How Texas Raised the Bar on Renewable Energy


States don’t come any redder than Texas. Yet the state generates enough electricity from renewable energy sources to power 4 million homes, more than half the 7.39 million households in the state. At the end of April 2016, wind power accounted for 16% of all electricity flowing to the state’s power grid.

In large part that’s due to the 1999 deregulation of the state’s power market and the expansion of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, known as ERCOT, into the first independent system operator (ISO) in the United States. By 2006 Texas passed California to become the nation’s largest producer of wind-powered production, and in 2007, just five years after deregulation was implemented, nearly half the state’s residential customers had switched from the incumbent utility to a retail provider.

As might be expected, the adoption of renewable energy in a state better known for its production of fossil fuels skirted the issue of climate change, choosing instead to focus consumer choice, jobs and boosting rural economies. Even now, when subsidies are projected to decline, the state expects wind-power generation to grow and solar-powered generation to expand significantly.

According to a weekend report in The Wall Street Journal, 85% of Texans support expanded renewable generation and only 9% opposed continued expansion. Among residents who describe themselves as Republicans or ideological conservatives, the percentage supporting more renewable power generation reached nearly 80%.

Texas currently generates just 500 megawatts of electricity from solar energy but the Wall Street Journal cites one analysis that noted the recent extension of federal tax credits for new solar generation could push that total to 19,000 megawatts within 15 years. Texas reached 19,000 megawatts of wind generation in April of this year, about 20 years after the state’s first wind farm began operations. The Solar Energy Industries Association expects Texas to leap from tenth among the states in solar generation to second, behind only California, in the next five years.

The Wall Street Journal also noted that the Texas Workforce Commission reports that the state now has more than 100,000 workers in the renewable energy field.

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