News from TEPRI – March 2024


Executive Director Update

We find ourselves at the epicenter of change. Whether I tune into the radio or scan the headlines, the narrative revolves around our evolving energy landscape and the strides we’re taking to prepare. Even at dinner gatherings, the conversation brims with genuine interest and inquiry—not a single glazed-over gaze in sight! It’s heartening to witness the younger generation within my circle pursuing careers and education paths that promise a vibrant and sustainable energy tomorrow. Like so many of you, I’ve long been waiting for this moment.

Above all, our neighbors, spanning every corner of the state, care deeply about our energy future. Our recently completed Community Voices in Energy Survey, encompassing nearly 7,000 low-income households throughout Texas, provides invaluable insights into the energy priorities of Texans. While it was no surprise to uncover significant concern regarding energy affordability, what truly struck us was the resounding consensus on the desire for clean and dependable energy sources. This sentiment resonated consistently across the

northern and southern parts of the State, and in the rural and urban areas. Seventy-one percent (71%) of respondents, all of whom contend with low incomes, want their energy to come from clean sources, and 48% were willing to pay an extra monthly premium to do so. There is a strong correlation between the households with the lowest annual household incomes (less than $50,000) and a desire for clean energy. The most vulnerable among us, care the most. 

The people have spoken. We have our charge, and we are working hard to forge new pathways. New technologies and innovations abound, ready to be brought to bear. At TEPRI we are gearing up. We have brought on two phenomenal new staff members to expand our efforts: Marisa Amaya is officing in Brownsville and is helping build out our South Texas projects, and Tiffany Wu is managing our virtual power plant portfolio. Additionally, we are delighted to bring on two new members, NRG and CenterPoint Energy. We are grateful for their commitment to meeting the energy needs of all Texans!

We are energized by our calling, by our colleagues in this work, and by the opportunity that has arrived! Thank you for joining us!


Margo Weisz

Executive Director


Join TEPRI and SaverLife for a virtual presentation of our recent independent surveys exploring how households with low-to-moderate incomes navigate climate challenges that worsen their financial and energy burdens.

This webinar on Wednesday, April 3rd from 11:30-12:30 PM CT will present recent research from SaverLife’s Climate and Financial Health Survey and TEPRI’s recent Community Voices in Energy Survey on the everyday financial realities of maintaining reliable and affordable energy needs. 

Leigh Phillips, CEO of SaverLife, will present findings from their survey’s report, “The Downpour: How Severe Weather and Disasters Impact Household Financial Health.” This research explores the impacts of changing temperatures, ongoing power outages, and unpredictable weather conditions on household finances, especially for low-moderate income demographics.

Supported by TEPRI’s statewide survey research, Bobuchi Ken-Opurum, PhD, TEPRI’s Director of Research, will emphasize the impact of extreme weather and climate variability on energy reliability and low-income households’ affordability needs in Texas, based on findings from our statewide survey. 

This timely discussion will explore the intersection of extreme weather events, climate variability, and energy reliability, especially as we approach the upcoming summer season. Learn how frequent and severe weather events impact households, including renters and racial/ethnic disparities, and the financial resources required to mitigate these challenges.

Leigh and Bobuchi will have an engaging discussion on effective planning to address the needs of low-moderate-income households, especially as we approach the summer season with its expected high temperatures. Don’t miss this opportunity to understand the priorities for these households and contribute to meaningful solutions.


Tiffany Wu, Senior Project Manager

Tiffany is dedicated to deploying distributed energy resources (DERs) in low-income communities to improve energy affordability and resiliency. She leads TEPRI’s efforts in piloting virtual power plants (VPPs) for multifamily housing and community resiliency hubs. In her previous role, she was a Department of Energy Solar Energy Innovation Fellow and an advisor to Commissioner Will McAdams on DER policies at the Public Utility Commission of Texas.

Why did you want to  join the TEPRI team? What about our Mission to advance energy strategies to address the needs of people with low incomes excites you?

“After working on electricity policy for the state, I wanted to get hands-on experience with how projects come together. I like that TEPRI has active projects to test out new business models to 

bring clean, affordable energy systems to affordable multi-family housing and community centers. The energy transition is well underway and moving fast. If we don’t focus on our most vulnerable communities, there is a risk that they will be left behind and forced to face rising energy costs associated with grid modernization without being offered new technologies that can help manage costs.”

