Texas State Comptroller Susan Combs says it is time to stop the state's expensive subsidies to the wind power industry, saying wind power is not reliable enough to be a solid part of the state's energy grid, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.
In the pre-fracking mid-2000s, when gasoline prices were skyrocketing, the Texas Legislature approved Competitive Renewable Energy Zones, to carry mostly wind energy generated in West Texas and the Panhandle to high demand cities. The project ballooned to $6.9 billion. Combs says between $70 and $100 of every Texas household's annual electric bill is the cost of these subsidies.
And what have we gotten for it? A lot of hot air, Combs says.
"It is no longer a fledgling industry, it is fully grown, and it seems bizarre to me that we have made the choice to subsidize something which is not always available," Combs told Newsradio 1200 WOAI.
Combs said the big problem with wind generation is that the wind blows at night, when the power those huge turbines create is not needed, And during the day, when the power is needed, the winds are calm and those turbines aren't spinning.
She says even the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state's power grid, has essentially scratched wind power off the list of power available to the state due to the unreliability of wind power.
Even though Texas taxpayers have subsidized the creation of more than 11,000 megawatts of total wind capacity, ERCOT only relies on 963 megawatts of wind generation being available for peak use.
"Wind blows at night when we don't need it," she said. "During the daytime when demand is the highest, they have to shift to natural gas."
And on top of that, Combs says the subsidies to wind generation companies are the only subsidies the state has handed out which do not require the companies to commit to job creation. From SpaceX to Toyota, she says other companies receiving subsidies have had those subsidies conditioned on job creation. But the wind industry is somehow 'special.'
"They are the only ones that have dodged the requirement to have jobs," she said. "They don't particularly care."
She says the generous subsidies which have been doled out to alternative sources of power need to be phased out.
"Renewable generators have been given a major helping hand to develop their industry, but it is now virtually a mature segment," Combs said. "Developing technology to store renewable energy, so it can provide reserve capacity available to the grid during peak demand, should be part of the renewable industry's responsibility before it adds additional generation that is still intermittent."