As population and business growth surge in the Best Southwest Partnership region, energy and water are assets that are becoming vital to supporting growth
As population and business growth surge in the Best Southwest Partnership region, energy and water are assets that are becoming vital to supporting growth – and area utility providers are taking extra steps to conserve and sustain those resources.
With more than 10 million customers in Texas and a territory that covers one-third of the state, Oncor is a major electricity provider in the region and has invested heavily in sustainability initiatives.
At its Lancaster facility, the utility makes smart meters that provide greater personal control over energy consumption. Customers with these meters can even monitor their usage at www.smartmetertexas.com in 15 minute increments.
“Over the past five years and during the next five years, Oncor will have invested more than $1 billion on our grid to make our system better and faster,” says communications liaison Jeamy Molina. “Already since our tech projects began in 2009, we eliminated the need for driving more than 45 million miles for service calls, which saved 3.75 million fuel gallons.”
More than 3.2 million of these advanced meters are now deployed throughout the utility’s territory. Oncor has also been experimenting with energy storage technologies in batteries to use for backups whenever a power outage occurs.
“Batteries will eventually change how we think about the grid and how it works,” Molina says.
Saving Energy, Cutting Costs
TXU Energy, which provides electric service to many retailers in the region, has also invested millions in efficiency projects designed to help customers conserve energy and cut electric costs.
One of its programs, Brighten iThermostat, lets customers control temperature settings from their smartphone or other mobile device. Another TXU initiative is Brighten Greenback, which allows large commercial businesses or industries to control several energy settings and receive rebates for efficiency programs.
“We will visit a facility to figure the best efficiencies for lighting, HVAC controls and machinery controls,” says Juan Elizondo, TXU Energy corporate communications specialist. “A company could stagger its start of equipment, or run its equipment on lower settings yet still produce maximum output.”
Conserving the Water Supply
Maintaining an adequate, sustainable water supply is essential to both quality of life and economic growth in the region – and Trinity River Authority of Texas (TRA) is working to ensure that continues, says general manager Kevin Ward.
The TRA, which operates wastewater treatment and water supply facilities locally, is focusing on water conservation and reclamation, which Ward says are the least expensive methods of stretching a limited amount of water from dependable supplies. TRA is also considering ways to reuse treated wastewater to meet future water supply demands.
TRA’s wastewater treatment process removes 99.9 percent of conventional pollutants from water that is discharged into the Trinity River, which, Ward says, is part of the water supply source for about half of Texas’ population.
“The reality is that we cannot live without water – we cannot manufacture it – and we cannot exclude ourselves from the conservation, preservation and reuse conversations,” he says.