Tag Archives: Texas Public Utility Commission

Don’t Mess With Texas’ Clean Energy

By Sarah Hodgdon, Sierra Club’s Director of Conservation, adapted from Treehugger, 3/8/12

When you think of Texas, what comes to mind? The Alamo? Longhorn cattle? The Dallas Cowboys?

Add clean energy to that list.

“Some might not think of Texas as a hotspot for renewables. But if you look at what cities here are doing, you might have to change your mind,” says Jen Powis, who leads the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal state-wide campaign in the Lone Star State.

Take Houston, for example: One-third of municipal buildings in the state’s biggest city run on renewable energy. Texas’s second-biggest city, San Antonio, is building 400 megawatts worth of solar. Less than 100 miles to the north of there, municipal buildings in Austin run on 100 percent clean energy.

What’s happening, says Powis, is bottom-up change that flies in the face of the state’s political climate.

“City by city, local leaders are the ones pushing the envelope for clean energy,” Powis says. And as large cities lead the way, other municipalities and universities will follow.

With more than 10,300 MW of installed wind energy, Texas leads the nation in wind power, and there are more than 800 MW of wind under construction. Current efforts to overhaul the state’s transmission lines should ensure even more. Meanwhile coal power has become increasingly unprofitable here.

Powis points out that politicians who oppose clean energy here will also find themselves standing in the way of jobs. The wind energy sector supports more than 8,000 jobs in Texas, according to the American Wind Energy Association(PDF). The state is home to dozens of clean-energy manufacturers, and annual tax revenues from wind projects are in the nine figures.

That being said, the Texas Public Utility Commission has stubbornly blocked solar companies from establishing themselves in this sun-rich region.

“It’s embarrassing to me as a Texan that New Jersey has more solar watts installed than we do,” Polis says. “The PUC and the state legislature have stood in the way of bringing in these good, green jobs. But that can’t go on much longer. Texas is great for solar. In five years, I bet 5,000 megawatts of coal will be replaced by clean energy here.”

You can help make sure clean energy gets the support it needs. Tell Congress to pass strong clean energy financing incentives – including the Production Tax Credit for onshore wind, the “1603” grants that have created jobs in the solar sector, access to the Investment Tax Credit for offshore wind projects, and credits for efficient manufacturing, homes, and appliances

PUC Can Move Texas Clean Jobs Forward!

Blue Wing Solar Plant goes online in San Antonio

Sierra Club Asks Public Utility Commission to Move Solar, Smart Grid, and Clean Energy Jobs forward in Texas

Responding to an invitation to present to the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC), the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club is calling on the PUC to coordinate with other state agencies to fluidly implement new clean energy laws passed by the State Legislature.

“Texas’ coal plants will soon have increasing difficulty and significant costs complying with new health-based EPA regulations and Texas needs to plan for that future,” noted Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “It will be cheaper and healthier for Texas to retire these old coal plants.  With its rule-making, the PUC can help open up Texas markets and create jobs for Texans by encouraging new technologies such as – roof-top and utility-scale solar, demand response also known as ‘smart grid’, energy efficiency measures, and energy storage.”

The PUC workshop tomorrow — “The Cost & Impacts  of New Environmental Regulations and the Opportunity for a New, Cleaner Electrical Grid” comes on the heels of yesterday’s announcement by San Antonio’s Mayor that the city’s publicly-owned utility, CPS Energy will close Deely, its oldest and dirtiest coal plant by 2018 and replace it with a combination of energy efficiency, and traditional and renewable resources.

Reed’s presentation points to a recent report “Review of the Potential Impacts of Proposed Environmental Regulations on the ERCOT System” by Texas’ grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) on the impacts of four major, new environmental regulations being implemented by EPA.  Reed contends that the report is flawed saying, “it undercounts the costs of those regulations and ignores other important EPA regulations like the new standards for ozone pollution.”

Workers at Blue Wing Solar Plant

Reed’s presentation calls on the PUC to implement severally recently enacted pieces of legislation related to distributed renewable power, energy storage and energy efficiency.  He emphasizes that the PUC must finally implement the 500 megawatt, 2015 target for non-wind renewable resources like solar power, a target established by the Legislature back in 2005.

“The 500 megawatt solar rule should be adopted by the Commissioners at their next meeting on July 8 or their time runs out,” noted Reed. “There are already some 800 megawatts of solar power waiting for clarification from the PUC that there will be a market for their power.  These are Texas jobs waiting in the wings for their word.”

Reed also called on the PUC to start an 18-month process to produce a more comprehensive report on the impact of upcoming regulations on the Texas energy market.  This process will include:

  • Public participation;
  • An Advisory Committee; and
  • A set of recommendations to the 2013 Legislature.

The PUC meeting which is open to the public is scheduled to be held tomorrow, Wednesday, June 22 between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM on the 7th Floor of the Travis Building at 1701 Congress Avenue in Austin.  The workshop will include presentations by utilities, think-tanks, energy consultants and other stakeholders.

Information about the meeting can be found at: http://www.puc.state.tx.us/agency/calendar/AppointmentDetail.aspx?ID=136 

A copy of the Sierra Club presentation can be found at: https://texasgreenreport.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/cyrus_reed_presentation_to_puc_2011-06-22.pptx

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Posted by Donna Hoffman

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