Celebrating 50 Years:
The energy behind what’s next

Most people recall 1969 as the year the United States put a man on the moon. TECO likes to remember it as the year district cooling and heating were born on the Texas Medical Center (TMC) campus. 

Houston Natural Gas was the district energy system’s original owner, beginning plant and piping construction in 1968 and full operation in 1969. The system expanded almost immediately in 1970 and 1972, and has continued to grow through the decades. 

In 1978, TMC and numerous member institutions acquired the system from Houston Natural Gas. TECO, then known as Thermal Energy Cooperative, took over ownership and system operation. 

In 2019, the system celebrated its 50th anniversary, one year after TECO marked 40 years of system ownership in 2018.

Scroll below to learn how the district energy system – and TECO – have grown since chilled water and steam service began in 1969.


Texas Medical Center leaders explore and agree upon feasibility of central heating and cooling plant for member institutions


TMC leaders contract with Houston Natural Gas to build central plant.


Houston Natural Gas Corporation completes construction and begins operation of $4.5 million system central chilled-water and steam plant to serve buildings on Texas Medical Center campus.


Texas Medical Center Central Heating and Cooling Services Cooperative Association (Thermal Energy Cooperative) formed by TMC leaders to explore acquisition of chilled-water and steam system from Houston Natural Gas.


Thermal Energy Cooperative successfully negotiates acquisition of chilled-water and steam system and enters into membership agreements and signed contracts for service to Texas Medical Center customers.


Begins major energy-efficiency improvements, including conversion to a combination of natural gas, utility electric power and emergency power production.


Installs emergency water well to ensure future uninterrupted water supply after Hurricane Alicia shuts down city water supply.


Adds South Main Plant as a satellite additional chilled-water and steam capacity.


Adds 20,000 tons of chilled water capacity as it completes the buildout of the South Main Plant.


Changes name to Thermal Energy Corporation.


Interconnects Central Plant and South Main Plant distribution systems for expansion and even greater efficiencies and reliability.

Shifts ownership from a cooperative to a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation.


Completes construction of floodwall and other major infrastructure upgrades to protect against future flood damage and disaster impact.


Undertakes and completes a master planning project to strategize future expansion to parallel growth of Texas Medical Center.


Begins expansion construction.


Lays foundations and continues construction.


Completes 8.8 million-gallon chilled-water tank construction and begins tank operation.


Completes 48 MW combined heat and power system, begins operation.


Celebrates completion of expansion construction with grand opening of East Chiller Building.


Names flag plaza in honor of former TMC President Dr. Richard E. Wainerdi for his unwavering support.


Renames Central Plant the Paul G. Bell, Jr. Energy Plant to honor past chairman's 40 years of service and leadership.


Weathers record-setting Hurricane Harvey, maintaining non-stop chilled-water and steam service to customers.


Upgrades control room enabling operators to view additional internal and external data affecting operations.

Celebrates 40th anniversary of system ownership.

Rebated customers $33.4 million from 2011 to 2018 and reduced rates 14% from 2014 to 2018.


Marks 50th anniversary of district energy system, installs history timeline wall.

Honors TECO's past and current military veterans with a plaque commemorating their service.

Prepares and seals time capsule to be opened on system's 75th anniversary in 2044.


Provides 100% reliability for steam and chilled-water customers during Winter Storm Uri, when TECO recorded its lowest-ever outdoor temperature, 13° F.

Completes 2020+ Master Plan and receives go-ahead to increase flow of existing thermal energy storage tank and add new gas turbine generator.

XML Sitemap