Advancing Renewable Energy in Texas

At Public Citizen's Texas office we work to promote clean, renewable energy such as solar and wind. We advocate for policies at the state level for policies to sustain growth in the Texas wind industry, jump-start Texas' solar and geothermal industries and encourage energy storage technology to maximize our renewable energy potential. At the local level, we engage in grassroots organizing and work with municipal utilities and electric cooperatives to educate decision makers on clean energy issues and program options.

Public Citizen was one of early proponents of a state renewable portfolio standard (RPS). The Texas RPS requires that a set amount of electricity be produced from renewable energy. This has been so successful that every time Texas has set an RPS, we have exceeded that goal in half the time set for completion. Texas leads the nation in installed wind capacity. Wind energy helps reduce costs for ratepayers by providing abundant and inexpensive clean energy that helps offset the volatile price of natural gas.

Partially as a result of hard work by Public Citizen, the Texas Legislature created Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ), areas which were guaranteed to get a transmission lines built to connect them to population centers in central Texas. The Texas Legislature authorized these lines in 2008 to address the lack of available transmission lines to deliver wind energy from the panhandle and west Texas to the major metropolitan areas in central Texas where demand is higher. This investment will save ratepayers $2 billion a year, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 16 percent and create more than $5 billion in economic development benefits for Texas. The final CREZ transmissions lines are now nearing completion and the Texas electric grid has set several new records in 2013 for the amount of energy provided by wind.

Public Citizen also helped craft the law that limits homeowners associations from stopping residents from installing solar panels on their homes. And we continue to advocate for a fair state-wide net metering policy, which would require all utilities to pay owners of distributed solar installations, such as those on rooftops, a fair price for the energy they push out onto the grid when they are producing more than they are using.

Public Citizen's local level efforts have focused on to increasing adoption of energy efficiency and renewable energy, particularly solar power, at public power entities in Texas. Our advocacy work from 2009 to 2011 helped San Antonio change course, abandoning plans to invest heavily in new nuclear baseload power and turning towards solar instead. Today San Antonio has installed more local solar than any other city in the state. Similarly, Public Citizen worked with local advocacy groups in Austin to champion a new 300MW local solar goal. Working with Solar Austin and the local solar industry, Public Citizen's efforts drove the discussion on local solar over the past couple years and led to the creation of the Austin Local Solar Advisory Committee which, after months of research and meetings, released its policy recommendations to maximize the benefits of local solar in Austin in the fall of 2012.

Public Citizen is working to organize public power utilities in central and north Texas to work together to create solar corridors in those regions. While Austin Energy and CPS have taken the lead in solar investment, many of the smaller and more rural utilities haven't taken those steps yet. A Solar Corridor Consortium could help reduce costs by taking advantage of lessons learned by those utilities already investing in solar and by creating an economy of scale. Taking advantage of abundant solar resources in the region will benefit grid stability, air quality and job creation. Public Citizen is working to facilitate this sharing of information and collaboration between the public power utilities through workshops focused on topics such as the impact of drought on energy production and the local economic development opportunities from investing in solar energy. We are also working to identify local solar champions at the grassroots level in the many communities served by electric cooperatives and municipally owned electric utilities. Local solar supports make the best advocates at the local level.

Our efforts have yielded some success at the Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC), where the board has established goals for energy efficiency and renewable energy. PEC offers rebates for some energy efficiency improvements and has recently partnered with NRG to provide solar leasing to its customers. It remains to be seen whether this particular leasing program will succeed, but other options may grow from this initial effort.

We have recently begun working with Fredericksburg SHINES to promote solar energy in Fredericksburg and the surrounding Central Texas Electric Cooperative territory. Fredericksburg's first grid-connected solar installation was completed in early 2013. Hopefully our work with Fredericksburg SHINES will help that one installation be the first of many.

 

 

Renewable Energy Links

Net Metering Policies in Texas

Net Metering, What can you expect from your retail electric provider

There are a vast array of policies governing net metering (paying customers back for energy they generate that goes back to the grid from renewable sources like solar on rooftops or small wind generators) This report provides information about what we found when we started calling around to retail energy providers.

Wildcatting the Sun

Solar Power's Job Creation Potential in Texas

Texas environmental organizations released a study on February 2, 2009 on solar power's job creation and energy savings potential in Texas.

Storage

An Essential Component for a Successful Renewable Energy Future

An Energy Storage Standard for Texas Will Save Money and Stop Pollution

A Case for Alternatives

Public Citizen has developed several factsheets on Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy and CHP for use by cities working to develop alternatives to building more carbon intensive power generation plants.

Wind Economics in Texas

A recent study put together by Public Citizen Texas consultants demonstrates that wind power provides the following benefits to Texans

Nolan County Wind Case Study

Nolan County, Texas has become a remarkable example of how quickly and effectively renewable energy development can revitalize rural America. Starting with a single wind project in 2001, this single county's 2,500 MW now outpaces the total wind capacity of any other states and all but 5 countries. An assessment of benefits based on extensive field surveys reveals:

Historic Affordable Clean Energy Plan Adopted in Austin

City sets ambitious solar goal, path to zero carbon pollution from Austin Energy by 2030 A diverse coalition of groups representing workers, people of faith, low-income residents, clean energy supporters and environmental advocates united in their of goal of expanding affordable clean energy and protections to public health cheered the Austin City Council for adopting […]

The post Historic Affordable Clean Energy Plan Adopted in Austin appeared first on TexasVox: The Voice of Public Citizen in Texas.

Friday, August 29, 2014 12:09:51 PM