Texas set to exceed ambitious renewables target

Oil-rich Texas is expected to meet the nation's most ambitious state goal for the production of electricity from renewable energy sources seven years ahead of schedule.

An ambitious requirement signed into state law in 1999 by Texas governor George W. Bush requiring roughly 3% of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 1 Jan, 2009, is expected to be met within three years.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the industry’s national trade body announced on 1 September that wind was the key player in Texas’ success in attracting renewable energy to the state, which ironically, is famous as the nation’s main producer of traditional fuels.

“A combination of factors have come together in Texas to make this happen: a heck of a wind resource, a drop in the costs of wind energy technology, a well-crafted renewable energy requirement, and non-discriminatory electricity transmission rules. Texas provides a textbook example of what could be achieved nationwide with these “fabulous four,” AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher said.

AWEA stated that meeting the target early of 2,000 MW – enough to serve 400,000 Texas households with 1 million people – could have national implications, encouraging further investment in renewables nationwide.

In recent weeks, Texas utilities have made headlines with the announcement of plans for some of the world’s largest wind farms:

  • Reliant Energy, based in Houston, said that it will buy power from the 208-MW King Mountain Wind Ranch, to be built next year south of Odessa. The plant will consist of 160 wind turbines, each with a generating capacity of 1.3 MW;
  • Dallas-based TXU Electric & Gas announced that it would purchase electricity from a 160-MW wind farm, also scheduled for construction next year, that is to be developed by the nation’s largest wind energy producer, FPL Energy LLC.

The Texas law which has led to some $2 billion in new business investment AWEA says, is a ‘renewables portfolio standard’ (RPS), which requires that a certain amount of electricity be obtained from renewable energy sources. Utilities are free to decide which energy resource they want to use, and they typically issue solicitations and allow bidders to compete to supply energy.

“The RPS has provided the extra incentive that utilities need to seriously look at wind and other renewables. Now that they have, it’s obvious that they like what they see”, Swisher said. “The overwhelming success of the Texas RPS shows that the wind energy industry is ready and able to deliver on the long-pursued promise of clean, inexhaustible, affordable energy from renewable resources.”

The Clinton Administration has proposed to a national RPS system requiring that 7.5% of the nation’s electricity be generated from renewables (not including hydro) by the year 2010, but critics say that the goal is unrealistic and will be too expensive.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie