Texas Clean Air Matters

What to watch as the Texas Legislature takes up climate, energy, water and more

We’re past the midpoint of the Texas legislative session and the bill filing deadline is behind us. Because the legislature only meets for five months every other year, there’s a lot to accomplish in a short span.

Now, as things pick up steam we’ll see which bills move forward and which don’t. A bill needs to be heard in committee to have any chance of passing (here’s a helpful primer on the legislative process), and less than a month remains until the House starts reporting bills out of committee. The clock is ticking.

Although most bills won’t make it across the finish line, here are a few related to climate, energy and water that warrant a closer look.

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Investing in a strong foundation for energy resilience in Texas

By Ronny Sandoval, Kate Zerrenner

Eight months after Hurricane Harvey, affected communities are still rebuilding their lives and businesses.

One area that hasn’t required as much attention to rebuild: Texas’ electricity grid. Shortly after the storm, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s main grid operator, said, “The ERCOT grid has remained stable, and competitive electricity markets have continued to operate normally.” That said, nearly 300,000 consumers were without power during the storm’s peak. Therefore, the state’s electricity restoration after Harvey is a story of resilience – and an opportunity to do better the next time around.

Though the impact and $125 billion in damages that Harvey caused were catastrophic, some of the investments and decisions made in Texas well before the storm allowed for faster restoration of power than would have been the case just a few years prior. Plus, renewable energy resources like wind turbines and solar panels can play a role in strengthening grid resilience. Investments in modern technologies – like digital controls, microgrids, and distributed energy – hold the keys to protecting people in towns and cities most susceptible to future powerful storms, and they provide insights for how Texas can prepare for the next power disruption. Read More »

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Texas cities, businesses, and schools know the economic upside of clean energy

The City of Georgetown, Texas committed to 100% renewables.

Recently, the message on Texas clean energy has been getting clearer – the market is driving the clean energy economy forward. And some of those spreading the message are making it loud and clear.

Case in point, the city of Georgetown, a predominately Republican city, shifted to 100 percent renewable energy in 2015. Jim Briggs, the city’s General Manager-Utilities, clarified, “We didn’t do this to save the world – we did this to get a competitive rate and reduce the risk for our consumers.” Additionally, Briggs notes that switching to renewables will hedge against future fuel and regulatory risks.

Even if reducing risk was the primary reason for Georgetown going 100 percent renewable, the move will also slash air pollution and contribute to a healthier Texas. This shift not only has brought about a significant price decline in electricity, but has also brought millions of dollars of new investment to the city – proving to be a great economic development tool.

And Georgetown isn’t the only example. More and more Texas voices – ranging from multimillion dollar corporations to universities and school districts – are speaking up about their investments in clean energy. And the motivating reason is the same: economics. Read More »

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More Subsidies than You Think Influence the Cost of Electricity

The Texas electricity market is evolving. Low prices have helped natural gas become the dominant electricity generation resource, surpassing coal for the first time. The state’s unique competitive wholesale market, along with recently built transmission lines, have led to exciting opportunities for the rapid development of wind and solar generation. But in looking at the cost of various fuel sources and Texas’ energy future, confusion about electricity subsidies needs to be addressed.

Yes, wind and solar power have recently benefitted from the federal Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit. That said, it’s important to recognize that natural gas and coal generation have enjoyed state and federal incentives for a century, and continue to do so.

The tax benefits for wind and solar generation are not the same as those for fossil fuel generation, but each plays a similar role: Tax benefits affect the final cost of electricity. Read More »

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Texas Should Get Its Head in the New Solar Market Game

What would a world powered by clean, low-water energy look like? If you visit Israel’s southern region, you don’t have to imagine.

In 2011, Arava Power in the southern Israeli desert launched a 4.9 MW solar field (enough to power more than 3,000 U.S. homes). Since then nearly 200 times as much capacity – both fields and rooftops – has been installed in the region. By 2025, it’s likely solar will provide 100 percent of daytime electricity, plus excess, along the border with Jordan.

With solar technology more advanced and cheaper than ever, solar power can take off quickly in Texas, as it has in Israel.

The Arava Desert, where many of Israel’s solar fields are located, averages about 360 days of sunshine per year. Austin, where I live, averages about 300 days per year, and it’s not even as sunny as West Texas. But in January 2017, solar provided just 0.4 percent of power across the vast majority of the state. There is huge opportunity for solar growth in Texas. Read More »

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Texas Leaders Can Use Clean Energy to Increase Investments and Create Jobs. Here’s How.

GA_Washington_DC4It’s that time again. Texas leaders are meeting in Austin for the 85th Legislative Session and the next five months will be an interesting wrestling match over human rights, voting rights, bathroom rights, and local rights.

But what about our economic rights? A new report Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) issued to the Texas Legislature, Texas’ Clean Energy Economy: Prioritizing Jobs, Investments, and Growth, shows the Lone Star State’s evolving electricity landscape has created enormous economic growth and jobs. The report explores the policies put in place years ago that has allowed Texas’ power market to become cleaner and more affordable, and it outlines the state’s impressive job growth in energy efficiency, wind, and solar power.

The report urges our leaders to develop and implement a bold, comprehensive Texas energy plan to create well-paid jobs, drive innovation and investment, make us more energy independent, and protect our water supplies, while improving the health of Texans and the environment. Read More »

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