Wind technicians working atop a turbine in Sweetwater, Tex.
Source: NY Times
Earlier this month, Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) chairwoman Donna Nelson called for the federal government to end its renewable energy tax credit for Texas wind and for the end of state policies that have resulted in Texas’ clean energy economy boon. The chairman’s appeal is so devoid of a factual basis it is hard to conclude that this is anything other than part of an orchestrated campaign by fossil fuel interests to stop the growth of renewable energy. Like the other attacks on clean energy, this is more politics than substance.
The federal and state policies that Chairman Nelson wants to eliminate have been great for Texas. Texas ranks first in the nation for wind-related jobs, employing over 8,000—and many of those jobs are keeping agriculture-heavy West Texas and Panhandle communities afloat amid the devastating multi-year drought. Plus, 60% of all wind projects under construction across the country in the first quarter of 2014 were in Texas. And studies (including one produced by the Texas PUC) have shown that electricity prices are lower when more wind energy is installed on the power grid. Read More
With the recent release of the National Climate Assessment, the threat of climate change has never been clearer. Addressing this will require a fundamental transition away from fossil-fuel sources of energy in favor of renewable energy technologies like wind and solar power. Electric utilities vary in their progress towards delivering a future powered by clean energy. Notably, Central Texas, with its combination of energy know-how, creative thinking, and technology entrepreneurship, is home to many utilities leading the way in clean energy resources and smart grid technology.
Austin & San Antonio are leading the pack
Although Texas has a deregulated, competitive electricity market where most energy companies compete for customers, the San Antonio-Austin-Hill Country corridor is mainly comprised of public electric utilities, like municipals and cooperatives that are community-owned. For years, Austin and San Antonio’s municipal utilities have benefited from an engaged customer base that cares about the transition to a clean energy economy. Read More
Over the past several years, a combination of market forces and targeted policies has brought about enormous growth in clean energy technologies around the United States. A clean energy economy has developed around these new technologies, creating tens of thousands of homegrown jobs each year. Despite the industry’s initial surge, recent economic uncertainty has led to a plateau in clean energy job growth in most, but not all, regions in the U.S.
According to a report released by Environmental Entrepreneurs, the U.S. created 10,800 clean jobs in the third quarter of 2013, down from 37,000 in the previous quarter.
Notably, Texas doesn’t follow the national trend. Texas clean energy companies created over 660 jobs in the fall quarter of 2013 alone, up from less than 500 jobs in the previous quarter, cementing Texas in the list of top 10 states for clean energy jobs. Read More
Recently, we highlighted some of the impressive clean energy research projects currently under development in universities across the state of Texas. These research initiatives form the foundation to Texas’ position as leader in the clean energy economy and a producer of a burgeoning workforce. And this clean energy workforce requires a variety of skill sets that can be learned at different points along the educational spectrum.
In 2010, I produced a Texas Green Jobs Guidebook that highlights the job diversity within the clean energy sector—from solar panel installation to air quality enforcement. Universities train engineers, architects and city planners, but the clean energy workforce also requires a level of technical skill that is best taught at the community college level. In many ways, community colleges play a vital role in training the individuals that will put the clean energy future into action, and schools in Texas understand the growing need for skilled technicians.
Houston Community College recently launched a new solar energy program that trains students to install solar panels. Their education includes understanding proper placement and trouble-shooting and is, in fact, the first program in the area that is certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Read More
This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.
This week the Texas Legislature convened for its third Special Session in a row, yet the state’s electricity market still sits at a crossroads. The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC), Texas’ governing body for electricity, has been at a stalemate since Commissioner Rolando Pablos stepped down in February. The two remaining commissioners, Chairman Donna Nelson and Ken Anderson, seem to be waiting on a third deciding member to step up and address the looming Texas Energy Crunch. With the PUC divided and the legislature nearly adjourned, the state looks to Governor Perry to appoint a third commissioner to the PUC—breaking the longstanding stalemate on Texas’ power supply.
When appointed, the new commissioner will be in unique position to champion innovative, common-sense solutions to solve the Texas Energy Crunch. One of the most expedient and cost-effective ways to bolster the state’s electricity supply is to reduce the amount of energy needed to fuel our commercial buildings and homes through energy efficiency upgrades. In an upcoming post, I’ll discuss innovative ways to weigh the benefits of energy efficiency upgrades versus new fossil-fueled power plants. For now, though, let’s review where energy efficiency stands in Texas today.
Also posted in Energy Efficiency, ERCOT, Texas Energy Crunch, Utilities Tagged Commissioner, Energy Efficiency, ERCOT, Legislature, Perry, Public Utility Commission, Resource Adequacy, Texas Energy Crunch
Last week, the City of Houston announced that it would increase its purchase of renewable electricity to cover half of its energy use. The city will use almost 623,000 megawatt-hours of electricity from renewable sources per year—equivalent to the energy used by 55,000 residential homes annually. The purchase makes Houston the largest municipal buyer of renewable energy in the nation. While Houston’s latest renewable energy purchase may seem at odds with its reputation as an oil and gas hub, it’s exactly the sort of common-sense decision we expect from a city that’s touted as the energy capital of the nation.
Houston is in good company among other Texas cities. The City of Austin already gets 100% of its electricity from renewable sources. To make the switch, the city leveraged Austin Energy’s GreenChoice program, one of the nation’s most successful utility-sponsored and voluntary green-pricing programs. The program is part of Austin’s Climate Protection Plan, which establishes a 35 % renewable portfolio goal for Austin Energy by 2020. In San Antonio, the municipally owned CPS Energy has emerged as a leader in smart power. Through its New Energy Economy initiative, CPS Energy is growing its network of smart meters and expanding its installed solar capacity, among many other sustainable initiatives. Today, CPS Energy uses more solar energy than any other Texas utility, while still having the lowest electric rates among the top 10 largest cities in the United States. Read More