News from TEPRI – May 2024


Executive Director Update

Spring makes me a little giddy. All the colorful flowers and abundant sunshine make me want to tiptoe through the tulips! The energy landscape is buzzing, it feels fertile, like growth and change are sprouting around us. In this vein, I am delighted to introduce our new logo: colorful swirls of bright energy that speak to the vibrancy of our work and our goal of empowering communities to meet their energy needs.

In this newsletter, we have exciting news to announce! TEPRI, along with our coalition partners around the state, received a $250 million award from EPA’s  Solar for All program to bring solar and storage to households that will most benefit from affordable, reliable, and clean energy. Over the next five years, we will bring community and rooftop solar and battery back-up to communities that  are seeking to participate more deeply in the transition to cleaner energy. Respondents to TEPRI’s recent Community Voices in Energy Survey of over 6,500 households with low incomes overwhelmingly showed preferences toward cleaner

and more affordable energy. Solar for All will be a meaningful step toward bringing the benefits of solar energy to communities across Texas.

I also want to announce an especially exciting event that TEPRI will be hosting in Houston on June 13th as part of our Energy Opportunities Speaker Series. The event will feature two notable keynotes: Dr. Robert Bullard, Distinguished Professor at Texas Southern University, founder of the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice and the recipient of the 2024 TIME Magazine Earth Award, and Donnel Baird, CEO of BlocPower, and the 2022 TIME Magazine Dreamer of the Year.

TEPRI staff have been working on projects across Texas to advance a thriving, clean, and reliable energy landscape. In this newsletter you can get a glimpse of how we are convening community members to provide feedback on our “Find My Energy Savings” tool, which we are developing to assist households in locating energy programs that might be beneficial, we are working with stakeholders in the Rio Grande Valley to map out energy plans for the future, and we are developing virtual power plant models in Houston and Galveston that we hope can serve as revenue generating resiliency hubs.

We remain stalwart in our commitment to meeting the acute energy needs of our neighbors while paving dynamic new pathways for how their energy needs are met. Thank you for your support and your partnership!


Margo Weisz

Executive Director


Solar for All Award

TEPRI is pleased to announce that the Texas Solar for All Coalition (Coalition) was awarded a $249.7 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. Led by Harris County, the full Coalition includes TEPRI, the City of Houston, Dallas County, the City of San Antonio, Opportunity Home San Antonio, the City of Austin, the City of Waco, HARC, the Clean Energy Fund of Texas, and several more local and county Texan partners, representatives, and community-based organizations.

Over the next five years, the Texas Solar for All Coalition is expected to deliver distributed solar to over 46,000 low-income households, about 225 MW of distributed solar facilities and 85 MWh of battery storage. Additionally, the initiative is expected to reduce statewide emissions by over 310 thousand tons/year, and achieve $17 million in annual household electricity bill savings. The Coalition will narrow the solar equity gap for energy-burdened low-income families, and create new green jobs across the Lone Star State.

Join Us For Our May 7th Webinar

Join TEPRI tomorrow, May 7th at 11 AM, for an enlightening speaker series webinar on “Energy Equity and Solar and Battery Technologies.”Jessica Kerby of PNNL will discuss her groundbreaking research on energy equity and solar benefits for low-income households, while Tiffany Wu, TEPRI’s Senior Project Manager, will explore Texas state policies and TEPRI’s contributions to the clean energy transition. Learn how strategies including weatherization, energy efficiency, and rooftop solar can alleviate high energy burdens, and discover key factors influencing renewable system performance and payback.

Save The Date for "Dynamic Innovations in Energy Efficiency", a Energy Opportunities Speaker Series In-Person Event

Join us for “Dynamic Innovations in Energy Efficiency,” our in-person Energy Opportunities Speaker event on June 13th  in Houston, featuring keynote addresses by Dr. Robert D. Bullard, the “father of environmental justice” and recipient of the 2024 Time Magazine Earth Award, and Donnel Baird, founder of BlocPower and recipient of TIME’s 2022 “Dreamer of the Year” Award. 

Our keynote speakers will share innovative pathways to enhance energy efficiency, bridge the energy divide, and promote environmental justice in Texas. Don’t miss this opportunity to engage with leading experts and stakeholders in a critical conversation on building a more sustainable and equitable energy future.

Innovations in Low-Income Solar Access

TEPRI’s work to identify new pathways for equitable solar adoption is getting national traction! NREL’s Solar Energy Innovation Network (SEIN) promoted the report that TEPRI, TXSES, and Frontier Energy produced last year, New Pathways for Equitable Solar Adoption in Texas, in their recent blog post.

As part of our participation with NREL’s Solar Energy Innovation Network (SEIN), TEPRI led a multistakeholder team to bridge the gap between rooftop solar adoption and low-income families in Carrizo Springs and Austin, Texas. Through its work in SEIN, TEPRI found collaborations within its multi-stakeholder team instrumental in overcoming challenges and paving the way for successful rooftop solar deployments in low-income communities. The team included Frontier Energy, Community Services Agency of South Texas, American Electric Power, Texas Solar Energy Society, Austin Area Urban League, and Austin Energy. 

The New Pathways for Equitable Solar Adoption in Texas report features strategies for combining funding from utility energy programs and various federal, state, and local government funding sources (such as the Department of Health and Human Services’ Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)) for solar deployment. TEPRI and its multi-stakeholder team demonstrated this solar deployment pathway through pilot project successes in Carrizo Springs and Austin, including a project in Carrizo Springs that installed 13 independent solar energy systems (~2 kW) at an elderly housing complex in December 2022. This work ultimately persuaded the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) to include rooftop solar in the State of Texas 2023 LIHEAP plan.

The work continues! The TEPRI, TXSES, Frontier team received funding from the new Solar for All award to continue to pilot out pathways for low or no-cost solar for households who contend with low-incomes. 


CVES Statewide Reports

Last month, we released our Community Voices in Energy Survey Statewide report. The report provides insight into the lived experiences of Texans with low and moderate incomes. In it, we shed light on the critical challenges these households face regarding energy affordability, reliability, and resilience then offer actionable recommendations to promote energy equity statewide.



We invite you to explore the report, share it with your network, and hold conversations to discuss the findings. Together, we can impact an equitable energy future in Texas.


Margo, Andrew, & Marisa in Brownsville

TEPRI joined our community partner, come dream. come build. (CDCB) in Brownsville to commemorate the official launch of their DreamBuild housing program – a project in partnership with bcWORKSHOP. The event featured remarks from CDCB Chief Executive Officer Nick Mitchell-Bennett, bcWORKSHOP’s Executive Director Benje Freehan, City of Los Fresnos Mayor Alejandro Flores, Brownsville Mayor John Cowen, and more. TEPRI’s Executive Director, Margo Weisz, also delivered remarks about TEPRI’s partnership with CDCB to develop a solar offering for future DreamBuild homebuyers to help drive down the cost of energy for future residents. Local media also attended the event and KRGV released this article with accompanying footage.

CDCB also debuted DreamBuild’s innovative home design application, which allows potential homebuyers to customize every component of their future home and see how upgrades affect the overall home price. DreamBuild homes are designed to be an affordable, energy-efficient alternative to traditional home construction. The cost of housing in Cameron County has risen sharply in comparison to local incomes, and DreamBuild homes are an affordable avenue for families in the greater Brownsville area to achieve home ownership.

Bobuchi Met with Community Members in San Antonio and Houston to Test TEPRI's "Find My Savings" Web App

Bobuchi recently engaged with residents from San Antonio’s South and West side neighborhoods, particularly from Quintana, and with Houston residents in Sunnyside in April to gather crucial feedback for our “Find My Savings” tool. This tool aims to empower Texans with low to moderate incomes by providing information on energy efficiency, bill assistance, and clean energy options for their homes. TEPRI extends heartfelt thanks to Debra Ponce and DeeDee Belmares from Public Citizen for assisting with the San Antonio user testing, and to Efrem Jernigan from South Union CDC for facilitating the Sunnyside user testing.

Tiffany Met With Community Partners in Galveston and Houston to Advance TEPRI's Virtual Power Plant Projects

Earlier this month, Tiffany joined South Union CDC and community partners at HARC headquarters to tour HARC’s “Living Lab” and brainstorm ideas to develop a network of community-based resiliency hubs to the Houston Sunnyside neighborhood. Tiffany shared how solar and batteries can reduce energy burden when enrolled in a virtual power plant (VPP) program and how such systems can support communities during an outage. The team is working towards installing equipment at several churches so that they can provide safe havens during weather-related events.


Margo & Tiffany at Virtual Power Plant Texas

Join Executive Director Margo Weisz & Senior Project Manager Tiffany Wu at the inaugural Virtual Power Plant Texas Conference on June 6th at the Sheraton Hotel in Austin, TX.

Tiffany will join a panel of industry leaders to discuss how to navigate the policy gaps that currently exist for VPPs in a decentralized market. 

Margo will join Pecan Street CTO, Scott Hinson to discuss how to ensure underserved and low-income households are not left behind in the ongoing grid transformation.

Margo, Bobuchi, and Andrew Present at Texas Rural Funders

Margo, Bobuchi, and Andrew will be presenting at the Texas Rural Funders Rural Learning Series on June 11th, 2024, as part of their ongoing efforts to share insights from the Community Voices in Energy Survey. This presentation will focus on the findings related to energy disparities in rural communities, including issues of affordability, reliability, and clean energy perspectives.

Through the survey data collected from over 6,500 Texas households with low to moderate incomes, TEPRI has developed statewide and regional reports highlighting the challenges faced by these communities in accessing affordable and reliable energy, as well as their perspectives on clean energy solutions.

This presentation will provide valuable insights into the energy needs and perspectives of rural Texans, offering a deeper understanding of the barriers they face and the opportunities for creating a more equitable energy future.

Bobuchi in Durham

Bobuchi will be attending the HeatWise Policy Partnership Summit at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment, & Sustainability in Durham, North Carolina from June 24th to June 26th. This summit aims to bring together leaders from various sectors to discuss and develop community-centered solutions to enhance resilience against extreme heat. Bobuchi will participate in roundtable discussions, contribute to policy recommendations, and engage in networking opportunities to foster future collaboration in addressing heat-related challenges, especially in Texas.

Clean Energy States Alliance Webinar

The Clean Energy States Alliance’s upcoming webinar with NREL will feature researchers Juliana Williams and Jenna Harmon on the topic of “Using LIHEAP and WAP To Expand Low-Income Solar Access.” The webinar will cover a new report by NREL titled “Solar Pathways in Federal Energy Assistance Programs: Expanding the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)” and will feature NREL’s efforts to document successful implementation pathways through analyzing LIHEAP and WAP annual plans, surveying LIHEAP grant recipients and WAP Grantees about obstacles to solar implementation, and conducting interviews and workshops with program administrators.


San Antonio Express-News (April 12th)

The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News released this article that features reporting on TEPRI’s Community Voices in Energy Survey authored by Claire Hao.

Houston Public Media (April 15th)

Houston Public Media released this article featuring TEPRI’s Community Voices in Energy Survey authored by Adam Zuvanich.

Energy's New Wave (April 22nd)

TEPRI’s Director of Research, Bobuchi Ken-Opurum, was featured in this CNET article as one of the Nation’s leading women behind the energy transition authored by Katie Collins.

Copyright (C) 2023 Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute. All rights reserved.

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