Articles filed under Energy Policy from Texas
Industry-friendly policies helped Texas retain its position last year as the nation’s top wind energy producer, but partisan politics now threaten that standing, wind advocates said last week as they released an annual report on the state of the industry.
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.
If a Texas Republican has his way, the state will end its renewable portfolio standard (RPS), undo the billion-dollar competitive renewable energy zones (CREZ) initiative and relinquish its status as the No. 1 state for wind energy generation.
“It’s difficult for me to say how, without that massive financial assistance, we would have the tremendous volume we see,” said Hartnett White, now with the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation and a fierce critic of renewable-energy sources, which she calls “unreliable and parasitic.” She added that it might take years to evaluate whether investing in CREZ was worth the huge price tag.
But the city-owned utility, Austin Energy, has balked at the council’s proposal and said it would be too expensive for ratepayers. And since then, a debate has ensued over how to be politically progressive and economically practical at the same time. ...“It’s good to have aspirations except if the aspirations are so far afield that they are simply going to be ignored.”
In two days of hearings before the House Environmental Regulation Committee in Austin on a pending federal law to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, officials described a future electricity industry vastly different from its present form.
The problem was price. A GreenChoice batch spiked to more than three times the standard electricity rate. Austin Energy officials blamed the jump in prices on a more robust West Texas wind market and clogged transmission lines that made transporting wind energy more challenging. Roger Duncan, the former general manager of Austin Energy, said it was time to consider abolishing the program.
In a memo to the commission Thursday, Nelson said the federal tax credit for wind power was distorting the power market. She said that could potentially push base-load generation like coal and nuclear off the grid. And she ordered an examination of the costs to maintain and upgrade the power grid for wind farms and other renewable sources.
Sometimes with long transmission lines that are lightly loaded, such as CREZ, it can be hard to control voltage," he says. "Wind energy needs a source to stabilize it and make it stay in sync." Also, as more CREZ-related projects attempt to tie in with the grid, abnormally hot or cold spring and fall temperatures - leading to unexpected high power demand on the system - could cause delays.
Texas has more wind power than any state and added the most last year, just ahead of California. The problem is that renewable sources are less consistent and reliable than fossil fuels. In Texas, the squeeze comes during heat waves, when demand surges and the air gets still. In California, the challenge is to keep a stable output on the grid and avoid rolling blackouts.
As the session progresses, renewable energy advocates are bracing to defend critical policies that have helped Texas become the leading wind-power state. The ascendancy of the Tea Party, an abundance of cheap natural gas and tighter budgets have reduced the sway of the wind industry. Solar power advocates anticipate limited gains at best.
"Federal incentives for renewable energy, I believe, have distorted the competitive wholesale market" on the Texas grid, Nelson told the Senate Natural Resources Committee. Nelson said she believes those distortions are "one of the primary causes" of the current strains on the grid, and added: "I think we all need to move with extreme caution before adopting any additional incentives or mandates."
"Wind power is an open trough of government subsidies, tax credits and state mandates. Taken together, it's a massive corporate welfare effort that means big money for the wind power developers and big costs for the rest of us." Loren Steffy, the Houston Chronicle. ...competitively priced goods or services cease to be the primary concern of the producer. Courting government agencies and influencing laws becomes the chief goal.
Hospitals are supposed to be exempt from the blackouts which hit yesterday, with power company Oncor attributing the outages to a "mistake," but there were no such mistakes when it came to supplying power to Cowboys Stadium. The government has ensured that the blackouts will not affect Super Bowl venues, a decision that has left residents furious.
The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday that it will seize authority from Texas to regulate major emitters of greenhouse gases because Gov. Rick Perry and state regulators refused to implement the rules. The move caps a long dispute between Texas and the EPA, which have clashed over the Obama administration's push to regulate industrial sources of carbon dioxide emissions.
Opposition to the construction of high-voltage transmission lines in Texas could result in a smaller-scale project than originally envisioned by state officials, State Sen. Kirk Watson told a crowd of local workforce leaders Wednesday at a conference on renewable energy and state politics. "Elected officials and regulators are working at scaling back and actually scrapping portions of the CREZ lines."
The state is giving wind farm developers a few more days to show their financial commitment to building in the Panhandle. ...Without sufficient collateral, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas will have to conduct a study to determine if work should continue.
Landowners across the Hill Country are learning that their pristine private property is now going to be condemned for a 260-foot right-of-way so the state can install 180 foot tall towers on their land. And, when the electricity starts to flow, they can't even tap into it because it will be a "pass-through" that only benefits big city users. ...So, landowners are relegated to spending their hard-earned money fighting utility companies, hiring lawyers to argue in front of administrative law judges, and showing up at public hearings only to be ignored and mocked by arrogant bureaucrats paid by our tax dollars.
Yet public officials from the president and vice president to Cabinet and congressional leaders insult our intelligence by delivering scripted messages that the future of the new energy system in this country is clean renewable energy that will be delivered by countless so-called green jobs. The fake chimes of energy independence echo up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. Do headlines make truth, regardless of content? What is it about organizations like Repower America and the Center for American Progress, which provide ideology, not substance, to the administration and congressional leadership on the so-called new energy system? Why are their conclusions unchallenged?
A group of Democratic senators may seek to halt stimulus funding for wind-energy projects over concerns that the program is subsidizing jobs overseas. The dispute was prompted by a proposed wind farm in West Texas, whose investors planned to use Chinese-made turbines and seek a $450 million stimulus grant. The senators insist that stimulus funds shouldn't go to projects that get most of their materials from abroad and create "the bulk of their jobs" in other countries.