 10, 2022
From lighting upgrades to better energy habits, Texans have more opportunities than ever to save on energy.
It’s looking like another long, tumultuous summer for Texans, as extreme weather and record energy prices put strain on Texas’ grid.
In May, six electricity plants failed in Texas, with 2,900 megawatts (MW) going offline—enough to power 580,000 homes. As a result, the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) called on Texans to curtail their energy use to help prevent blackouts.
Doing so at the right times can help businesses save on costs and emissions, too. Responding to these outages reduces downtime and gives companies a competitive edge.
Flexibility has become the watchword in Texas. Although flexibility can be a benefit, too much of it across the grid can cause demand to rise as rapidly as it falls—and this risks overloading.
Making demand as efficient and flexible as possible is a win-win for firms and the grid.
ERCOT has addressed this by establishing the Large Flexible Load Taskforce. This taskforce develops policy, reviews regulations, and plans the interconnection process for large loads. As more-flexible loads connect to the grid, this oversight will help prevent blackouts from introducing high costs to businesses from lost productivity.
ERCOT is also working on a new interim interconnection process for large loads and crypto operations. Overall, ERCOT expects 17 gigawatts (GW) of large flexible loads to interconnect by 2026.
Making demand as efficient and flexible as possible is a win-win for firms and the grid. That said, the energy space is complicated—where do you even start?
Here are some of the different pieces of the energy savings puzzle that can help your business curtail effectively.
1. Smart HVAC systems
Heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems use a lot of energy.
In hot states like Texas, 40 percent of a building’s cooling costs goes to offsetting solar heat from windows. As a result, integrated window shades that automatically adjust to light levels and temperature can make a big difference.
Optimizing temperature (setting the AC one degree Celsius higher cuts electricity costs by 10 percent) and fan settings—particularly through automation—also improves efficiency by tailoring asset performance to local conditions.
For example, the Conrad Hotel in Chicago saves 450,000 kWh per year because it installed automated HVAC controls and infrared sensors. The upgrades paid for themselves in less than two years, thanks to $35,000 generated in annual electricity savings.
One of the simplest ways to reduce electricity use is to upgrade to LEDs. This can reduce electricity use by 30 percent, and even more if used as part of a building management system.
One interesting way to do this is with Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology. PoE uses internet cables to provide low-voltage DC power to LEDs (which traditional light bulbs can’t use) and internet access at the same time—perfect for smart systems.
LEDs can make a bigger difference coupled with daylight harvesting, the process of using and responding to natural light levels to cut lighting demand. This enables interior lighting sensors to reduce usage by up to 80 percent—without compromising occupant comfort.
How all this looks like in practice is demonstrated by the 52-story New York Times Building. Using the technologies we’ve touched on, this skyscraper captures lighting savings of 43 percent, with overall energy savings of 24 percent.
3. Electric vehicles
On-site battery storage is a useful way to build resiliency into a shaky grid. You can boost this by utilizing electric vehicles (EVs) in your fleet to act as mobile batteries.
EVs can bridge the gap during extreme weather, and provide additional savings if charged overnight when prices are lowest. The vehicles can then feed this cheaper electricity to your business during peak hours. This is a great savings opportunity even during normal weather conditions.
Users need to be able to disconnect from the grid to curtail effectively. Otherwise they are just feeding power to the wider system. Your EV chargers also need the ability to send and receive electricity for EVs to play their part.
EVs can bridge the gap during extreme weather
A typical EV has a capacity of 40-64 kilowatt hours (kWh) , with high-end Teslas closer to 100 kWh (the average U.S. household uses 30 kWh per day). Energy users with a fleet of EVs can use them to keep the lights on during outages, or draw energy during peak hours to save money.
During the 2011 tsunami and earthquake in Japan, Nissan sent 66 Leafs to power emergency facilities and staging areas. In 2021, Nissan calculated that there was 10 GWh of storage in its vehicles alone.
4. Energy habits
How we use energy is just as important as how much we use—our energy habits can have powerful impacts. The International Energy Agency (IEA) calculates that at least 25 percent of energy efficiency savings are tied to behavior changes—be that purchasing choices or empowering others to reassess their energy use patterns.
Making sustainability a core value is the first step toward meaningful change.
When setting your energy goals, choose or appoint someone to evaluate energy issues. This ‘energy janitor’ should be trained to monitor building efficiency, promote best practices, troubleshoot smaller issues, and liaise with local energy organizations.
Promote healthy competition between departments or branches to see who can generate real savings. For example, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) found that team challenges reduced overall electricity use by an average of 10 percent (and potentially up to 30 percent).
How EnPowered can help Texans beat the heat
Navigating the energy sector is complicated, and many companies are unable to secure enough capital to pursue their energy goals. Energy solutions providers in Texas know firsthand how funding hurdles can stall energy projects.
Incorporating all these solutions may seem daunting, but it gets easier as you go. The more solutions you purchase, the more you save through curtailment and greater efficiency, and the more your savings will snowball. EnPowered helps you start this savings cycle.
EnPowered Payments—our on-bill payments platform—unlocks stalled projects by removing upfront costs and minimizing customer risk. Energy users can take possession of their chosen asset right away, and use a part of their energy savings to pay for their solution.
Interested in learning more? Contact us today to see how EnPowered can help the Lone Star State save energy and money.