High Electricity Bills Strike Again and Again

How net-zero can help homeowners break away from a cycle of ever-increasing energy costs.

The Dallas Morning News, as well as other news agencies across the state, have recently reported that the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) intends to raise energy prices on homeowners and businesses yet again. This is on top of a recent increase of the maximum amount electrical generators are allowed to charge, from $3500 per mega-watt hour to $4500 per mega-watt hour, instituted just this past June. However, this new proposal is looking to double that number from $4500 per mega-watt hour to a whopping $9000 per mega-watt hour. For homeowners across Texas, the proposed changes will add an additional $40 per month to energy costs. As a whole, the increase in peak prices will add between 4.5 billion and 14.5 billion to the total annual cost of electricity in Texas.

But what’s the point?

Members of the commission, who are appointed as opposed to elected, hope the peak price increases will encourage investment in Texas’s energy infrastructure (i.e. new coal-fired power plant construction) by making power plants more profitable. With the population of Texas projected to increase by another 12 million by 2030, the PUC fears the grid’s ability to keep up with peak demand will be severely tested. However, even during the extreme weather of 2011, there were only three times (one particularly cold February morning and two especially hot August Afternoons) where Texas came close to blackouts because there simply wasn’t enough juice. Most of the year, there is more than enough power.

This begs the question, is it really more effective for the PUC to raise utility bills across the board just to finance additional power plants – many of which will be operating far below capacity 99 percent of the year?

A Net-zero Solution

Whether increasing reserve capacity or investing in other options is your cup of tea, there is no question that electricity and energy in general, will continue to cost more and more. But why throw a lot of money into highly unsustainable coal-fired plants that cost a lot to build and operate below capacity most of the year? A far more effective solution could be to simply update building codes. The Energy Systems Laboratory at Texas A&M estimates that updating building codes could reduce total energy use by 40 percent and reduce peak energy demand by 18 percent. Better yet, homeowners could simply avoid regular upticks in electricity prices and rolling blackouts by investing in a net-zero, or zero-energy, home.

Net-zero homes effectively produce as much juice as they consume through a combination of energy production, energy conservation, and intelligent design decisions. For example, net-zero homes typically employ solar assemblies which work most efficiently precisely when peak power consumption occurs – usually during sunny afternoons when power is also most expensive. Features of net-zero homes, such as airtight insulation, strategic orientation, and quality windows also greatly mitigate peak energy use and save bundles of money as a result.

Net-zero homes offer homeowners the peace of mind of not having to worry about blackouts, operating systems and appliances during peak load, and ever-increasing energy bills.

Live well. Think green. Build Native.