News from TEPRI- September 2023



A Note from The Executive Director
Margo Weisz

My son keeps summer hours. I can see the lights blaring in our back studio as he makes music and turns on his teenage appliances. His night owl tendencies are an excellent salve for our strained grid. But, he is 18, and we need better solutions for those of us up and about during the daylight hours.

I don’t need to state the obvious. It is very hot outside. ERCOT has been issuing conservation warnings as the State has hit record demand. Our growing resources of solar, wind, and storage have played a meaningful role in our rescue from potential outages. But, we need to do MORE. And, most importantly, we will need to deploy strategies that ensure our most vulnerable community members are able to remain safe in their homes.

The good news is that we are developing the technologies to do just that. Comprehensive demand response programs, meaningful investments in energy efficiency, dispatchable storage, and a more distributed system of solar and wind resources can provide the flexible load required to achieve everything we are seeking – affordable, reliable, and clean energy.

TEPRI is engaged across the state to ensure the interests of all households are integrated into this evolving energy landscape. We are expanding our work in South Texas to harness the abundant sun with new solar projects; we are exploring how small-scale wind might play a role in rural areas; we are piloting virtual power plant technologies on affordable multi-family homes in Houston and Galveston; and we are using tailored social media to provide energy efficiency education to hard to reach households in more rural areas of the state.

We all have a role to play in transitioning to a more stable energy future. I am inspired by the incredible work of our partners. There are so many people that we are grateful for in this work – like our partners at HARC, who are helping compile a multi-stakeholder Solar for All application, and Pecan Street, who are helping us to improve our data collection on household energy use in the Rio Grande Valley.  I want to give a special call out to a few gems who have been making our job much easier lately:

  • Lisa Lin at Harris County

  • Nick Mitchell at Brownsville’s Come Dream Come Build

  • Joey Ramano at PearlX

  • Steve Wiese at Frontier Energy

  • Pete Parsons at Texas Solar Energy Society

  • Alexandra Castaneda at Rio Grande International Study Center

In light of our large and complicated calling, you make our job a little easier. Thank you!

I also want to recognize our many funders, who not only financially support our work, but connect us with their networks to amplify our efforts and help us move the ball forward. We are so grateful that you engage so meaningfully in our work.

Within this month’s newsletter, you can learn what we’re working on lately and access recent happenings at TEPRI. As always, feel free to contact me if you would like more information or have ideas on how to get involved in our work.




TEPRI Webinar | Planning for Energy Equity: A Preview of TEPRI's Statewide Energy Survey

Join us on September 26th from 11 AM to 12 PM Central for a discussion on long-term energy equity system planning and get a preview of key findings from our 2023 statewide Community Voices in Energy Survey (CVES).

We surveyed over 7,500 low-moderate income households across Texas to explore the realities of low-income needs and perspectives related to energy affordability, reliability, and clean energy. Learn more about the needs of Texans that contend with low-incomes and how they might be able to better inform energy planning across the state. Effectively planning for an equitable energy transition requires that we work with households impacted the most and learn about their needs.

This webinar will highlight how energy decisions can be informed by using the CVES data and reports and the regional differences we’ve found from surveying 13 different regions of Texas.

Expanding Virtual Power Plants Across Texas

TEPRI is receiving an Innovating Equitable Outcomes Grant from Energy Foundation to explore solar, battery storage, and Virtual Power Plant (VPP) technology in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Houston, TX. Partnering with South Union Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit, BIPOC-led community-based organization serving the Sunnyside community, TEPRI will explore scalable pathways for residents who contend with low incomes to access more affordable, reliable, and clean energy through the use of VPP technology.

TEPRI and South Union CDC will utilize the grant funding from Energy Foundation to identify multi-family and community-use buildings in the Sunnyside area and surrounding neighborhoods where we can deploy VPP technology. TEPRI may also explore the possibility of integrating small-scale wind generation to expand clean energy generation and resilience when the sun is not shining.

PUCT ADER Press Release

The Public Utility Commission’s Aggregated DER Task Force just commenced its one year anniversary. Over the past year, the task force has made considerable strides in understanding and designing the structures to allow for the immense potential and value of distributed energy resources to be captured by the ERCOT market. TEPRI participates as a member of the task force and is working to ensure that all communities are able to benefit from new virtual power plant technologies. The PUC recently released this press release about the status of the Task Force’s work to date.

TEPRI is Hiring!
Seeking South TX Energy Programs Director

TEPRI is seeking a South TX Energy Programs Director with a deep interest in advancing an equitable energy transition through engaging community stakeholders in energy planning. As a senior member of the TEPRI team, the EPD’s responsibilities will include building relationships with local governments, non-profit community organizations, academic researchers, and utilities throughout the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas.

The ideal candidate will have a strong creative and entrepreneurial spirit, an interest and understanding of the energy sector, and exceptional skills at building relationships with diverse people, including executives.

Sound interesting? The full job description and steps to apply can be found here.

