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Texas Senate passes bill to end state renewable program

The program, established in 1999, had called for 10,000 megawatts of wind and solar power by 2025. But buoyed by improved turbine technology and an $7 billion transmission line project connecting West Texas to urban centers to the east, Texas passed that goal five years ago. It now counts 12,800 megawatts of wind energy capacity — at times enough to generate a quarter of the electricity on the grid.

State support for Texas’ booming wind power industry moved closer to an end Tuesday when the state Senate voted to shut down the state’s renewable energy program.

The program, established in 1999, had called for 10,000 megawatts of wind and solar power by 2025. But buoyed by improved turbine technology and an $7 billion transmission line project connecting West Texas to urban centers to the east, Texas passed that goal five years ago. It now counts 12,800 megawatts of wind energy capacity — at times enough to generate a quarter of the electricity on the grid.

State Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, the sponsor of the legislation, argued that the program had served its purpose and it was time to let the industry move forward on its own. The bill passed along party lines by a vote of 22-10.

“We’re number one in the nation by a long shot,” he said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “We have the lines there. We can handle another 6,000 or 7,000 megawatts of wind and solar.”

Under Texas’ current rules, power companies are required to buy a portion of their electricity from wind and solar farms. That has created what the industry says is now a $40 million a year... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

State support for Texas’ booming wind power industry moved closer to an end Tuesday when the state Senate voted to shut down the state’s renewable energy program.

The program, established in 1999, had called for 10,000 megawatts of wind and solar power by 2025. But buoyed by improved turbine technology and an $7 billion transmission line project connecting West Texas to urban centers to the east, Texas passed that goal five years ago. It now counts 12,800 megawatts of wind energy capacity — at times enough to generate a quarter of the electricity on the grid.

State Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, the sponsor of the legislation, argued that the program had served its purpose and it was time to let the industry move forward on its own. The bill passed along party lines by a vote of 22-10.

“We’re number one in the nation by a long shot,” he said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “We have the lines there. We can handle another 6,000 or 7,000 megawatts of wind and solar.”

Under Texas’ current rules, power companies are required to buy a portion of their electricity from wind and solar farms. That has created what the industry says is now a $40 million a year market for renewable credits, which developers rely upon to finance their projects.

Renewable energy advocates say pulling back the program now — which many had expected to extend through at least 2025 — sends a chilling message to the industry. The market will continue to exist under the legislation. But the purchase of credits would be strictly voluntary, limited primarily to power retailers offering renewable electricity plans and companies trying to cut their carbon footprint.

At the same time, they said, the construction of transmission lines designed to aid the growth of wind and solar — known as Competitive Renewable Energy Zones — will cease.

“It certainly can make the economics more difficult for wind and solar plants,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, Texas director of the non-profit Public Citizen. “We expect there will continue to be some growth for wind. But for many in the solar world, the richest resources are just beyond the CREZ lines a little further to the west. That industry really could have benefited from continuing this program.”

The bill is now set to move to the House State Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, for debate.

State support for renewable energy has come under increasing pressure in recent years, as groups like the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council lobby for the repeal of similar laws. Earlier this year West Virginia’s legislature voted to suspend its program, which would have required utilities to get 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025.

At the same time President Obama has called for a nationwide expansion of wind and solar energy toward cutting the power industry’s carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by 2030.

How Texas will go about meeting that mandate, which is expected to be heavily litigated, remains under debate.

On the Senate floor Tuesday, State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, questioned Fraser on whether the state wasn’t hurting its ability to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by doing away with its renewable program.

“I agree with you on all the things we can brag about,” Watson said. “I just worry we’re doing something we’re going to regret down the line.”


Source: http://bizbeatblog.dallasne...

APR 15 2015
http://www.windaction.org/posts/42539-texas-senate-passes-bill-to-end-state-renewable-program
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