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Texas Legislature Boosts State’s Renewable Energy Goal

July 14, 2005

Texas Legislature Boosts State’s Renewable Energy Goal

Signature by Gov. Perry on Bill Will Spur Construction of New Transmission Lines To Move Wind Energy from West Texasto Cities

AUSTIN – Public Citizen today praised the passage of legislation that will double the goal for the amount of wind power, solar power and other forms of renewable energy in the state’s energy mix.

Texas House of Representatives members voted 91 to 14 on Thursday to adopt Senate Bill 20, which was passed unanimously by the Senate on Tuesday. The legislation now goes before Gov. Rick Perry, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

Senate Bill 20 calls for the state to obtain 5,880 megawatts, or about five percent of the state’s electricity, from renewable energy by 2015. The current goal, adopted in 1999, requires the state to obtain 2,880 megawatts of renewable energy, or about 3 percent of the state’s electricity, by 2009.

“This new goal is the next step toward Texas realizing its potential to be the nation’s leading producer of renewable energy,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office.  “Wind power, in particular, will play a major role in meeting our future energy needs.”

Smith praised the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), and Reps. Phil King (R-Weatherford), Todd Baxter (R-Austin) and Bob Hunter (R-Abilene). Both Fraser and King had joined Public Citizen in asking the governor to put expansion of the renewable energy goal on the agenda for the current special legislative session.   

Fraser has pledged to look at the prospect of increasing the goal in future legislative sessions if wind power continues to prove a cost-effective way for the state to meet its future power needs. The legislation passed Thursday also sets a long-range target for the state to get 10 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2025.

During the regular legislative session that ended May 30, both the House and Senate passed bills increasing the state’s renewable portfolio standard. However, that legislation was caught in the crossfire over telecom issues during the regular session and languished in conference committee as the session ended. Perry announced Tuesday that he was adding the renewable energy goal to the agenda of the special session on school finance, which began June 20.  

The legislation that passed Thursday also streamlines the ability of the Public Utility Commission to order construction of new transmission lines to meet the state’s renewable goal. Texas currently has almost 1,400 megawatts of wind power developed, but further development has been stymied by a lack of transmission lines to move wind power from West Texas to the state’s cities. 

Senate Bill 20 also sets a target of obtaining 500 megawatts from non-wind renewable energy sources such as solar and biomass.

“This provision will help Texas farmers and ranchers develop new revenue sources by using or selling their crop wastes and farm animal wastes to generate electricity,” said Travis Brown, energy projects director for Public Citizen’s Texasoffice.  

Brown said expanding the state’s renewable energy goal was relevant for the special session, since wind power projects already are generating millions of new tax dollars for public schools.

“Boosting our state’s renewable energy goal will not only help fund our schools, but it will create jobs, clean up air pollution and lessen our reliance on expensive natural gas to generate electricity,” Brown said.  “And the cost of wind power is much cheaper now than natural gas and competitive with other forms of energy.”

Wind power projects in West Texas already generate almost $15 million annually in new tax revenues for public schools through property taxes.   Each 100 megawatts of wind power produces more than $1 million annually in school taxes, according to a Public Citizen analysis of data.

“If you drive Interstate 10 just west of Abilene, you pass a brand new school in Trent,” Brown said. “And behind that new school – the first built there in a generation – you can see mesas lined with wind power turbines that made that school possible.”  

“We’re pleased the legislature took this action now, and we’re hopeful that future legislatures will increase the goal even more,” Brown said.

A week before the regular session ended in May, the House voted 101 to 37 to adopt an amended version of Senate Bill 743 that called for Texas to obtain 7,880 megawatts, or about 7 percent of the state’s electricity, from renewable sources, by 2017.