Oncor is set to launch the 2017 cycle of its “Take A Load Off, Texas
” (TALOT) energy efficiency programs with a multimillion-dollar budget allocation in place and a refreshed list of available ways to use it.
And one Oncor customer, a major processor of fresh food, rolled into the year by inaugurating one of the largest commercial solar arrays in the state.
TALOT provides financial incentives for homes, businesses, and public entities that undertake energy-saving projects such as installing solar panels, weatherizing dwellings, upgrading to efficient lighting, or committing to a load management plan. In most cases, the money does not go directly to consumers, but is distributed to Retail Electric Providers and contractors who have the option to pass it to consumers in the form of cost savings.
Since Oncor launched the program in 2001, more than 800,000 of the company’s 3.2 million customers have participated or been affected by it. In fact, the projects that TALOT has helped make happen over the years have had an effect on how much remains to be done, which influences the plans and budgets for subsequent years.
“While we move the energy efficiency market in some areas,” said Michael Stockard, Oncor’s Director of Energy Efficiency. “We also react to outside influences.” For example, he says, the cost of solar energy equipment has fallen dramatically in recent years, which means more people are installing it with or without extra incentives. In addition, the significant number of customers who have participated in the programs in the residential and commercial market – spurred by the TALOT program itself – means there are fewer new, untapped customer sites than before.
Stockard notes that every dollar of the TALOT incentive budget finds its way to the end customer in the form of a direct or contractor-administered incentive.
“We are being more cost-effective with the way we allot these incentive dollars,” Stockard says. The goal is to provide each participating customer just enough impetus to “tip the scales” toward committing to an energy efficient project or installation. To spend more than necessary on any one recipient would mean fewer total recipients are encouraged to act.
In Dallas, the California-based food processing company Taylor Farms has just added a four-acre, 1.1 Megawatt solar array to the roof of its two-year-old processing facility. The plant, which added 500 jobs to an existing Texas workforce of about 1,100, prepares fresh food selections for retail sale in the form of pre-packaged salads, sandwiches, and other offerings. The new solar roof echoes similar sustainability commitments the company has made at three facilities in its home state.
Taylor Farms partnered with Oncor and participated in TALOT to get the solar job done. As Taylor Farms Director of Sustainability Nicole Flewell said, “We dove into the details and decided Oncor was a perfect fit.” More than 3,500 solar panels went online in December, and they are expected to provide about 17 percent of the plant’s energy needs. As part of a separate program within TALOT’s portfolio, Taylor Farms worked with Oncor to help defray the cost of installing energy-efficient LED lighting.
“What I really enjoyed about this process is that Oncor looked at it from a qualitative perspective,” Flewell said. “They wanted to invest in a company that was already invested in sustainability.” She said the cash incentives from Oncor saved the company about 10 percent on the total cost of the solar project, and a federal tax credit saved 30 percent on top of that, which made the project feasible. Taylor Farms projects the array will save the new plant 20 percent on its energy bill in the first year.
Oncor’s budget for each year of the TALOT program requires approval from the state Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUCT). For 2017, the PUCT approved $42 million in incentives, which Oncor projects will have the effect of reducing peak demand by 145 MW and overall customer consumption by 208,000 MWh over the course of the year.
Based on preliminary 2016 results, TALOT’s $53 million budget has reduced more than 126 MW from peak demand and helped curb consumption by exceeding 193,000 MWh. This is equivalent to the annual energy used by 11,350 homes using approximately 17,000 kWh per year.
Oncor uses formulas approved by the PUCT to calculate the projected energy savings for each year’s program. According to Stockard, the PUCT has modified the formulas for photovoltaic solar installations and HVAC duct sealing work, resulting in a significant decrease in the energy savings it was able to claim for those projects. To apply available resources where they will do the most good for the most customers, Oncor has rolled back the solar portion of TALOT for 2017 and removed duct sealing as an eligible energy-saving measure in the residential programs. Duct sealing still provides benefits to customers, such as increased comfort, but Oncor cannot offer this measure cost effectively.
In other areas, the program is expanding. Following a pilot program in 2016 that attracted more than 7,000 participants, TALOT in 2017 will roll out a full-scale version of its residential advanced thermostat program, representing a commitment of about $1.3 million. This money will go to Retail Electric Providers who use it to incent as many as 25,000 customers to allow energy-saving advanced thermostats to reduce energy consumption during peak times. Oncor is also adding a program in conjunction with Lime Energy that will encourage small businesses in the outlying areas of Dallas-Fort Worth to install energy-efficient lighting.
Homeowners and businesses that wish to participate in Oncor’s energy efficiency program can look for incentives they may qualify for by visiting takealoadofftexas.com
. The list of incentive programs and participating contractors updates regularly, so Stockard advised customers to visit often.
2017 PROGRAM OPENINGS:
- Basic Commercial -- Open
- Custom Commercial -- Open
- Solar (Commercial & Residential) --Feb. 7
- Home Energy Efficiency & Low-Income Weatherization -- March 1
- Commercial Load Management -- April 20