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23 posts from March 2013


ERCOT adopts new demand reduction pilot program

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) approved a pilot this summer creating a new program to cut electric use during peak demand when power supplies are tight. "The Weather-Sensitive Emergency Response Service pilot is open to electric users — either as individual customers or as part of an aggregated group of consumers — who can reduce power use by at least 100 kilowatts, about the amount 20 homes use during peak demand," ERCOT said in a news release. Participants will be paid "based on how much they reduce demand." ERCOT can use this option when reserves drop below 2,300 megawatts, earlier than existing ERCOT programs.

“During the hottest hours of summer peak days, electric use by residential consumers represents about half of total demand, due mainly to increased use of air conditioning,” said ERCOT CEO Trip Doggett. “This pilot will provide new incentives for participants to reduce that weather-related consumption and support reliability for the entire grid."

ERCOT recently released its summer weather outlook, which sees "a significant chance that ERCOT will need to issue Energy Emergency Alerts and appeal for conservation on some days during the upcoming summer season." ERCOT manages power to 23 million Texas customers - representing 85 percent of the state's demand.
-- Jim Fuquay

More residences switching electricity providers

Electricity retailers could face consolidation as Texas and other competitive markets mature, attendees at a Grapevine power conference attendees were told this morning. While more residential customers than ever are willing to switch providers, the influx of competitors and lack of demand growth could be creating a retail bubble, said Rob Wilhite of DNV KEMA, the conference sponsor.
-- Jim Fuquay


Kona Grill coming to Fort Worth's West 7th development later this year


Kona Grill, where the specialties include the Big Island Meatloaf, sweet-chile glazed salmon and pad Thai noodles, is the latest restaurant chain to join the mix at West 7th.

The 7,500-square-foot restaurant will be at the intersection of Crockett Street and University Drive, said developer Cypress Equities.

This will be Kona Grill’s fifth Texas location and second in the Metroplex. It will open later this year.

Kona Grill provides contemporary cuisine made from scratch, including sandwiches, flatbreads, soups and an assortment of entrees featuring macadamia nut chicken, Big Island meatloaf, sweet-chili glazed salmon, and pad Thai noodles.

Diners may also enjoy sushi prepared at the restaurant’s full sushi bar, as well as designer cocktails.

"This addition will provide our guests with even greater dining options and further establish West 7th as one of the most popular destinations for Tarrant County foodies," said Michael Wheat, Cypress Equities’ executive vice president.

Steve Ewing with EDGE Realty Partners represented the tenant. Rodger Chieffalo with Chieffalo Realty represented the landlord.

_ Sandra Baker


Village Homes buys eight lots in Fort Worth's exclusive Montserrat neighborhood

Village Homes in Fort Worth has bought eight of the final 14 lots in Montserrat in far southwest Fort Worth.

The firm, owned by Micheal Dike and James Harris, have already built 25 homes in Montserrat. The 30-acre development of the Siratt family began in 2004 with 208 lots.

Village Homes said it will build homes on the new lots ranging in size from 3,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet and from $550,000 to $850,000.

"We are delighted to have reached this agreement because Montserrat is recognized for its unique character, commitment to homes of exceptional character, and and unmatched quality of life," Dike said.

Village Homes said it has completed about 350 homes in the greater Fort Worth area since it was founded in 1996.

_ Sandra Baker


BlissDom conference to attract entrepreneurial online publishers to Grapevine

Some of the best business ideas have emerged out of necessity.

In 2008, Alli Worthington and Barbara Jones, who met on Twitter, attended a party for Nashville Blissdom2013bloggers, but the event was canceled. So, they decided to to do an event themselves and the BlissDom Conference was born.

“We wanted to create more than just another ‘blogger’ conference. We wanted BlissDom to be an uplifting gathering for women who want to share support and encouragement and also build online publishing venues that fit their lives, personal goals and values," Worthington, a lifestyle-blogger and founder of the online women’s magazine Blissfully Domestic, said in a news release.

After five years in Nashville, the conference, which begins Thursday, will be held in at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine. This year's event is expected to attract about 1,000 social media pros and digital entrepreneurs.

The conference will focus on four areas: business, life development, photography and video, and writing. Keynote speakers include Jon Acuff, author of "Punch Fear in the Face"; Susan Cain, author of "QUIET: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking"; and Scott Stratten, author of The Book of Business Awesome.

“Alli and I shared a deep desire to offer entrepreneurial online publishers meaningful tools and support," said Jones, an alum of Southern Methodist University, who is the CEO and founder of Blissful Media Group, which provides social media marketing.

For the first time, the conference's Handmade Marketplace will be free and open to the public from noon to 7 p.m. on Thursday. Folks can shop the unique and vintage wares made by artists from around the country. Some of the local vendors include Plano's Dorey AromaTherapy and Skullsoap, handmade soaps from Dallas-based radio host Cindy Scull.

Attendees will also get a chance to rub shoulders with celebs including The Voice finalist Chris Mann and Glee's Amber Riley, who is a spokesperson for "Child Hunger Ends Here" and will debut a new song written for that campaign.

In 2012, BlissDom attendees had more than three million followers on Twitter, approximately 15 million friends and likes on Facebook, and websites that gathered more than 100 million monthly page views, according to Blissdom.

The cost of the event, which runs Thursday through Saturday, is $399 to $499 per person. As of Tuesday afternoon, there were still some registrations available. You can register here: http://blissdomconference.com/register/

--Maricar Estrella, @maricare

Fort Worth-Arlington mortgage holders underwater remained unchanged in fourth quarter 2012

Slightly more than 8 percent, or 30,961, of homeowners in Fort Worth-Arlington with a mortgage were in negative equity as of the fourth quarter of 2012, which is flat when compared to the third quarter 2012, said CoreLogic.

An additional 5.4 percent, or 20,388 residential properties, were in near negative equity for the fourth quarter of 2012, up slightly from the third quarter.

Negative equity is often referred to as being underwater or upside down and means borrowers owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.

Nationwide, about 200,000 more residential properties returned positive equity during the fourth quarter of 2012, bringing the number of properties that moved from negative to positive equity in 2012 to 1.7 million and the number of mortgaged residential properties with equity to 38.1 million, CoreLogic said.

About 10.4 million, or 21.5 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage, were still in negative equity at the end of the fourth quarter of 2012, down from 10.6 million, or 22 percent, at the end of the third quarter of 2012.

"The scourge of negative equity continues to recede across the country," said Anand Nallathambi, CoreLogic’s CEO. "There is certainly more to do but with fewer borrowers underwater, the fundamentals underpinning the housing market will continue to strengthen. The trend toward more homeowners moving back into positive equity territory should continue in 2013."

_ Sandra Baker


Starbucks in downtown FW to move this fall to new Sundance Square building

Starbucks Coffee will move this fall from 404 Houston St. to the northeast corner of The Westbrook building, now under construction as part of Sundance Square expansion and creation of a plaza in downtown Fort Worth.

Sundance Square said it has now completed leasing all the retail space facing into the new plaza.

Starbucks will into 1,739 square feet of and a 431-square-foot patio. The coffee house has been in their current 1,665-square-foot location for nine years.

"We have reached another milestone with all the retail space facing into the plaza now leased," said Johnny Campbell, Sundance Square CEO. "We will continue to focus our efforts on leasing the remainder of the space in the Commerce and Westbrook buildings. We have a lot of interest in the available space and we are pursuing those organizations who want to be in Sundance Square."

Del Frisco’s Grille by Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, Taco Diner, and Bird Café by Shannon Wynne have already announced plans to open restaurants in the plaza.

The six-story Westbrook at 425 Houston St. will include a first floor office lobby and retail space. The Commerce Building at 420 Commerce St. will have about 17,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

_ Sandra Baker

Seattle's Best Coffee drive-thru-only concept coming this spring to DFW

Starbuck’s-owned Seattle’s Best Coffee is bringing its drive-thru-only concept to Dallas-Fort Worth this spring.

The company announced today it plans 15 Metroplex locations that will open this spring.

The company just launched the concept, which caters to customers who want their coffee on-the-go, in Seattle in the fall and said it selected Dallas-Fort Worth for expansion because the area is one of the fastest growing and most populous markets in the country.

Of the 15 locations, 14 will be company-owned. Each location will hire 10 employees. A job fair will be scheduled for early April, the company said.

Specific locations were not announced.

"We believe that everyone deserves a great cup of coffee, even if they don’t have time to sit in a café," said Frank Sica, vice president and general manager for Seattle’s Best Coffee.

The soon-to-open Seattle’s Best Coffee drive-thrus will also offer a menu of "dashboard-friendly" food choices including coffee, dessert-inspired specialty coffee drinks, egg sandwiches and pretzel melts, and handheld "Anytime Pies." The drive-thru menu offers combos priced under $5.

"Texas has long been a part of our expansion plan and we are thrilled to finally bring Dallas-Fort Worth partners on board," Sica said.

_ Sandra Baker


DFW commercial buildings on EPA's top 25 energy savings list

Dallas-Fort Worth ranks the No. 8 top city in the U.S. with the most Energy Star certified buildings in 2012, according to a list released today by the EPA.

For the fifth year in a row, Los Angeles continues to hold on to first place, with 528 buildings. Washington, D.C., with 462 buildings, is No. 2 followed by Chicago as No. 3, with 353 buildings.

Dallas-Fort Worth has 214 Energy Star buildings, a place behind No. 7 Houston, which has 241 Energy Star buildings. No other Texas cities ranked in the top 25.

New York was No. 4 and Atlanta, No. 5.

"Through their partnership with the EPA, the owners and managers of Energy Star certified buildings are helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions while saving on utility bills," said EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe in a statement.

In 2012, more than 20,000 Energy Star certified buildings helped save more than $2.7 billion in annual utility bills while preventing greenhouse gas emissions equal to emissions from the annual electricity use of more than two million homes, the EPA said.

The EPA said it sees an increase in buildings applying for and earning Energy Star certification each year. The number of Energy Star certified buildings has increased 24 percent compared to last year, representing more than 3 billion square feet of floorspace nationwide.

In 2012, more than 8,200 buildings earned EPA’s Energy Star certification.

The EPA’s Energy Star program was launched in 1992.

_ Sandra Baker

Craft brewers, beer distributors close to deal on proposed changes in Austin

There's apparently movement in Austin to allow craft brewers more freedom to distribute and sell their specialty suds to consumers.

The Texas Tribune reports that brewers and big beer distributors reached a compromise on proposed changes to the state's alcoholic beverage code. Details are being held under wraps until official language is worked out later this week.

According to the Tribune, Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, filed bills last month "that would allow brewpubs to self-distribute to retailers and to sell directly to customers on their premises," but big wholesale distributors opposed it.

More to come.

-- Steve Kaskovich


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