What do you see as the most important trends in our energy landscape?

“Energy planners and decision-makers across the country are contending with extreme weather, expansion of renewable energy, electrification, and increased public scrutiny. This chaotic culmination of events is forcing the industry to define reliability and resiliency and look at the energy ecosystem as a whole. This creates an opportunity for everyone to assess the assumptions that we are making about the future and to think about what solutions we can bring to the table that fit the criteria for clean, affordable, reliable, and equitable. If we want equitable solutions, organizations like TEPRI must join the conversations.”

Marisa Amaya, South Texas Project Coordinator

As the South Texas Coordinator for TEPRI, Marisa’s goal is to bridge the gap between innovative energy solutions and the communities that need them most. Dedicated to spearheading efforts that deploy energy resources to low-income communities across South Texas, she endeavors to empower communities with the tools they need to foster resilience against economic and environmental challenges.

Why did you want to join the TEPRI team? What about our mission to advance energy strategies to address the needs of people with low incomes excites you?

“Joining TEPRI was an opportunity for me to merge my professional expertise with my personal values. The organization’s dedication to improving energy access and affordability for low-

income communities presented a unique chance to contribute to meaningful work that aligns with my passion for environmental sustainability and social fairness.”

“The prospect of being part of a team that not only identifies but actively works to bridge the energy gap for underserved populations is incredibly motivating. TEPRI’s focus on creating tangible, sustainable solutions that improve lives excites me because it aligns with my belief in the power of renewable energy to foster equality and resilience.”

Why is South Texas an important region to expand TEPRI’s work?

“South Texas is significant for TEPRI’s mission because it embodies the challenges and opportunities of transforming energy systems in underserved areas. By expanding into this region, TEPRI can directly impact energy affordability, reliability, and sustainability, creating lasting benefits for communities that are most in need of support and innovation in their energy systems.”



“At NRG and Reliant, we care deeply about the people and communities we serve and are committed to delivering innovative energy solutions that fit the unique circumstances and lifestyles of our customers. As we transition to a sustainable energy future, power will become more personal. Our membership with TEPRI will provide meaningful insight to consumer needs and help us effectively deliver reliable energy solutions to disadvantaged communities. We look forward to working with TEPRI and supporting their mission.”

Elizabeth Killinger, Executive Vice President of NRG Home and President of Reliant


“CenterPoint Energy recognizes that our success, and the success of our neighbors, is important to the vitality of our communities. With our longstanding commitment of helping our customers reduce their energy use to save money and decrease their carbon footprint, joining TEPRI not only supports that commitment but also advances our joint esire to improve the systems that enable clean energy solutions to reach underserved communities. We are committed to working with TEPRI to ensure all our communities thrive.”

 Jason Ryan, Executive Vice President of Regulatory Services and Government Affairs


Energy Opportunity Speaker Series: Shaping a Just Energy Transition

In December, TEPRI hosted our in-person Energy Opportunity Speaker Series. Our esteemed colleague, Doug Lewin, CEO of Stoic Energy, served as keynote speaker for the event, providing insights into developing and enhancing statewide systems, ensuring equitable participation in the clean energy transition, and energy justice for households with low incomes.

Doug then moderated a discussion with CEER Executive Director Stefania Tomaskovic and the new Pecan Street CEO Dr. Anissa Rodriguez Dickerman that addressed policies, strategies, and insights for hands-on community-based engagement to ensure marginalized communities are integral to the clean energy future.

The Progress and Challenges of the ADER Task Force

The Aggregate Distributed Energy Resources (ADER) pilot program is progressing into Phase 2. While two virtual power plants were successfully launched in August 2023, these installations represent less than 12% of the project’s total energy cap. ERCOT and the ADER Task Force have documented barriers to growth and have been working with ERCOT to make changes to the governing document. The Phase 2 governing document will work through the ERCOT stakeholder process and be brought before the ERCOT Board of Directors and the Public Utility Commission of Texas in the coming months. Our esteemed colleague and Task Force member, Michalah Spenrath with Texas Advanced Energy Business Alliance (TAEBA), wrote a fantastic piece on the successes and challenges ahead.commitment to energy equity.


Tiffany will be speaking at UT Energy Week on March 28th to discuss grid resilience.

Margo and Tiffany will be speaking at Energy Conference Network’s Virtual Power Plant Texas Conference on June 6th at the Sheraton Austin Hotel at the Capitol.


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