USA - Texas takes alternative route

State ahead of schedule to meet its mandate on energy

Texas is ahead of schedule in meeting its goal for energy generated by renewable energy sources, an accomplishment that has some legislators considering bills to raise the bar even higher. The law that opened Texas' electric markets to competition required energy providers to add 2,000 megawatts of generating capacity from renewable sources such as wind turbines or hydroelectric generators by 2009. That is nearly 3 percent of the state's generating capacity. Developers have added 1,190 megawatts of renewable energy to the system since 1999 and have announced 486 megawatts worth of additional projects, according to the Texas Public Utility Commission. Agreements for 720 megawatts more are in the works.

With the target seemingly within reach in the next year — some three years early — state legislators are proposing laws to up that goal by anywhere from 3,000 megawatts to 7,000 megawatts by 2015. Green energy advocates are encouraged by the proposed laws, noting the original target ranks Texas 17th out of the 18 states with renewable energy standards. But industry officials are concerned about the costs of the legislation. "As a general principle, we don't believe regulatory mandates should be imposed on competitive markets," Charles Griffey, head of regulatory affairs for Reliant Energy, said. "But if the legislature decides it is necessary, it needs to be clear and predictable and should minimize the costs imposed on the market."

One renewable energy advocate says it appears the different parties are not that far apart. "It's a wonderful thing when the major experts in this state can get convened and agree not to go backwards on renewable energy," said Karl Rabago, director of the Clean Energy Group at the Houston Advanced Research Center and president of the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association. "I think we need to recognize what a huge cultural shift this is for Texas." In Texas, wind energy and renewable energy are nearly synonymous, with wind powered turbines making up 96 percent of what has been added in Texas since 1999. The rotating towers of energy have been built primarily in the western part of the state, in counties like Upton and Pecos, where strong, steady winds and flat terrain afford the best operating conditions. While the fuel source for a wind turbine is free, generating energy from the wind isn't competitive with energy generated by sources such as natural gas and coal-fired plants. This is primarily because of the fickle nature of wind, which can't be relied upon to generate a steady supply of energy on demand. This is why wind energy plans offered to residential and commercial customers tend to be priced higher than other plans.
Edited by Trevor Sievert, Online Editorial Journalist
USA, Texas, Spain, wind energy, renewable energy, wind turbine, wind farm, rotor-blade, onshore, offshore, green energy

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