Will Legislation Cause a Decline in Texas’ Renewable Energy Use?

A measure shutters two key renewable energy programs in Texas, which could stir up the regulatory environment in the state.

by / May 1, 2015
Legislation could damper Texas' investment in renewable energy. Shutterstock

Texas’ strides in renewable energy growth could be in jeopardy.

Legislation approved by the Texas Senate earlier this month shutters two programs that helped boost the Lone Star State’s green energy production. SB 931 ends the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which established a renewable energy goal for Texas and the Texas’ Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) initiative. Texas currently leads the nation in wind energy, according to the Texas Tribune.

Authored by Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, SB 931 passed the Senate on a 21-10 vote. The proposal now needs a member of the Texas House of Representatives to introduce a companion bill to move forward.

The RPS came online in 1999, setting goals for green energy, particularly wind. The effort helped jumpstart investment in alternative forms of power. The CREZ initiative is a 3,600-mile power transmission line that carries wind energy to various cities around Texas and increases the amount of wind-generated electricity that homes receive.

Environmental advocates such as the Environmental Defense Action Fund have chastised the measure as an “attack on clean energy.” Fraser, however, said he believes shutting down the programs signifies that Texas has achieved its renewable energy goals, the Tribune reported.

Government Technology reached out to Fraser and his staff multiple times for comment on SB 931 and the concerns of environmentalists, but didn’t receive a reply.

Charlie Hemmeline, executive director of the Texas Solar Power Association, was adamant, however, that changing existing policy could raise uncertainty and put solar projects at risk. In an email to Government Technology, Hemmeline explained that SB 931 would affect contracts already in place that formed the basis for Texas to become a leader in wind energy production.

“The Texas solar market is unique from other states in that the RPS here is not what is driving the planned future market growth or the solar capacity that has been installed to date,” he said. “We support the competitive market and customer choice, and we see increased demand being driven by economics and key benefits such as solar's minimal to no water use. However, a stable business environment is critical to any industry and the changes proposed by SB 931 could dampen investor interest.”

Closing the two programs removes a requirement that energy providers participate in renewable energy credit trading. SB 931 instead makes that participation voluntary.

At press time on May 1, no companion bill to SB 931 had been introduced in the Texas House. Government Technology will continue to keep tabs on the issue and report on further developments.

Brian Heaton

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.