Inside Clean Energy: Texas is a leader in clean energy in the country, almost at odds

In the race to build renewable energy projects in 2021, Texas has moved into competition.

According to the state, 7,352 megawatts of new wind, solar and energy storage projects were implemented during the year. a report released this week trade group of the American Clean Energy Association.

California, which took second place, brought 2,697 megawatts to the Internet.

But what caught my attention was not the dominance of Texas in 2021. Texas is also the leader in the ranking of states by the number of wind, solar and storage they have under construction or advanced development; Texas has 19,918 megawatts, followed by California with 13,663 megawatts.

Texas can claim, with ample evidence, to be the capital of renewable energy in the United States. And this despite the fact that it is also the capital of fossil fuels in the United States and there are political leaders who are doing their best to dispose of oil and gas.

Joshua Rhodes of the University of Texas at Austin told me that the state’s growth as a leader in renewable energy is noticeable because it happened almost entirely because of low renewable energy costs, not because of climate change concerns.

“We do it because it makes financial sense,” he said. “As long as it makes financial sense, we will.”

But there is some altruism. Many of the energy buyers contributing to the wind and sun boom in Texas are large corporations trying to achieve their goals by relying on clean energy and reducing emissions.

Texas helped pave the way for the current boom with 1990s legislation that deregulated the electricity market in much of the state, forcing power plant owners to compete depending on who could offer the lowest prices. As wind and solar electricity costs fell sharply, these sources gained a market advantage over older fossil fuel power plants.

In contrast, most other states have fully regulated electricity systems in which utilities have a monopoly and guaranteed profits, and power plants can continue to operate as long as they are allowed by regulators.

But Texas ’success in developing wind and solar depends not only on market structure. The most important factors may be that the state has some of the strongest winds and the brightest sunshine in the country – resources that many other states want to have in such abundance.

“There’s some kind of failure,” Rhodes said. “I will not say no. But I think the market structure helps. ”

While clean energy industries are growing in Texas, they do not have strong political influence from the oil and gas industry. A year ago, when a winter storm led to power outages for millions of Texans, political leaders blamed most of the wind energy and few acknowledged that much of the problem was due to failures in the gas industry.

The reaction of Texas leaders to the 2021 energy crisis has shown that the state may not be aware of what it has in the wind and solar industries. Just by staying aside, Texas can strengthen its status as a leader in the U.S. clean energy economy.

A report by the American Clean Energy Association shows that in 2021, 27,773 megawatts of wind, solar and energy storage facilities were installed in the United States, which is 3 percent less than in 2020.

Solar energy grew by 19 percent, energy storage – by 196 percent, and wind – by 25 percent compared to the previous year. The association said development of all resources was limited due to problems with obtaining parts from the global supply chain and uncertainty about whether Congress would accept clean energy regulations in the Build Back Better proposal.

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The association noted that the combined capacity of wind, solar energy and energy storage reached 200,000 megawatts, or 200 gigawatts, in 2021.

“Exceeding more than 200 gigawatts of clean energy is a significant milestone for the United States and shows that we can achieve even more with strong industry support,” said Heather Siehal, CEO of American Clean Power. “Although the United States has achieved this incredible achievement, more needs to be done at a faster pace to achieve the climate goals and objectives that our country must achieve.”

Support for federal wind and solar policies has led to huge economic benefits for Texas, a state that has no significant clean energy requirements.

One question in the future is to what extent the Texas electricity market will be able to decarbonize without some push from the state – a state whose current leaders are unlikely to push.

“Is Texas going to achieve zero-carbon electricity on its own? Probably not, ”Rhodes said. “It will probably take federal policy.”

But he believes the state can continue to make significant progress.

“Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of good here,” he said. “We use a lot of clean energy.”

Other stories about the transition of energy that should be noted this week:

The Biden administration promises to buy “clean” industrial materials: Representatives of the White House announced the creation of a new task force “Buy Clean” to help companies buy steel, cement, aluminum and other industrial materials for federal agencies with lower emissions. The industrial sector is responsible for about one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and Report by Lisa Friedman The New York Times. “Focusing on industry is a really big deal,” said David M. Hart, a professor of public policy at George Mason University. He said the federal government had for years “neglected” to address climate pollution from the industrial sector.

The Super Bowl ad shows that automakers are serious about selling EVs: At least four automakers have used the high visibility Super Bowl to advertise electric vehicles, which is much more than ever before. These included BMW commercials starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Zeus, who was in the past, and Salma Hayek as Hera, and General Motors commercials with Mike Myers repeating his role as Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies. The visibility of EV in the Super Bowl ad shows that manufacturers are trying to engage consumers to match the significant investment companies are making in developing dozens of new electric models like Rebecca Leber reports for Vox. “We are in the early stages of the biggest transition in the automotive industry since the invention of the automobile,” said Nick Nigra, head of research firm Atlas Public Policy.

New faces in FERC can help speed up the transition to clean energy: Appointed by President Joe Biden, members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission helped balance the commission in favor of encouraging the transition to clean energy. The Commission has potentially far-reaching powers to help address climate change as James Brugers reports for ICN. One of the big challenges facing FERC is how to eliminate the process in which network operators have accumulated long-term backlogs in processing applications under renewable energy projects for grid connection.

The Department of Energy is proposing $ 2.8 billion to increase production and recycling of batteries: The Federal Infrastructure Act of 2021 included more than $ 7 billion to help build an internal battery supply chain. The Department of Energy has announced plans to spend $ 2.8 billion of this money to support battery and materials plants in the United States, as well as projects related to the recycling or reuse of batteries, such as Jason Plautz report for Utility Dive.

Inside clean energy is an ICN weekly newsletter with news and analysis of the transition to energy. Send tips and questions on the news to Inside Clean Energy: Texas is a leader in clean energy in the country, almost at odds

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