Texas Commission Advances Efficiency in Houston, Innovative Plan for Transmission of Wind Generated Electricity

August 24, 2006

The Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas approved an agreement on August 23 that will nearly double the amount of spending for energy efficiency programs in the Houston metropolitan area. The settlement was part of a rate case before the PUC that provides an additional $10 million a year for energy efficiency efforts for 2 million customers of CenterPoint Energy in the Houston metropolitan area. CenterPoint Energy is headquartered in Houston and serves 3 million natural gas customers and 5 million electricity customers in six states. The company currently spends about $13 million a year on energy efficiency programs in Houston. For details about the settlement, see the CenterPoint Energy July 31 press release.

The same day, the Texas PUC also approved a proposed rule that includes Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) designation criteria. CREZ is the Texas designation, for transmission planning purposes, of suitable land that possesses a renewable resource. CREZ creation is the mechanism that provides electricity transmission to wind-rich areas ahead of wind farm development.

The PUC would consider the amount of renewable energy potential, cost of transmission, level of financial commitments made by generation developers, and input from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department related to habitats in potential zones. When adopted, the rule will require utilities to file requests for construction approval for transmission identified for a given renewable energy zone. The PUC said it could begin to designate renewable energy zones as early as the spring of 2007.

Source: August 23 edition of the American Wind Energy Association's newsletter, Wind Energy Weekly.