In Case You Missed It

TEPRI Wins HEROX Challenge

TEPRI is receiving $100,000 from the Department of Energy’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations as part of Phase One of the Energizing Rural Communities Prize. Partnering with come dream.come build., a nonprofit community housing development organization working in the Lower Rio Grande Valley counties of Cameron and Willacy, TEPRI will help build collaboration between stakeholders through TEPRI’s planned Energy Assistance Resource Network (EARN) of South Texas. The project will also develop a solar demonstration site in Brownsville to show the benefits of solar on commercial and residential properties. The project includes the installation of solar PV on a manufacturing facility and on prefabricated homes before they are dispatched to communities in South Texas. This Solution bundles clean energy goals with the need to increase available resources.

TEPRI will be leveraging the funds for two purposes. The first is to pay for the installation of solar PV at the home manufacturing facility and on the prefabricated mobile homes to serve as a demonstration project for the region and to generate data on energy usage andbills. Secondly, and key to receiving the award, is expanding the partnership TEPRI has with CDCB to help organize energy planning in the region. The future of this partnership will include a TEPRI South Texas Project Manager who will identify new funding opportunities, support energy planning for the region, and educate stakeholders on the value of energy efficiency and on-site solar plans using the demonstration site.

Blog Recap: Everything is Hotter (Again) in Texas

Amidst what is now a 45-day 100°+ streak, TEPRI shared information and articles on the state of summer in Texas to date and previewed findings from its Community Voices in Energy Survey Report. Rising temperatures are adversely affecting Texans’ health and energy bills with an alarming number of people across the state who are choosing to turn off their air conditioning in order to afford their electricity bills, increasing their risk of negative impacts to health and well-being.

Energy Opportunities Speaker Series: Promising Innovations for Our Energy Future Event Recap

On June 7th, 2023, we hosted our event “Promising Innovations for Our Energy Future” at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs. This event featured a presentation by Commissioner Will McAdams and a panel discussion by subject matter experts Jonathon Thompson, Andrew Higgins, and Margo Weisz, moderated by Doug Lewin.

Commissioner McAdams and the panelists discussed the investment in distributed energy resources including rooftop solar, demand response, and battery storage. The presenters also discussed how the virtual power plant pilot negotiated by the PUCT leverages this combined investment, and how to ensure that households that contend with low-moderate incomes can access and benefit from these energy innovations as they increase grid reliability and resiliency.

TEPRI in the Community

National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition
June 13-15, 2023

Our Director of Research, Bobuchi Ken-Opurum presented at the 2023 National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition (NEUAC) conference in San Diego, CA this past June. She presented preliminary results on energy affordability from TEPRI’s 2022 – 2023 Community Voices in Energy Survey (CVES). The CVES of over 7,500 households across Texas identified that low-moderate income households ration basic household needs such as clothing, food, and medicine to afford their energy bills. While cooling assistance is available for LMI households in Texas, the survey shows that there are gaps in program effectiveness such as limited awareness and program qualification requirements. Bobuchi’s engaging session further discussed households’ experiences with energy assistance programs and strategies that can be used to improve eligible households’ access to energy assistance. Attendees, which included utility program managers, left with a better understanding of the lived experiences from the customer perspective on energy affordability, their needs for energy assistance, and how to better tailor outreach to LMI households to efficiently utilize existing and future energy assistance resources.

Justice40 Symposium
August 3, 2023

Research Analyst Andrew Robison traveled to Laredo, TX for the inaugural Justice40 Symposium organized by the Rio Grande International Study Center (RGISC) and Green Latinos to present on federal opportunities. The symposium invited local government stakeholders, policymakers, and community organizations from across Webb, Starr, LaSalle, Zapata, Duval and Jim Hogg counties to learn about landmark federal funding opportunities available to communities in South Texas. During his presentation, Andrew highlighted key energy equity data indicators across Webb County and South Texas and presented several opportunities for regional stakeholders to collaborate on federal funding opportunities. The presentation can be found here.

SPEER Annual Policy + Industry Workshop
September 14-15, 2023

Andrew will be speaking at SPEER’s upcoming Policy and Industry Workshop on September 15th in Austin, TX. As part of the Equity + Weatherization panel, Andrew will review the results of the forthcoming Community Voices in Energy Survey, explore opportunities for how energy equity can be improved across Texas, and discuss the roles of stakeholders and new technologies in shaping our energy future.

Gulf Coast Power Association
October 3-4, 2023

Margo will be speaking at two sessions at the GCPA’s Fall Conference in Austin, TX. The first will be a special session on virtual power plants, and the second will be a discussion of the Consumer Perspective on ERCOT. Margo will focus on including perspectives of households with low-incomes.

Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance
October 25-27, 2023

Margo will be speaking at SEEA’s Energy Summit in Atlanta, GA on Grid Resilience Strategies and how to include households who contend with lower incomes in the solutions.


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