Ten years of progress positions Texas to take renewable energy to the next level

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Environment Texas Research and Policy Center

AUSTIN – Since 2007, Texas has seen a 21,466% increase in the amount of electricity it gets from the sun and a 639% increase in wind power production, according to a new report released today by Environment Texas Research & Policy Center. The report also highlights Texas’ leadership in the use of energy storage and electric vehicles, but finds Texas ranked 47th for improvements in electricity energy efficiency programs. 

“Every day, we see more evidence that an economy powered by renewable energy is within our reach,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “The progress we’ve made in the last decade on renewable energy and technologies like battery storage and electric cars should give Texans the confidence that we can take clean energy to the next level.”

The report, Renewables on the Rise: A Decade of Progress Toward a Clean Energy Futureprovides a state-by-state assessment of the growth of key technologies needed to power the nation with clean, renewable energy, including wind, solar, energy efficiency, energy storage and electric vehicles. Texas ranked 1st for wind, 2nd for electric vehicle charging stations, 6th for electric vehicles, 6th for energy storage, and 7th for solar.

“Texas has seen significant progress on clean energy and has helped lead on clean energy” said Metzger.  “But, in order to ensure a healthy future for our kids, we need to continue to lead with by transitioning Texas as quickly to a future powered by renewable energy.”

The report describes the factors that rapid growth in each category since 2007, including policies, improved technologies and lower costs, all of which suggest the potential for continued rapid growth in the years to come.  Texas’ policies to upgrade its grid to accommodate more wind power from rural west Texas played an important role in the boom. A $7 billion investment in the state grid allowed for the transmission of wind energy from the state’s windiest regions to its biggest cities. There are now more than 10,000 wind turbines in the state; during the early morning hours on one day in February 2017, wind power supplied more than half of Texas’ electricity demand.

“Key clean energy technologies are improving rapidly and getting cheaper seemingly every day,” said Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group, report co-author. “These and other advances open up new opportunities to end our dependence on fossil fuels and embrace a future built on clean, renewable energy.”

The report also comes as a growing number of U.S. cities, states, corporations and institutions consider commitments to 100 percent renewable energy. Currently 37 cities have committed to 100 percent renewable energy, including Georgetown. Nearly 100 major companies have made a 100 percent renewable commitment, including Apple, Walmart and LEGO. The city of Austin has committed to 55% renewables by 2025 and is currently considering an update to its generation plan, with advocates calling for 100% carbon-free electricity by 2030.

At the same time, the state’s progress could be stalled by efforts by some electric utilities, including Oncor in north Texas and El Paso Electric, to instate unfair solar fees. These monopolized public utility companies are proposing discriminatory policies against residential homes that have installed renewable energy generators.

“It’s unthinkable that these consumers would be singled out due to their investment in grid-saving technologies,” said Bay Scoggin, director of the Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG). “Consumers regularly cite economic incentives, including ones provided by these utility companies, as reasons why they made the switch to renewable energy. To charge higher prices now after previously subsidizing them would be the worst form of bait-and-switch tactics.”

“The reality is inescapable: fossil fuels pollute our air, water and land, threatening our health and changing our climate even faster than scientists predicted,” said Metzger. “We need to seize the moment, build on recent progress and lean into a future powered by clean, renewable energy.”