Each year, the Texas Energy Summit recognizes individuals, organizations, and companies that have demonstrated outstanding and/or unique contributions to clean air through energy efficiency and renewable energy actions or programs. Nominations are invited from the public for recognition of leading efforts that contributed to improving the impact of buildings and development on cleaner air and environmental quality for Texas and especially its urban regions.
The Texas Energy Summit, a project of Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station’s Energy Systems Laboratory, this past year, we honored nine organizations and individuals with awards. Congratulations to the following:
Gregg Cooke Award for Excellence in Environmental Leadership:
In recognition of his advocacy, scholarship, and achievements which yielded tangible improvements in the lives of marginalized people and communities.
Lifetime Achievement Award:
Bahman Yazdani has spent four decades working to advanced energy codes, improve energy management, and help the next generation of energy engineers to be steeped in sound energy efficiency principles. He has worked with over 200 cities, counties, and school districts. Yazdani has led Energy Systems Laboratory’s work under the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan to implement the statewide Building Energy Performance Standards, resulting in massive savings of natural resources and taxpayer dollars. Prior to his time at A&M, Bahman was Energy manager for Dallas county and Bryan ISD, leaving a legacy of excellence on energy management and environmental stewardship in those places as well.
Outstanding Government Official:
The Honorable Drew Darby
State Representative Drew Darby currently represents ten counties in West Texas spanning the Concho Valley and Permian Basin, an area larger than seven states.
Drew was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2006 to serve the people of House District 72. Drew is a lifelong West Texan, a native of San Angelo, and attended San Angelo public schools. Representative Darby graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Business Administration, majoring in Finance and minoring in Accounting. He earned a Doctorate of Jurisprudence from the University of Texas in 1971 and is a graduate of the Emerging Political Leaders Program at the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia.
Rep. Darby has engaged in hard work in the legislature on renewable energy and transmission policy. He has been a long-time advocate of solar energy. Rep. Darby worked to pass HB1607 through the House with 67 joint authors on a vote of 106-23 despite the passionate opposition of a few special interests. While the Senate did not pass this legislation, Rep. Darby played a key role in finding a compromise on SB1281 which will, depending on the rulemaking at the PUC, help open up all kinds of generation to access new transmission lines.
His sensible approach and his ability to work across the aisle and across urban-suburban-rural divides is remarkable.
Outstanding Commercial Enterprise:
HEB has taken significant actions to ensure reliable power, protect the needs of their customers, and reduce food waste. As part of a multi-year process, HEB embarked on a project to install micro-CHP systems and highly efficient gas systems that capture waste heat and increase the resilience of the grid and other critical systems (such as food, pharmacies, gas stations). HEB has also significantly invested in solar and currently have over 30 MW of solar as part of their energy portfolio. One of their facilities in South Texas has 4000 solar panels generating 40% of the facility’s energy use with 1.2MW. Another in San Antonio has 11,000 panels for about 3MW.
When Winter Storm Uri hit Texas, HEB kept right on running. This is not uncommon for HEB: it has a Director of Emergency Preparedness; a pandemic plan adopted 10 years prior to the COVID 19 pandemic; and HEB quickly responded to community needs after Hurricane Harvey by setting up mobile kitchens and water tankers.
Outside of disaster preparedness, HEB is also a leader in energy efficiency, with special attention given to refrigeration as partners in EPA’s GreenChill Partnership. HEB has begun using more EVs and is investing in charging infrastructure and is working to reduce diesel use by nearly 1 million gallons as part of the EPA Smart Way Transport Partnership.
HEB is only getting started. HEB is committed to sustainability, environmental stewardship, community resilience and leadership. Their leadership is so important and this state. Please join me in recognizing HEB for this award.
Clean Air Champion:
Lon Burnam served in the Texas legislature during a time when Texas air quality was among the worst places in the world. He was, and continues to be, a tireless voice for clean air environmental protection. During his time in the legislature, he was constantly filing bills to clean the air, was deeply involved in the push to prevent the building of 11 new coal plants, in 2006 and he was instrumental in reducing emissions from trains idling in the middle of his urban Fort Worth district.
No one has fought harder for clean air than Lon Burnam did in his 18 years at the legislature. Upon leaving the legislature, he began volunteering at the public and environmental health organization Public Citizen.
Clean Energy Champion:
For 30 years, Alison Silverstein has been a consistent voice of reason in the energy space, going back to her days as staff at the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Alison has also served on the Board of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and as a project manager for the North American SychroPhasor Initiative.
In 2017, she wrote a report for the Department of Energy about coal retirements and when DOE leadership tried to selectively edit the recommendations and slant them away from where the facts were pointing, she called out the inaccurate edits, at risk to her prospects of future work with DOE but in accord with what was right and needed to be done.
