Coalition Asks for New Public Utility Commission Rules
DALLAS, TX – A coalition of environmental, public health, and labor groups launched the Clean Energy Works for Texas campaign today with a filing to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) of Texas. The expanded Texas Renewable Portfolio Standard passed in 2005, helping launch the booming Texas wind industry that is currently providing 10% of the state’s electricity.
Importantly, the law also intended for a portion of the mandated renewables to come from non-wind sources, such as solar and geothermal. To date, the PUC has taken no action to implement this portion of the law. Today’s filing by the Coalition asks the PUC to open a rule-making process within 60 days to help kick start utility scale solar and geothermal energy in Texas.
“While wind energy has taken off and provided thousands of jobs to Texans, the PUC has so far taken no action to implement the non-wind provisions, which leaves solar and geothermal power behind. Solar and geothermal power are clean, abundant, and don’t rely on our precious water resources to generate electricity. With a push from the PUC, the rest of the state could experience the same economic boom that wind energy has brought to West Texas. Our filing today asks the PUC to take the final step in fully implementing the renewable portfolio standard. Solar and geothermal are important to meet Texas’s reliability needs and protect our water resources,” said Dr. Al Armendariz, Senior Campaign Representative with Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club, Public Citizen Texas, Progress Texas, the SEED Coalition, and the Texas BlueGreen Apollo Alliance jointly filed the petition to the Public Utilities Commission, which will now require the PUC to open a rulemaking docket within 60 days. For the law to be fully implemented and for utilities and small businesses to begin developing solar and geothermal resources, the PUC Commissioners must approve a rule that requires those selling energy to invest in these clean energy resources. Under the RPS, utilities are required to develop 500 megawatts of non-wind renewable energy by 2015, but without the PUC, the law is not fully implemented and utilities are not moving forward.
“Texas can’t rest on the laurels of our success in the wind industry,” said Cathy Chickering of the SMU Geothermal Laboratory. “Just like a financial portfolio, our energy portfolio must take advantage of Texas’ wealth of renewable energy sources – geothermal energy can power our homes and businesses reliably around the clock, while building on the very real synergy that the oil and gas industry can bring to the table. Leveraging their existing investment and expertise for geothermal projects will bring new clean energy employment opportunities to Texans.”
Renewable energy is creating jobs and growing the economy in Texas. Texas wind has created more than 7,000 jobs with more than $140 million in local tax revenues, and the development of solar and geothermal resources can create more. While publicly-owned utilities like CPS Energy and Austin Energy have made significant progress in pursuing solar projects, research shows that a statewide goal of 2,000 megawatts of solar will create more than 21,500 manufacturing and installation jobs.
“The clean energy economy presents Texans with our modern day Spindletop moment,” said David Cortez, with the Texas BlueGreen Apollo Alliance, a partnership between business, community, labor, and environmental organizations. “We’ve named our campaign Clean Energy Works for Texas because that is a true statement – Texas workers will power this state with clean energy. The non-wind RPS doesn’t pick winners and losers, instead, it provides a clear market signal for much-needed investments in reliable, affordable energy generation. Investors from all over the world will see the potential in investing in clean renewable Texan energy with action by the PUC.”
According to a report by the Brattle Group, adding 1,000 to 5,000 megawatts of solar photovoltaic power would reduce wholesale energy prices, which result in savings for the retail consumer. Wholesale prices are highest during periods of peak demand, when sources like solar photovoltaic are most productive.
“Renewable energy will be critical for making sure Texas is energy-secure,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith with Public Citizen Texas. “Coastal wind made the difference when record-high temperatures in August 2011 sent electricity demand through the roof and fossil fuel generation couldn’t keep up. More and more, we’re seeing clean, renewable energy serve peak demand. Renewables will only become more important to meet Texas’s energy needs – the PUC needs to take the first step to implement the state Renewable Portfolio Standard.”
“The PUC, ERCOT, and other agencies take reliability concerns seriously. Implementing the non-wind portfolio standard will be critical to protecting electric reliability,” said Cyrus Reed, Acting Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “In addition to solar and geothermal, demand response is the critical third piece. We can tap our resources to generate more electricity, but reducing our demand through smart technology must happen too. This is about giving energy customers more choices and opportunities to reduce their demand and move toward cleaner forms of energy. “
Organizations signed on to the legal petition include: Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Texas Bluegreen Apollo Alliance, Clean Water Action, North Texas Renewable Energy Group, North Texas Renewable Energy Inc., Progress Texas, Environment Texas, Seed Coalition, Solar Austin, Solar San Antonio, Texas Campaign for the Environment and Texas Pecan Alliance.