smart, innovative, forward thinking

Sunday, 25 August 2013

By CASEY MURPHY
Tyler Morning Telegraph

Karen Hadden believes there is progress to be made in energy efficiency. Ms. Hadden, executive director of Austin-based Sustainable Energy & Economic Development Coalition, or SEED, said some local businesses are in the early stages of providing energy services, such as retrofitting houses to make them more efficient, putting in better lighting, windows and insulation. But, she said, there is room for more work in the solar and renewable energy realm, as well as geothermal, heat pumps for houses and buildings and small scale wind.

The SEED Coalition and Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association are sponsoring the first-ever Energy Innovation Conference, put on by Clean Energy Coops, in Tyler on Sept. 3. The "star-studded lineup" will include energy experts from around the state, Ms. Hadden said.

Ms. Hadden was a biology teacher in public schools in Austin and El Paso before joining the SEED Coalition in 2000. She became its executive director in 2003. SEED Coalition is an advocate for energy efficiency and renewable energy, works with advocates across Texas, testifies at the state capital and does educational outreach.

She said they hope to have 100 people from across northeast Texas attend the event. They chose Tyler for their first conference because, "Tyler is beautiful," she said. "There are a lot of people who have already started down this path in Tyler. It’s a great regional center."

She said the event will be good for people in the "energy world" to attend, as well as home and business owners, community leaders and those involved in economic development.

Pat Wood, of Tyler, will be the keynote speaker. He was appointed by President George W. Bush to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and was chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission. He has a consulting company and is serving as chairman of the Board of Dynegy, Inc. Wood will discuss changes coming in the world of energy generation and how best to meet future energy needs.

"Through the years he has been working on the question, will we have enough energy and how best do we meet the needs," Ms. Hadden said, adding that he talks about his personal experiences of seeing that energy efficiency can work for individuals and utilities.

Other speakers from Tyler include Gary Bristow, senior vice president of Estes, McClure and Associates Inc., which has done a lot of work with the Tyler schools in helping reduce their energy bills, she said. Phil Parks, president of Texas Responsible Energy and Efficiency, or TREE, in Tyler, does solar and wind projects.

Ray Beavers also will be one of the lead speakers. He is the general manager/CEO of United Services Cooperative, a utilities company based in Cleburne.

"Part of the concern here from the perspective of the utilities is to make sure we have enough energy," Ms. Hadden said. "How do we meet our needs, our growing needs? And one of the big problems is meeting peak demand, which is the hottest day in the hottest part of summer, the hottest time of day … anything we can do that shaves the peak — that cuts that stress out of the picture is a really positive thing. Energy efficiency is the most affordable approach and it’s the fastest approach to dealing with that need."

Another speaker, Cris Eugster, is executive vice president and chief strategy and technology officer for City Public Service Energy in San Antonio. The utility company is helping people better insulate and weatherize their homes to help customers have lower electricity bills and to help the company avoid having to build another coal plant, which would be a $1 billion investment, she said.

Kirk Johnson, of Corgan Associates in Dallas, will speak about his work in helping to develop the nation’s first "net zero energy" middle school in Irving. The campus produces as much energy as it uses through wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal energy, rainwater collection and other programs.

Bob Manning, founder and president of Bob Manning Associates, will discuss his 16 years of work for H-E-B, when he helped save the company millions of dollars through energy efficiency and green building efforts, she said.

Additional speakers will be Richard Anderson, former Texas senator and Harrison County judge; Dub Taylor, director of Texas’ Energy Conservation Office; John Ashe, CLEAResult director of programs; Dr. Patrick Cox, Pedernales Electric Cooperative director; Tom Fitzpatrick, Energy Systems Laboratory at Texas A&M University; and Darren Schauer, general manager/CEO of Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative.

The event will be held at the Tyler Rose Garden, at 420 Rose Park Drive, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 3. The fee is $65 and includes breakfast, lunch and snacks. Ms. Hadden said they have a limited number of discounted and complimentary tickets. Those interested in attending need to register by Friday by calling 512-797-8481 or visiting www.CleanEnergyCoops.org .

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