By: Peter Sopher, policy analyst, clean energy, and Sarah Ryan, clean energy consultant
Over the past century, the electric grid in the United States has experienced only minor changes. There is evidence, however, the power sector is changing. We are moving away from traditional coal generation and toward alternative, cleaner energy sources. And despite our state being primarily known for oil and gas, Texas is no exception.
In fact, Texas’ electricity sector has been trending cleaner over the past decades, driven by deregulation of the electricity market, the development of the massive highway of transmission lines built to carry West Texas wind to cities throughout the state – the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ), and technological progress. Basically, once the market was opened up to competition, the more economic options – which also happen to be cleaner – began to gain a foothold. And there’s no stopping this train.
Where we are and where we’re going
To start, the declining use of fossil fuels to power our lives is perhaps the most significant change in Texas. As shown in Figure 1 below, fossil fuels’ (coal and gas’) proportion of the state’s electricity generation mix shrunk from 88 percent in 2002 to 82 percent in 2013. Read More
A carbon emissions reduction policy for power plants could prevent thousands of premature deaths
When it comes to reducing carbon pollution from power plants, details in policy choices matter, especially for the state of Texas.
The final proposal of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which would put the first ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants in the U.S., is expected later this summer. It comes on the heels of the publication of an important study in Nature Climate Change, which examined three different power plant carbon policy options and then investigated how each would affect clean air and public health.
The study is titled Health Co-benefits of Carbon Standards for Existing Power Plants, and was conducted by scientists Dr. Buonocore and Dr. Charles Driscoll as well as their colleagues from Harvard, Syracuse, and Boston Universities. Read More
I examined in the past how some of our state’s most prominent statewide politicians are acting against Texas interests by opposing the upcoming Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). Now I’m not one to exclude anyone from the spotlight, so I thought I’d shine some attention on State Representative Phil King (R-Weatherford), who also recently spoke out against the CPP.
Phil King has been a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 1998, so one may assume he is well-versed in Texas and what makes sense for the state. But although he was elected to serve the people of Weatherford, Texas, this isn’t the only group he represents. Not only is he a prominent member of the fossil fuel-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), headquartered outside of D.C. in Arlington, VA, Rep. King was recently appointed the National Chair of this shadowy organization.
His senior position with and involvement in ALEC makes me question: when he dismisses and denies the benefits of the CPP, is Rep. King really looking out for his district and the state of Texas? Read More
Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz recently met in a meeting with Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell to discuss how they could sabotage the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed (CPP). The CPP would place the nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants – the rules for which are expected to be finalized this summer.
The reason for the meeting is simple: Sen. McConnell is currently touting a “just say no” approach to EPA’s regulations, advocating states refuse to create a compliance plan, which is clearly to protect his coal-producing state. He also supports legislation to let states opt-out of the pollution reduction program. After the closed-door meeting, Governor Abbott announced he is siding with the Senator from Kentucky on the CPP.
What the press release didn’t say: By aligning himself with Sen. McConnell, Governor Abbott is hurting Texas. Read More
Earlier this week, I testified at a hearing of the Texas House Committee on Environmental Regulation, specifically on how Texas will respond to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP), the nation’s first-ever limit on carbon pollution from existing power plants. But before I went to the Capitol, my three-year-old daughter asked me where I was going. I told her I was going to work, and she asked me, “Mommy, what are you going to save?” I replied that I was going to save water, and she said, “Good job, Mommy.”
That’s exactly what the CPP could do for Texas: save millions of gallons of water each year by encouraging the state to switch from polluting power sources (like coal plants) to non-polluting sources (such as wind and solar farms) and increase no-water solutions like energy efficiency.
It’s no secret that Texas is currently in the midst of a multi-year drought – yet the vast majority of our electricity comes from sources that contribute to this prolonged drought, namely coal, nuclear, and natural gas. All of these energy sources require copious amounts of water to produce electricity. Read More
The story of Texas wind energy is a success, but it's an odd history.
In 1999, when Texas deregulated the energy market, a deal was struck to include a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), a requirement that power companies source a certain amount of their electricity from renewable energy by certain dates. Texas surpassed the original targets, as well as subsequently increased targets, eventually making Texas the U.S. wind leader. In fact, the wind industry’s success has been an integral part of the "Texas Miracle" of job creation, especially in West Texas, which hasn't seen an economic boom like this since before the Great Depression.
However, state Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) and other legislators think that, because Texas blew past its wind goals, we can call it a "mission accomplished" and repeal the RPS. Repealing Texas’ wind goals at this time, though, could undermine Texas’ wind industry, potentially eliminating thousands of jobs and halting millions of investment dollars Texas receives every year.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) recently released its annual U.S. Wind Industry Market Report for 2014. The report puts Texas on a pedestal, highlighting how the Lone Star State is home to 37 percent of newly installed wind capacity in 2014. Of the 12,700 megawatts (MW) under construction across the country, approximately 7,000 MW are in Texas. Unsurprisingly, Texas leads the country with over 17,000 wind industry jobs. In the list of the Top 10 Public Utilities and Public Utility Districts with Wind Capacity on System across the U.S., Texas’ own CPS Energy in San Antonio and Austin Energy rank first and third, respectively. Read More
Also posted in Legislation, Wind Tagged AWEA