Over the last year, she has been an expert voice helping people understand in plain language, what’s going on with their energy system. For her consistent leadership, clear voice, and refusal to do anything except what’s right, please join me in recognizing the indomitable Alison Silverstein.
Outstanding School District:
San Antonio ISD
San Antonio ISD several years ago adopted a Master Plan with a 30% savings goal and began taking concrete steps toward achieving it, first looking for the low hanging fruit in operational changes and then going deeper with retrofit projects. They have accessed over $1.6m in rebates from CPS and also partnered with San Antonio Water System on water efficiency projects. The ROI on their efficiency projects has averaged less than 4 years, providing excellent value for taxpayers. Only four years after setting the 30% reduction goal, they are halfway there. SA ISD has also implemented granular energy monitoring programs to see where waste is happening and prevent damage from water leaks. Overall, they’ve cumulatively saved 68,000 MWh since kicking off the program, and nearly 50m gallons of water.
In addition to their energy savings work in schools, SA ISD facilities people embarked upon student engagement activities, establishing a 5-Minute Shutdown checklist that was developed by CAST Tech High School graduates and that was provided in poster form to all high school classrooms in October as part of Energy Awareness Month. They also collaborated with Poe Middle School in a nationwide energy competition called Renew our Schools to help promote energy awareness and conservation amongst staff and students. Students in this challenge had access to real- time energy data through an eGauge installed at their campus so they could see the results of their actions to save energy. Based on the successful participation of this campus, they were awarded 1st place among all participating schools,
Coalition for Environment Equity and Resilience (CEER)
The Coalition for Environment Equity and Resilience (CEER) was founded in 2017 and was “born from the storm” in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. CEER is comprised of 28 members and integrates traditional conservation oriented environmental groups with environmental justice organizations in a unique way, both in Texas and around the country. They have together fought for more equitable distribution of disaster relief funds, greater transparency about pollution, and more protection of human health, particularly in historically marginalized communities that bear the brunt of pollution.
CEER established the Climate Ambassadors program in which 20 residents of six historically marginalized communities engage with their networks and neighborhoods to achieve climate action. CEER trains their Ambassadors to engage and speak in public forums. Recently, the Climate Ambassadors participated in building codes discussions at the City of Houston and testified on energy efficiency bills at the Texas Capitol. CEER and this program are challenging the notion of who is an expert and insisting that the lived experiences of people are as valid as other forms of knowledge.
Special Award: Outstanding Media Project
Across seven episodes, the KUT team broke down what happened during Winter Storm Uri in language that was easy to understand, but still quite detailed and technical. It’s a rare gift to be able to talk about frequency like this:
“Yes, ERCOT’s job is to keep the grid balanced, running at this 60 hertz level — 60 beats per second. And so a good way to imagine this is as a bathtub. It has a faucet and it has a drain. And so the drain is open and the faucet is running. The faucet is the supply of electricity and the drain is the demand for electricity. So ERCOT’s job is to keep that bathtub at a constant level. Let’s call it a bathtub, that 60 hertz full. And so their job is to keep that bathtub draining at the same rate that it’s filling so that it stays at 60 hertz. And so when the faucet slows and the drain is still running, that bathtub is going to start to empty out a little bit. And that’s exactly what starts happening just after 1 o’clock on Monday, February 15th.”
This kind of explainer journalism is essential. After Winter Storm Uri, the public desperately wanted to understand what happened, what had been done to fix it, and how we could make sure it never happened again. In their episodes, KUT covered ERCOT’s isolation, the restructuring of the Texas market, the deregulation of rates for generation and retail, how the Legislature has responded tot these conditions, what a black start is, and more.
Energy Systems Laboratory Partner of the Year:
The Energy Systems Laboratory (ESL) not only produces research on air quality and clean energy, they also implement projects in the field, such as their massive ongoing project at Houston Airport System. To do this work, ESL depends on an ecosystem of companies. DFW Consulting Group is one of those companies.. DFW is a full-service mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering consulting firm with 30 years of experience delivering exceptional service and sound engineering practices. Since 1989, DFW has delivered more than 5,000 projects in a range of industries, including: aviation, broadcast, defense, education, municipal, and mission-critical facilities. DFW employs a repeatable, but not repetitive, method of precise execution and has the knowledge to engineer systems for any type of space from small to large. DFW is committed to being a leader in sustainable design practices and remains at the forefront of the latest technologies. The ESL is currently working with DFW Consulting on a variety of projects including preliminary Energy Assessments for City of Houston and Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, Condition Assessment and Cooling/Heating Capacity at IAH Central Utility Plant and a $28.4 Million Capital Improvement and Energy Efficiency Upgrade Project at Houston Airport System.
Click the links below to see the previous recipients for each award.