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Consumer solutions to lowering winter power demand and bills

Energy experts give recommendations on how energy efficient programs can help lower the demand for power and keep customers warm during peak winter demand.

SAN ANTONIO — Safeguards against power outages during deadly winter weather. This week the Public Utility Commission of Texas will make its final recommendations to Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) on changes needed to the electric grid.

The preliminary recommendations came out in September and they focus a lot on weatherizing power plants and other elements of the electric grid.  

Ultimately weatherization is expensive and customers will end up paying for it. A group of energy experts spoke about the changes they would like to see that focus on consumers and helping them lower costs and stay warm. Those recommendations include providing money for consumers to:

  • Transition to electric furnaces with heat pumps,
  • Use attic insulation and sealing,
  • Install smart thermostats.

Ultimately, making these adjustments in homes means there will be less demand for power and therefore less stress on the electric grid.

“The energy efficiency programs are a direct benefit to customers,” said Doug Lewin, an energy consultant. “Do they cost money? Yes, of course. All of this costs money and eventually that will flow back to the consumers. We're talking about very little directly financially benefits customers, except for energy efficiency programs. They would get rebates and incentives for smart thermostats or heat pumps for insulation, for other measures that meet the system, demand and benefit all customers, even those that don't participate. But for those that do, it benefits them directly.” 

Energy experts believe these actions can help protect consumers against both the cold and high heating bills.

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