AUSTIN, Texas — All last week, blame shifted and fingers were pointed during legislative hearings into the statewide power outages. While much of the attention was on the failures of the supply chain, some believe there is an opportunity for consumers to be a part of the solution.
Tending to wildlife can start right in your own backyard, and for Dale Bulla, energy efficiency at his home has been a personal mission for more than two decades. Spectrum News 1 caught up with Bulla while he was filling up a water source at his garden, which is recognized as a certified wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.
“If we don’t take care of nature, nature won’t take care of us. We want to be good stewards of the planet,” Bulla said.
Bulla was not using water from city, but rather from his rainwater harvesting system. The retired Dallas school teacher said capturing rainwater can actually help rein in your electric bills and help the environment in the process, considering Austin’s wastewater treatment plants are some of the biggest users of the city’s electricity. Bulla, an owner of four rainwater tanks, has one that can hold 300 gallons.
“Every gallon of water you save at your house saves electricity,” he said.
Bulla believes the recent power crisis shows how we all have a hand in the effort to reduce reliability on the electricity grid.
“We only have one planet. There’s no ‘Planet B.’ The better we take care of our planet, the better we have to leave to our children and grandchildren, and so, the less demands we put on the resources the better is for everybody. Not just the birds and butterflies, but the people, too. We do our best to reduce consumption of water and energy to make for a healthier planet,” Bulla said.
Presenting before Texas lawmakers, stakeholders largely discussed the inability for supply to keep up demand, but there may be a collective responsibility to reduce reliance on the grid in the first place.
“Deregulation of our energy industry in Texas has left us vulnerable and we really do need to govern in order to correct for that vulnerability,” state Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, D-Bastrop, said.
Prior to the power outages, Echkardt, who represents the state’s 14th senate district, filed Senate Bill 243. The bill sets annual energy saving goals for electric utilities. With all the focus on the issues on the supply side, she said demand needs to be addressed too.
“We really do need to assure one another that we're being as efficient as we possibly can with our energy use at peak time, and also not at peak time. This stuff is valuable, and it's important for us to use it well. So that we don't put an unnecessary load on the grid, a wasteful load on the grid,” Eckhardt said.
Eckhardt filed Senate Bill 306, also before the widespread blackouts, and it would require the Public Utility Commission of Texas and other state agencies to lay out how climate change is going to affect what they do and what their plan is to address the resiliency necessary to keep the grid reliable.
Typically, for most of the year, the solar panels on Bulla’s roof provide all the energy he uses in his 2,300-square-foot home. Austin Energy offers customers like him rebates for such installations. In addition to that, Bulla even has a smart thermostat to help keep electric usage down. He said despite some the upfront costs for efficiency, his utility bill for multiple years prior to the pandemic have been zero dollars.
“Reliability depends on us the consumers,” Bulla said.