What's New . . .
- The Senate Committee on Business and Commerce, which I chair, met on July 10, 2012 at the Texas Capitol. During the hearing, members received quarterly updates from selected state agencies and heard testimony on several interim charges relating to utilities, the electric grid, and homeowners insurance. You can find testimony from the hearing online on the Committee's blog, as well as an archived video of the hearing.
- The North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) is launching a new effort in order to pursue the state's top toll violators. On July 11, NTTA began maintaining on its website a Top Toll Violators list of drivers that have accrued at least 100 unpaid toll transactions. You can also view FAQ's about NTTA's billing and collection policies to help avoid finding your name on the list.
- On July 16, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is introducing a new general-issue license plate, "The Texas Classic." The new design is white with larger black lettering and features the Texas star, state silhouette, and "The Lone Star State" slogan, as well as new security features. Plates will be issued with three letters followed by four numbers. Keeping the letters and numbers separate in the alpha-numeric pattern is easier for owners to remember, and it provides for better recall by law enforcement and citizen witnesses. After Texas counties exhaust their inventory of the current general issue plates, it will take at least seven years before all passenger vehicles and light trucks will display "The Texas Classic" plates.
Focus . . .
In June, we saw record high temperatures all over Texas and no indication that the heat will relent during these hot summer months. As we try to stay cool, it is inevitable that the state's electric consumption will increase with the rising temperatures. It seems only fitting that this month we spend a little time focusing on the state's electric grid.
As Chair of the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce, which monitors and passes legislation relating to utilities, I have become very familiar with the infrastructure that maintains electric power throughout the state of Texas. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the flow of electric power to the vast majority of Texans -- 23 million Texas customers representing 85 percent of the state's total electric load. As the independent system operator for the region, ERCOT schedules power on an electric grid that connects 40,500 miles of transmission lines and more than 550 generation units. ERCOT is subject to oversight by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, as well as the Texas Legislature.
Last summer's record breaking heat placed an enormous toll on the state's electric grid and forced ERCOT to implement rolling blackouts around the state. Already this summer, the independent system operator has faced challenges. On Tuesday, June 26, ERCOT set a new peak demand record. Electric use during the hour between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. reached 66,583 megawatts, also exceeding the standing record for July. ERCOT has warned us that if we face another heat wave like the one we saw last summer, these emergency rolling blackouts may again be necessary. For our part, efficiency and conservation are needed and extremely useful during these upcoming summer months.
This past June, ERCOT launched a mobile application that notifies participants with real-time updates about the status of the ERCOT grid, as well as providing tips on how to effectively conserve electricity during peak times. Most notably, the app will provide "push" notifications straight to subscribers devices. Users who enable this feature will receive alerts when ERCOT is experiencing high demand and conservation is critical, notifying them of the situation. The ERCOT Energy Saver app is free and available to both iPhone and Android users.
The Public Utility Commission has also published a number of useful conservation and energy efficiency tips on its website. Remember, it is most useful to implement conservation techniques between the hours of 3-7 p.m. I hope you will use these tools to learn about energy conservation and begin to implement some of these ideas in your homes. Not only will it help to decrease the state's energy demand, you may even see a savings in your utility bills.
Texas In The News . . .
- The Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex rated second on a recent survey of the most business friendly cities in the U.S. The survey polled more than 6,000 small businesses to arrive at the results. Two other Texas cities, San Antonio and Austin, ranked 3rd and 4th respectively. You can read more about the results in an article from CNN Money.
- The Texas Economy, a website run by the Office of the Texas Comptroller, recently posted a video of Richard Fisher, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, discussing how states should emulate Texas' pro-business practices. You can find the interview here.
- According to a Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey, conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Texas manufacturing activity spiked in June, posting its strongest reading in 15 months. Ranking second among states, Texas produces more than 9 percent of all manufactured goods in the United States. The survey also included labor market indicators showing stronger labor demand.
In Closing . . .
Don't forget to vote in the Texas Primary Runoff Election. Early voting runs from July 23rd through July 27th, with election day scheduled for July 31, 2012. Visit the Dallas County Elections Department to view a sample ballot and to find your polling location -- some locations have consolidated or changed since the last election!
Stay cool and conserve energy when you can.
State Senator - District 16
|P.O. Box 12068|
Austin, TX 78711
|8080 N. Central Expy.
Suite 1440, LB 44
Dallas, TX 75206
|5401 N. Central Expy.
Dallas, TX 75205