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DAVID BLACKMON: Is Texas Turning Its Back On Renewable Energy?

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David Blackmon David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.
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One of the most ridiculous narratives Texans have seen pushed by many media platforms in recent weeks is the one that contends Texas is “turning its back” on renewable energy. Late in this year’s legislative session, the Texas and national media featured stories with bombastic headlines like “Texas, a Clean Energy Pioneer, Turns Against Renewables,” “Texas Senators Resurrect Bill to Destroy Wind and Solar Energy,” and “Texas Leaders Have Turned Against Renewable Energy,” to name a few.

David Blackmon

What all this amounts to is a lot of hyperbole accompanied by precious little reality. In its own very long story on the subject, the very pro-renewables Texas Tribune buried the lede in two key paragraphs focused on how this year’s public debate in the legislature is tied to the fallout from 2021’s Winter Storm Uri, during which the state’s power grid disastrously failed:

“Furious residents wanted something to blame. Abbott and other elected Republicans furnished a culprit: renewables. The governor criticized wind and solar generation as unreliable in times of crisis; Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller proclaimed another wind turbine should never be built in Texas.

“In truth, all types of power generators failed during the winter storm in Texas. But many state politicians said that more money needed to go toward building more “on demand” electricity to solve the problem. That meant the kind of power that didn’t rely on wind or sun, such as gas-powered electricity plants or batteries.”

In the wake of that crippling grid failure that resulted in the deaths of more than 300 Texans, state policymakers passed a series of reforms designed to address some, but not all of the major system weaknesses that were identified during the 2021 legislative session. But one major weakness remained: A potentially disastrous shortage of dispatchable thermal generation capacity available to come online during that kind of major weather event. (RELATED: ROY MAYNARD: Amateur Historians Turn The Tide Against Woke Academics)

After a series of competing solutions were considered by this year’s session, the approach that was able to attract a critical mass of support came in the form of a bill providing tax incentives and low-interest loans to generators willing to build such thermal backup capacity. As the Texas Tribune’s own writers admit, wind and solar cannot fulfill this specific role in an integrated grid. Such “thermal” capacity in Texas will almost certainly come in the form of natural gas-fired plants that can be powered up and down in a matter of minutes during major emergencies.

Supporters of this approach felt no need to apply the incentives to new wind and solar for two major reasons: 1) wind and solar cannot fill the specific role; and 2) wind and solar projects already qualify for myriad similar incentives contained in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, along with other longstanding tax incentives and other direct federal subsidies. 

It is that recognition of existing realities that so many media outlets have attempted to portray as the state of Texas somehow “turning its back” on wind and solar. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Texas is in fact far and away the national leader in installed wind capacity already. Data compiled by the American Clean Power Association indicates Texas currently has 3 times the volume of installed wind capacity than the next-closest state, Iowa. In fact, the state enjoys so much installed capacity that the grid managers at ERCOT have struggled to find ways to interconnect it all into the grid.

David Blackmon

The state is also home to a rapidly expanding solar industry. In early May, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that, in 2023, Texas will install more wind and solar than all other states combined. None of this happens without the existence of favorable public policies in place. In fact, the state’s policies are so welcoming that Reuters reported in early May that Texas is likely to attract more than 25% of nationwide investment in new stationary battery projects designed to provide back up for its expanding suites of wind and solar sites. (RELATED: ROBERT HENNEKE: A Lone Star History Buff Takes On The Woke Revisionists)

To characterize any of this set of reality as the state somehow “turning its back” on renewables is not just factually inaccurate, it’s absurd. Texas is and will remain the nation’s foremost renewable energy powerhouse.

David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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