Naked City

Lege backs renewable energy

Governor Rick Perry received rare kudos from environmental advocates when he added a bill to the special session agenda that would increase the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard – the amount of electricity generated by renewable sources such as wind, solar, and biomass – to a goal of 5%. That's 5,880 megawatts by 2015, up from the previous goal of roughly 3%, or 2,880 MW by 2009. The measure, Senate Bill 20, authored by Horseshoe Bay Republican Troy Fraser, passed unanimously in the Senate last Tuesday, passed in the House on Thursday, and is now awaiting Governor Perry's approval. Indicating that he would sign the bill, Perry, whose energy plan includes large amounts of out-of-state coal and imported liquified natural gas, said, "With energy costs draining family budgets and slowing economic growth nationwide, now is the time for lawmakers to pass legislation that will help Texas become more energy independent." Aside from expanding the state's RPS, the bill stipulates that 500 MW be set aside for renewable energy sources other than wind, and sets an overall target of 10,000 MW coming from renewable sources by 2025.

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.

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    Headlines and happenings from Austin and beyond

    Naked City

    Austin rep learns hard lesson while on vacation

    Naked City

    Legislation goes easy on phone companies, hard on local governments
  • Naked City

    And not surprisingly, the big money goes to Republicans

    Naked City

    The true source of terror is our own ill-begotten war

    Naked City

    Yeah, that's what we needed ... another middle-aged white guy

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More renewable energy
Austin's Corn-Powered Cop-Car Conundrum
Austin's Corn-Powered Cop-Car Conundrum
Did climate-change concerns trump common sense when the city decided to rush a nearly $3 million order for new cop cars?

Daniel Mottola, Sept. 21, 2007

UT Raises the Solar Roof
UT Raises the Solar Roof
Students build all-solar house for national competition

Daniel Mottola, July 8, 2005

More by Daniel Mottola
Bicycle Master Plan Gets a Tune-Up
Bicycle Master Plan Gets a Tune-Up
If it's May, it must be Bike Month

May 22, 2009

Critical Mass Arrests
Critical Mass Arrests
Pride or policy?

April 10, 2009

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Renewable Portfolio Standard, Rick Perry, Senate Bill 20, Troy Fraser, Public Citizen, Tom "Smitty" Smith, Public Utility Commission, renewable energy, Susan Williams Sloan, Virtus Energy

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle