Is there a way for Texas to keep the lights on in the face of our energy crunch and manage to save electric customers some money at the same time? According to a new report from Brattle Group, solar power needs to be a big part of the answer if the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) plans to reduce the financial impact of their decisions on consumers. Fresh on the heels of their report detailing changes that could be made by ERCOT to keep our electric grid reliable, comes a new report from The Brattle Group showing the important role solar power can play in solving our long-term energy problems.
The difference between the reports is really focused on whether short-term fixes to help build new fossil-fueled power plants are enough, or if Texas should be looking at long-term solutions for the whole market (not just power companies, but customers too). The report couldn’t be more timely either: over the past few years, Texas has relied on the few forward thinking municipal utilities like San Antonio’s CPS, El Paso Electric and Austin Energy to attract solar companies to the state. Until now, the approach has worked. Because of those three cities, as recently as last year, the Solar Foundation ranked Texas #7 for solar jobs in the country and #9 for solar installations but as solar markets continue to grow throughout the U.S., Texas may be left behind.
The market is changing quickly. With panel prices declining 47 percent over the last year, many other states have entered the solar market – which means Texas can no longer rely on a few utilities to keep the state on the solar industry’s radar. In fact, according to the latest report from GTM Research, Texas has fallen from a ranking of #9 in the nation for new solar installations to #15.
As the Brattle Group’s new report shows, the importance of this shift relates not only to growing jobs in Texas, but also to the state’s ability to provide homeowners and businesses with reliable electricity. As we come off of the warmest spring on record in Texas, with triple digit temperatures making us all thankful for our air conditioners, reliable electricity will remain a critical issue. The new rules proposed by the PUC will help companies build new power plants, but these rules cannot focus solely on power companies. As the Brattle Report shows, we can meet the energy crunch head-on with policies that help Texans invest in solar to meet our growing energy demand in a way that relies less on water to operate.