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E&E News: Could Texas Lawmakers End the State’s Renewable Boom?

Posted by Miranda Wilson and Jason Plautz on Apr 27, 2023

E&E News details new legislation in Texas that threatens to slow wind and solar development in Texas, quoting Micalah Spenrath on the the regulatory environment signaling industry investors in the state.

Texas is a sweet spot for renewable energy deployment, leading the nation in wind energy and second only to California in solar power.

But two years after the electric grid nearly collapsed during a severe winter storm, conservative lawmakers in Texas have proposed a slew of policies that could upend the Lone Star State’s status as a clean energy powerhouse and push renewable energy projects elsewhere.

Several proposed bills have cleared the Senate, but they could face scrutiny in the state House where lawmakers seem less bullish on upturning the energy market. The bills include a controversial plan to build a state-backed fleet of natural gas-fueled power plants. Others would target the laissez-faire regulatory environment that has allowed renewable energy to flourish, including by requiring renewable energy projects to pay for backup power or by adding new grid connection fees.

The bills exemplify recent efforts in Republican-controlled states to boost fossil fuels at the expense of renewables amid rapid changes to the energy resource mix. State lawmakers in coal-rich West Virginia, for example, have already enacted laws this year that aim to prevent coal-fired power plants from closing.

Still, Texas’ energy policy is particularly significant given its size. Texas is poised to add 7.7 gigawatts of solar power and 2 GW of onshore wind in 2023, the largest of any state for both power sources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. All told, the state accounted for more than 21 percent of the nation’s utility-scale renewable energy in 2022, excluding hydropower.

“That light regulatory environment has been a positive signal for industry investment to come to Texas,” said Micalah Spenrath, policy principal at Texas Advanced Energy Business Alliance, a trade association for wind and solar companies, electric vehicle makers, and other clean energy businesses.

The legislative push led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) is designed to bolster the grid to avoid the widespread blackouts that swept the state in 2021 during Winter Storm Uri, which killed more than 240 people in Texas.

But some lawmakers and grid officials have said that the flexible regulatory environment that boosted renewables leaves the grid at risk in times when demand rises but the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing.

Another proposal, S.B. 7, could make it more expensive to build wind, solar and battery storage projects in particular, critics said. It would create a new grid service in Texas paid for by generators, with the largest costs falling to “non-dispatchable” facilities, such as solar and wind projects, said Spenrath of the Texas Advanced Energy Business Alliance.

Read the full article here.

Topics: United In The News, Micalah Spenrath