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March 19, 2003

Public Citizen Champions Two Bills that Would Boost Texas Wind Power

 

Legislation Would Help Ease West Texas Power Transmission Woes

AUSTIN — The wind power industry in Texas could get a much-needed shot in the arm from two bills introduced recently in the Legislature, creating new jobs and tax revenues and helping to lessen the state’s dependence on environmentally hazardous fossil fuels such as oil and coal, the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen said today.

House Bill 2548 addresses the electric power transmission problems that have severely dampened growth of wind power in West Texas and the Panhandle. Introduced by State Rep. Phil King, D-Weatherford, it would allow the Public Utility Commission of Texas to order construction of power lines to help meet the state’s mandated goals for obtaining power from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

HB 2910 would update the state’s goal for obtaining renewable energy, currently 3 percent of the state’s needs by 2009, by adding a longer-range goal of achieving 10 percent by 2019. State Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, introduced the legislation. Both bills were introduced last week and have been referred to the House Regulated Industries Committee, which King chairs.

“These two bills will help ensure that Texas capitalizes on its windy climate, which not only has enormous potential for power generation, but also is a proven, economical and clean source of energy for Texans,” said Travis Brown, energy projects director with Public Citizen’s Texas office.

Texas became a leader in wind power generation in 2001, when more than $1 billion was invested by utilities and other companies to build some of the world’s largest wind power farms – there are now one dozen operating in 10 counties in West Texas and the Panhandle.

However, construction of these wind farms accelerated much faster than the state’s transmission line infrastructure was able to handle. Now, more than half of the power being generated in West Texas does not reach consumers because of a lack of transmission capacity. Utilities and other companies have put on hold plans to build more wind farms until the transmission issues are resolved.

“The wind power industry essentially is at a standstill because of the transmission problem,” Brown said. “Passage of legislation that enables the Public Utility Commission to order new lines should get wind power moving again in the state.”

HB 2910 expands upon the Renewable Portfolio Standard legislation signed into law in 1999 by then-Gov. George W. Bush. That legislation specified that 2,000 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity be built in Texas by 2009 and that electric power retailers in the state be required to buy modest amounts of renewable energy through a market-based credit trading program.

“We already are more than halfway toward meeting our 2009 goal,” Brown said. “Expanding the goal to include 10 percent renewable energy by 2019 is realistic, and will give a strong boost the development of more wind power in Texas.”

Developing wind power has created new jobs and new tax revenues for depressed rural communities in Texas, Brown said. In 2001 alone, the wind industry employed more than 2,500 Texans, while wind projects already in place are projected to pay more than $225 million in taxes during their lifetime to support local school districts and other public services such as water districts and hospitals.

A second bill filed last week by Rep. Gallego sets a related goal for Texas regarding renewable energy sources. HB 3271 calls for 50 megawatts of renewable energy to be produced in the state by 2009 through small-scale power generation – including wind and solar power – by businesses, individuals, farmers and ranchers, and other retail customers. Under the bill, retail electric providers would be required to buy energy trading credits from small-scale producers to meet the 50-megawatt goal.

Public Citizen issued a report in 2002, Renewable Resources: The New Texas Energy Powerhouse, on wind power’s potential impact on Texas communities. Click here to view the report and here for a summary.

Texts and other information regarding the bills can be accessed online through Texas Legislature Online.

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