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 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:
Our next award goes to a man who has touched thousands of lives. His blend of kindness (sweetness really) and deep expertise in energy efficiency is a fantastic blend. He 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. He 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.
His CV is long. But what I want to emphasize more than anything is the combination of impact and kindness. You won’t meet a kinder person than Bahman. He goes out of his way to be good and to do good. And it’s that mix of being both a really, really, good person and really, really good at his job that makes him a great candidate for the Lifetime Achievement Award. Please join me in recognizing Mr. Bahman Yazdani.
Outstanding Government Official:
The Honorable Drew Darby
Rep. Darby is winning this award for his excellent work last session on renewable energy and transmission policy but he’s not a newcomer to this area. I was researching him to write this little preamble and I found an op-ed from Rep. Darby supporting solar power in 2011. At the time, Texas wasn’t even in the top 10 for solar with only a few hundred megawatts. Rep. Darby was, and still is, ahead of his time.
He also realized before most that there would be economic opportunities for rural Texas from renewable energy, which he noted in an interview, are sometimes the only opportunities for economic development in some counties. But developers started explaining to him that “curtailments,” turning off wind farms and solar panels because there was more than could be fed into existing transmission, was slowing down the industry. So he got to work. He passed HB1607 through the House with 67 joint authors on a vote of 106-23 despite the passionate opposition of a few special interests. The Senate did not pass it but 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, his ability to work across the aisle and across urban-suburban-rural divides is remarkable. And his determination to bring clean energy into the market and benefit rural Texas is worthy of recognition, even an award. Please join me in congratulating rep. Darby on the Outstanding Government Official award.
Outstanding Commercial Enterprise:
A few years ago, HEB decided they simply weren’t going to take it anymore. Power wasn’t reliable enough and it was impacting their core mission to serve their customers when food had to be thrown out and wasn’t available for purchase. They embarked on a project to install micro-CHP systems, highly efficient gas systems that capture waste heat and increase the resilience not only of the grid but of other critical systems (food, pharmacies, gas stations). They also have gone big with solar with over 30 MW of solar now. One facility 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.
So when the power went out last year, HEB kept right on running. They have a Director of Emergency Preparedness. They had a pandemic plan ready to go (it was adopted a decade ago) when the pandemic hit. After Harvey they had mobile kitchens and water tankers through the community.
And outside of disaster preparedness, they are also leaders on energy efficiency, with special attention given to refrigeration as partners in EPA’s GreenChill Partnership. They have begun using more EVs and investing in charging infrastructure and have reduced diesel use by nearly 1 million gallons as part of the EPA Smart Way Transport Partnership.
This mix of forward thinking, community mindedness, and sustainability is rare and worthy of recognition.
These accomplishments matter. They have impact. But part of the reason HEB is getting this award is because we know they are 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:
Our next awardee served in the Texas legislature better time when Texas air quality was among the worst places in the world, It was, and continues to be, tireless voice, clean air environmental protection. He was constantly filing bills to clean. The air, was deeply involved in the push to prevent the building. 11. New coal plants and 2006. He Was instrumental in reducing emissions from trains idling in the middle of his urban fort Worth district.
No one fought harder for clean air in his 18 years at the legislature. And upon leaving, he instantly started volunteering, including in his current capacity to volunteer for public citizen. Citizen. He has not let up for these reasons, please join me in honoring lawn Burnham as cleaning air champion.
Clean Energy Champion:
If Texas does end up with a truly resilient grid, I’d bet money right now it’s because policymakers listen to the person I’m going to bring up here next. For 30 years, she’s 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.
She has also served on the Board of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy 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, and sometimes very funny and sharp, language, what’s going on with their energy system. “We planned our system for Ozzie and Harriet weather and we have Mad Max.” “LSEO is a capacity market in drag.” Etc.
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
To be presented by Glenn Rhoden Texas Energy Managers Association
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 actually awarded 1st place among all participating schools!
Coalition for Environment Equity and Resilience (CEER)
The Coalition for Environment Equity and Resilience was founded in 2017, “born from the storm” in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. CEER is comprised of 28 members and combines traditional conservation oriented environmental groups with environmental justice organizations in a way that is rare 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.
One of the reasons for this recognition is the establishment of the Climate Ambassadors program in which 20 residents of six historically margnalized communities engaged their networks and neighborhoods for climate action. They train their Ambassadors and to engage and speak in public forums. They engaged on building codes discussions at the City of Houston and testified on energy efficiency bills here at the Capitol. They are challenging the notion of expertise and insisting that the lived experiences of people count and should be considered as expert testimony. Their work is deeply impactful already. Nearing their 5 year anniversary, they’re just getting started.
Please join me in congratulating the Coalition for Environment Equity and Resilience on winning this award
Special Award: Outstanding Media Project
What happened last year in February was baffling to all of us, including those that work in the energy space. How could such a catastrophic failure on so many levels happen? Enter Mose Buchele and the team at KUT to go back, waaaayyyyy back to the earliest days of the industry and through the restructuring of the electric market, the 2011 blackouts… and with interviews of all kinds of people, not just experts but including people who suffered during the storm.
Across seven episodes, the KUT team broke down what happened 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 February, 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, they covered how it came to be that ERCOT is an island, how the market came to be restructured with deregulation of rates for generation and retail, what the Legislature did in response, what black start is, and more. This is an exceptional work of journalism and hopefully will continue to be downloaded and listened to for years to come. I also hope they make more episodes like they did in November to explain what exactly winterization of power plants and gas supply looks (or more accurately, sounds) like.
Great work, Mose. Let’s give him a round of applause.
ESL Partner of the Year:
The Energy Systems Laboratory not only produces research on air quality and clean energy, they also implement projects in the field, including a massive project at Houston Airport System underway now. To do this work, ESL depends on an ecosystem of companies and each year the Lab honors one of those partners. DFW Consulting Group 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.
*The Awards Committee reserves the right to make modifications in award categories appropriate to recognizing each year’s outstanding achievements; may recognize achievements in any, all or none of the categories; and may designate additional categories for special recognition.