April 6, 2010
By Meeting Renewable Energy Goal 15 Years Ahead of Schedule, Texas Shows Policies Work
Statement of Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office
We are thrilled – but not surprised – that because of a growth spurt in the development of wind energy, Texas has met its renewable energy goal 15 years ahead of schedule. Each time Texas has set a renewable energy goal, the state has achieved it far in advance of the deadline set by the Texas Legislature. That’s because Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) policies are incredibly effective at stimulating new technologies and economic growth.
RPS policies are also remarkably successful at reducing air pollution and global warming gases. This program has resulted in 9 million fewer tons of carbon dioxide and reduces emissions of nitrous oxide by more than 15,000 tons a year, and as such should be heralded as one of the state’s most effective environmental programs. The success of this initiative goes to show the positive outcomes that can be reached when environmentalists and business communities work together.
In 1999, the Texas Legislature created a Renewable Portfolio Standard that required all utilities to get at least 3 percent of their energy or a statewide total of 2,000 megawatts from renewables by 2020. In 2005, that goal was increased to 5,880 megawatts by 2015, with a target of 10,880 megawatts capacity created by 2025, which is the target that has been met. At the time of its implementation, this legislation was the most aggressive in the country. Similar policies have proven successful at creating demand for renewable energy throughout the United States, but nowhere have they been as successful as Texas. In Texas, these policies have resulted in the creation of as many as 83,000 jobs, according to Public Citizen studies.
Texas should adopt the same policies to encourage the growth of non-wind renewable energy such as solar, geothermal, biomass, agricultural methane and landfill gas. Texas has become a leader in wind as a result of carefully crafted policies like the RPS, but there is no reason we can’t do the same and become a leader in non-wind renewable energy as well. The Public Utility Commission and the Texas Legislature have the opportunity to develop other sources of renewable energy and thereby bring economic growth to Texas. This is happening elsewhere, but not in Texas, because we lack the specific incentives for non-wind renewables that other states have jumped to adopt.
The current success would not have been possible without the hard work of environmentalists, large wind producers like the Wind Coalition, the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association (TREIA), environmental groups, church groups and rural county officials who worked together on what has become one of the state’s largest job creation programs and boon, through increased property taxes, to educational services in rural communities. Our thanks go out to these parties, and we certainly hope that in 10 years, we can applaud the similar success of solar and geothermal energy due to a non-wind RPS.
Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., with an office in Austin, Texas. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.