Lege backs renewable energy
Although SB 20 falls short of the 20% by 2020 standard many enviros sought, "most importantly, it fixes the logjam around [wind power] transmission between West Texas and the cities," said Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of the Texas office of Public Citizen, an environmental and consumer advocacy group. Existing power-line transmission capacity, piping wind-generated energy out of the state's gustiest regions in the western desert, is nearly maxed out. SB 20 streamlines state Public Utility Commission procedures, allowing for cost recovery measures that take the risk out of utility company investment in new wind farm construction, according to Smith. Similar legislation passed by a wide margin during the regular session, but died in committee.
"This legislation will allow Texans better access to low-cost, clean, homegrown energy," said local renewable energy consultant Susan Williams Sloan of Virtus Energy. "An expanded investment in renewable energy will help clear the air, provide critical revenue to our schools, and bring new jobs and billions of dollars in investments to Texas," Smith said. Sloan added that wind farm developers are "ready to invest millions of dollars in Texas' excellent wind sites and Texas consumers will see the economic and environmental benefits from growth in the wind industry here."
Heading into the special session, proponents of the measure called an increased RPS a "perfect match" with the focus on school finance, citing the Texas wind power industry's contribution of more than $15 million annually to new property tax revenues for school districts. Advocates predicted the bill will create $60 million in school taxes each year and cited a recent Scripps Howard Texas Poll showing that 79% of Texans prefer increasing the use of renewable energy to meet the state's future electric energy needs.