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Public Citizen Unveils Alternative State Energy Plan

Nov. 23, 2004

Public Citizen Unveils Alternative State Energy Plan

Texas Energy Planning Council’s Proposal Is Lacking, Consumer Advocacy Group Says

AUSTIN – Public Citizen today unveiled a state energy plan that calls for greater development of the state’s renewable energy resources and more energy efficiency to meet the state’s energy demand. The consumer advocacy organization is proposing the plan as an alternative to one devised by the Texas Energy Planning Council.

The council’s plan relies too much on coal and imported liquefied natural gas, underestimates the value of solar and wind power, and ignores energy efficiency as a tool to reduce energy demand and cut energy costs, said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of the Texas office of Public Citizen.

“Do we want a state energy plan that uses our tremendous renewable energy resources, or one that makes us dependent on energy from other states and other countries,” Smith asked. “As our oil and gas resources in Texas decline and become more difficult to extract, we need to develop renewable energy sources.”

Gov. Rick Perry appointed the 22-member Texas Energy Planning Council in late 2003 and charged it with developing a new energy plan for the state. The Texas Legislature is expected to act on the council’s recommendations after it convenes in January.

The council unveiled its proposed plan in October and is expected to consider approving a new state energy plan when it meets Monday, Nov. 29, in Austin. Public Citizen has sent the council its alternative plan in hopes the council will consider making changes.

The council’s plan calls for importing liquefied natural gas into Texas from foreign countries, building more so-called “clean coal” power plants, and obtaining more oil and gas from deep waters off the Texas Gulf Coast.

“The council’s plan will make Texas dependent on liquefied natural gas from foreign countries and more dependent on coal imported from Wyoming,” Smith said. “The plan proposes to spend billions of dollars on so-called ‘clean’ coal-fired power plants and ship more of our energy dollars out of state and out of the country. It will not do as council Chair Victor Carrillo asked, which is to ‘increase Texas’ and America’s energy security and independence.’ “

Public Citizen’s plan, dubbed “A Clean, Secure and Independent Energy Plan for Texas,” calls for:

• Greater development of the state’s renewable energy resources from sources such as wind, biomass and solar.

• A one percent annual reduction in the state’s energy needs through measures such as doubling the state’s energy efficiency code for new buildings and the replacement of existing appliances with more energy-efficient appliances.

• Greater reliance on electric power from cogeneration and combined heating and power – both of which use waste heat to generate electricity or for other energy consuming purposes.

• New transmission lines to areas in West Texas and the Panhandle that are the richest in wind power resources.

The planning council is assuming a 31 percent increase in electricity demand in Texas by 2025, from 95,000 megawatts to 124,000 megawatts. Public Citizen’s plan would meet that 30,000 megawatts of additional demand by obtaining 10,000 megawatts from new renewable energy, 10,000 megawatts from cogeneration and combined heating and power, and 10,000 megawatts from energy efficiency.

Public Citizen’s plan would create jobs because renewable energy typically creates three times more jobs than conventional energy, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Further, wind power projects have the potential to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues for Texas schools. For example, obtaining10 percent of the state’s power from wind power – Public Citizen’s goal by 2015 – would produce $130 million in new tax revenues for schools, because each one-megawatt turbine generates $10,000 in school taxes per year.

“The council’s call for an expanded renewable goal is a good step forward,” Smith said. “But other states are moving more aggressively to develop their renewable energy resources. Texas will get left behind – and lose out on this growing industry’s tremendous economic impact – if our lawmakers don’t act to ensure that at least 20 percent of our energy comes from renewable sources by 2020.”

“Texas has been blessed with abundant wind, solar and other renewable energy,” said Bee Moorhead, director of the statewide religious network Texas Impact. “Developing these clean, efficient sources of energy can make a real difference in the health and well-being of all Texans.”

For more information, see www.renewabletexas.org.