Remarks by Brian Zabcik at "Renewables on the Rise" press conference (July 18, 2018)
Good morning. Thank you for being here. I’m joined today by Mayor Steve Adler from the City of Austin, Debbie Kimberly from Austin Energy, Cyrus Reed from the Sierra Club, and Jeff Clark from the Texas Wind Coalition.
Today, Environment Texas is releasing a new report — Renewables on the Rise: A Decade of Progress Toward a Clean Energy Future. Our report shows that Texas has seen tremendous growth in the key technologies that can power our nation with clean and renewable energy. These technologies include solar power; wind power; utility battery storage; electric vehicles; and energy efficiency programs.
Since 2008, Texas has seen a more than 38,000 percent increase in the amount of electricity it gets from the sun, including from solar farms like the one we’re at today. Austin Energy’s La Loma Community Solar Farm is the largest urban solar facility in the state. We’ve also seen a more than 400 percent increase in wind power production. There are now more than 10,000 wind turbines in Texas. On one day in March 2017, they were able to supply more than half of the state’s electricity demand.
This growth was no accident. It was made possible in part by smart policies at the local, state and federal level. For example, in 2004, Austin Energy — owned by the city of Austin — became the first utility in the state to offer solar installation rebates to its customers. And Texas invested $7 billion to expand the state’s power grid, which made it easier to transmit electricity from our windiest regions to our biggest cities.
From left: Debbie Kimberly (Austin Energy), Cyrus Reed (Sierra Club), Mayor Steve Adler (City of Austin), Jeff Clark (Wind Coalition), Brian Zabcik (Environment Texas)
There’s more good news. According to our report, Texas ranked 5th in the nation for total number of electric vehicles, with more than 12,000 currently on the road. Our state ranked 3rd for public charging stations for electric vehicles, with almost 1,000 stations currently in place.
We also had the 3rd largest increase in utility battery storage, going from none in 2008 to almost 83 megawatts in 2017. Large-scale battery storage is important so that wind and solar power generated on good weather days can be stored for use on bad weather days. That’s why there’s a 1.6 megawatt battery here at La Loma.
Every day, there’s more evidence that a cleaner and healthier economy powered by renewable energy is within our reach. The progress that we’ve made in the last decade on technologies like wind and solar power, battery storage, and electric cars should give Texans the confidence that we can take clean energy to the next level.
Austin Energy's La Loma Community Solar Farm
While we’ve build a good foundation in Texas with clean energy policies, there’s more to do. The reality is inescapable. Fossil fuels pollute our air, water and land. They’re threatening our health, and changing our climate even faster than scientists predicted. We need to seize the moment and lean into a future powered by clean, renewable energy.
The last decade has seen solar power sweep across the country, becoming a common feature on homes, businesses, solar farms, and community solar gardens. Tens of thousands of wind turbines have popped up on the plains, mountains and coasts of the United States. Advanced energy-saving technologies – from LED light bulbs to smart thermostats – have made their way into millions of Americans’ homes and businesses.
But for America to take full advantage of this momentum, governments, businesses, institutions, and individuals will need to continue to take the lead. Strong public policies that support renewable energy are be necessary, as well as individual, corporate and governmental commitments to use clean energy.
At the local level, 61 American cities, led by a mix of Republican and Democratic mayors, have committed to transitioning to 100% renewable energy. Here in Texas, that includes the cities of Georgetown and Denton. Austin has committed to 65% renewable energy by 2027, and is currently studying a 100% goal. In addition, 131 major companies — including Anheuser-Busch, Bank of America, and Google — have committed to power their operations with 100 percent renewable energy.
The American people are ready to move forward. Eight in 10 Americans support expanding wind power, and nine in 10 support expanding solar power – nearly double the support for any other type of energy. Twice as many Americans want an energy policy that emphasizes conservation instead of production. And 20 percent of Americans say their next vehicle purchase will likely be an electric one.
Repowering our economy with clean and renewable energy can put our nation on a healthier and more sustainable path. Rapid improvements in technology, vast renewable energy resources, and a supportive public mean that a future powered entirely by clean energy is within our reach.