Monday AM June 4th, 2007

Small businesses can control energy costs with air conditioning tuning, upgrades, clean filters and high-efficiency bulbs…Governor returns from Bilderberg Conference…Former U.S. energy regulators speak out on benefits of electricity deregulation… A key goal of small businesses is to control energy costs, especially during the heat of the summer. David Dollihite from Direct Energy says that […]

Small businesses can control energy costs with air conditioning tuning, upgrades, clean filters and high-efficiency bulbs…Governor returns from Bilderberg Conference…Former U.S. energy regulators speak out on benefits of electricity deregulation…

A key goal of small businesses is to control energy costs, especially during the heat of the summer. David Dollihite from Direct Energy says that might mean tuning or upgrading your air conditioning equipment.

“The biggest thing we’re advising our customers right now is to find a competent air conditioning professional and have your air conditioning equipment tuned up. That piece of equipment uses probably 50 percent of your energy bill over the course of a Houston summer, and having just a few small things out of tune or out of maintenance can cost you an additional 20 percent per month. I mean we’re all conditioned to get the oil changed in our car and to get our cars tuned up, but we don’t usually extend that to the air conditioning systems either in our homes or in our small businesses. And people don’t really realize this, but a dirty air filter, in addition to contributing to poor air quality in the business, it can also add an additional 10 to 15 percent energy usage, due to the fact that the equipment gets dirty and doesn’t work as well, and just the drag on the compressors and the motors. You know, the individual can do a lot when you start multiplying, again, by two million small businesses, toward reducing the needs to build new generation and new transmission and use more fossil fuel, and you know with that comes the associated carbon emissions.”

Dollihite says good management of energy can slow down waste, and that translates to cost savings.

“Well, the Department of Energy’s estimate for residential and small businesses is 30 percent of the energy we consume is wasted. You’ve got a 30 percent opportunity out there if people would just manage their lifestyles and their work styles a little bit better. I’m not talking about sacrificing comfort here—just turning things off when you don’t need them, programming that programmable thermostat. Make sure you’ve got you bulbs changed out to compact fluorescents—they use about one-seventh of the energy (than) the normal incandescent bulb does, plus they don’t generate as much heat that then has to be cooled off in the office space. If you’ve got a, you know, southern- or western-facing exposure, you want to look at, you know, the potential of getting you windows tinted to block out some of the radiant energy from the sun. The other thing is just be, you know, conscientious about just turning things off when you, you know, you leave for the day. It’s amazing how much electricity that the new-generation computers use with all that computing power. People tend to, for convenience matter, they want to let them run all night, but you’re, you’re using power from a couple different ways then—one to power the computer, but also you’re generating a fair amount of heat from that computer which has to be cooled down.”

Dollihite says common sense can help save energy, with a major impact on the environment and on the bottom line.

Governor Rick Perry attended a conference in Istanbul, Turkey, this weekend. The annual Bilderberg Conference is typically a private event for influential government officials and financial experts from Europe and North America. Perry was invited to speak on state-federal relations. He is scheduled to return to Texas today. A Perry spokesman says that the trip was paid for by Perry’s campaign fund.

A bipartisan group of former U.S. energy regulators is speaking out on the benefits of electricity deregulation. The campaign comes in response to what they see as an unwarranted raid on open, competitive power markets. Concerns about electricity deregulation are growing in several states as electricity prices soar. Critics blame market restructuring, and some states like Virginia have even taken steps to roll back deregulation. To temper the backlash and turn up the volume on their side of the debate, the group of former members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is sending an open letter to state and federal officials. The letter outlines what they say are the benefits of competition in wholesale electricity markets. The group includes nine ex-federal energy regulators: Betsy Moler, Vicky Bailey, Nora Mead Brownell, Linda Breathitt, James Hoecker, Jerry Langdon, Donald Santa, Pat Wood and William Massey. Moler and Langdon respectively work for Illinois-based Exelon and Houston-based Reliant Energy, which are independent power producers that thrive in competitive markets. Massey serves as counsel for the Compete Coalition. That’s a group of independent power producers pushing for open markets. Its members include Exelon, Reliant, Houston-based Sempra Energy and other power generators. Wood is former chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission and the FERC.

In the current frenzy of eye-popping private equity offers, sometimes a buyout isn’t exactly a buyout. Witness the latest deal for San Antonio-based radio and billboard giant Clear Channel Communications. Two private equity firms offer cash for shares, but they’ll also allow up to 30 percent of the public shareholders to stick around and hold part of the privatized company. Such deal structures are more common in Europe. But in the United States, private equity pays a premium partly to avoid dealing with public shareholders. Letting public shareholders keep a stake in privatized companies isn’t likely to become widespread here, even in the current fit of deal-making. But some industry watchers say it could become more common. Because the amount is more than the stock’s recent value, shareholders usually gladly take the money and run after a deal gets the board’s blessing. But some shareholders, particularly institutional ones, have become wary that private equity firms are getting steals on companies. Those companies have been beaten up by the public markets for management missteps or other issues that can be resolved with enough patience. They’ve watched private equity firms pay what seems like good money for a company only to make a few changes and then sell or go public again for a lot more money.

Supermarket shopping in Britain is about to become a lot less mundane with the arrival of tasting stands, organic apples stacked ceiling high, yoga and an organic pub. The innovations are being brought to Merrie ol’ England by Whole Foods Markets. The Austin-based organic supermarket chain is opening a massive flagship store in London next week. Some analysts say it’ll become a must-travel-to destination store. Others warn the company faces an uphill battle to gain a foothold in an already overcrowded domestic supermarket sector. Either way, whole foods is jumping in, not wading. The company’s new store in the affluent Kensington neighborhood will stretch across three floors of a former art deco department store. That makes it far bigger than any existing grocery store in Britain. It plans to follow that up with another 30 to 40 stores across the country.

Australia’s biggest gambling and media company has joined a partnership that plans to build the world’s tallest building in Las Vegas. Publishing and Broadcasting Limited says it’s formed a joint venture with IDM Properties of Austin and York Capital Management of New York to develop a resort that will be called the Crown Las Vegas. The 1,888-foot tower would be built on the former site of a swimming and water park on the north end of the Vegas Strip. It will sit next to a 24.5-acre site being developed as The Fontainebleau-Las Vegas, a 3,889-room casino, hotel, condominium and spa resort tower due to open in late 2009.

If you get an e-mail saying the Internal Revenue Service is investigating you, don’t worry. Don’t open any attachments either, because it probably didn’t come from the tax agency. The IRS says the e-mail purporting to be from its Criminal Investigation Division falsely states that the recipient is under a criminal probe. And it tries to get the recipient to click on a link or open an attachment. However, the e-mail link and attachment Is a trojan horse that can take over the computer hard drive and give someone remote access to the computer. The IRS says it does not send out unsolicited e-mails or ask for detailed personal and financial information.

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