Legislature Ensures More Gas Production in Texas, Less Renewables
Assessing this session's environmental impact
The Legislature's war on renewable energy came back with a vengeance this session. Bills like Senate Bill 2627, which uses $10 billion of taxpayer money to incentivize gas plant construction with low-interest loans and bonuses, will bring more power generation online, but at what cost to renewables and the consumer? The Public Utility Commission's Performance Credit Mechanism idea, which would incentivize generators to produce immediately available energy during a crisis, passed with a cap intended to lower consumer costs, though costs will still increase, and the plants built will likely all be natural gas.
Meanwhile, energy efficiency bills like SB 258 – which could have shored up demand response – died, and the PUC's sunset bill, which the Lege is obligated to pass, became a last-minute "Christmas tree" bill tacking on provisions from anti-renewable bills that died earlier in session, including one that would introduce prohibitive bureaucratic permitting barriers to solar and wind projects.
Even though energy became a partisan battleground, there were some wins for the environment this session, which will now go to voters in November as constitutional amendments. One such amendment brings a sweeping investment in water infrastructure and supply over the next 10 years, as well as an historic $1 billion parks bond. Modest gains were made in improving transparency and public participation in permitting during the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's sunset process. However, Texas missed an opportunity to use its incredible bounty of solar and wind capacity – and it may end up costing us financially as well as environmentally.