Austin, Texas — Over the past decade, Texas has increased its solar power production by 38,510 percent and its wind power production by 410 percent, according to a new report by Environment Texas Research & Policy Center. Environment Texas’s report — Renewables on the Rise: A Decade of Progress Positions America for a 100% Renewable Future (https://environmenttexascenter.org/reports/txc/renewables-rise-2018) — provides a state-by-state assessment of the growth of clean power technologies. In addition to wind and solar power, the report also evaluates states on energy efficiency, energy storage and electric vehicles.
“Everything’s bigger in Texas, including our clean energy,” said Brian Zabcik, the Clean Air & Clean Water Advocate at Environment Texas. “Texans have made significant progress over the past decade in boosting our use of wind and solar power, as well as electric vehicles and large-scale battery storage. We’re confident that our state can take clean energy to the next level.”
There are now more than 10,000 wind turbines in Texas, and on one day in March 2017, they were able to supply more than half of the state’s electricity demand. The growth in Texas’s wind industry was made possible in part by a $7 billion expansion of the state’s power grid, which has enabled the the transmission of electricity from the state’s windiest regions to its biggest cities.
The City of Austin and its municipally-owned utility have played a critical role in making Texas a leader in clean energy. For example, Austin Energy in 2004 became the first utility in the state to offer solar installation rebates to its customers. And the La Loma Solar Farm, which opened this spring, is the largest community solar installation in Texas.
“Austin is an innovative city, and Austin is a green city,” said Mayor Steve Adler. “We are proud to be one of the cities leading the way on renewable energy.”
Public investments in renewable energy have helped clean the air, conserve water, and lower electric bills. More than 130 major companies, including Anheuser-Busch, Bank of America and Google, have committed to power their operations with 100 percent renewable energy.
The report found that Texas:
- Increased wind energy production fourfold — from 16,225 gigawatt hours in 2008 to 67,092 GWh in 2017 — thus maintaining the state’s position as the national leader in wind power.
- Increased solar electricity generation by 385 times, from 7 GWh in 2008 to 2,814 GWh in 2017.
- Generated 18 percent of its electricity consumption from wind and solar in 2017, the 12th highest percentage in the U.S.
- Ranked 5th in the nation for electric vehicles (12,455) and 3rd for public EV charging stations (978).
- Had the 3rd largest increase in large-scale utility battery storage, going from none in 2008 to 82.9 megawatts in 2017.
“Texas has made tremendous progress in encouraging clean energy technologies, in part because of the work of local utilities like Austin Energy, Denton Municipal Electric and Georgetown Utilities,” said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “However, progress has stalled on energy efficiency programs by private utilities, and more work is needed to take advantage of the potential from energy storage and demand response, which can help lessen the need for expensive peak-power plants and large-scale transmission projects.”
In 1999, Texas became the first state in the nation to adopt an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard, but since then has fallen significantly behind in energy efficiency. While 40 states saw increases in energy efficiency compared to total energy consumption between 2008 and 2016, Texas was among the states that experienced decreases, according to Environment Texas’s report.
Among the changes that Texas could embrace to boost its use of clean energy technologies:
- Allowing distributed resources like storage and local solar to bid directly into the energy market;
- Raising the energy efficiency goal for private transmission and distribution utilities to one percent of sales;
- Creating the rules so that “non-wires” alternatives like battery storage and demand response can be used as transmission assets by transmission and distribution utilities.
“By making tweaks to our energy-only market to embrace these new technologies, Texas can be on the glide path toward even more integration of efficiency, storage and renewables into our ever cleaner electric grid,” Reed said.
“The reality is inescapable — fossil fuels pollute our air, water and land, they threaten our health, and they’re changing our climate even faster than scientists predicted,” Zabcik said. “Texas must build on its recent progress to become a state powered by clean, renewable energy.”