AUSTIN - Renewable energy credits (RECs), commonly used to help cities, counties, businesses and institutions meet their commitments to adopt renewable energy, have played a critical role in making renewable energy more affordable and economical, spurring the growth of wind and solar energy. But a new white paper released Monday from Environment Texas Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group argues that while REC purchases on open markets can be an important piece of local governments’ efforts to reduce emissions and increase sustainability, they are unlikely to be sufficient in and of themselves to support the transition to 100% renewable electricity.
"You can't build a house with just a saw, and Texas can't build a 100% renewable energy future by relying on just one tool," said Bryn Huxley-Reicher of the research and policy organization Frontier Group and co-author of the new white paper. "RECs kickstarted the growth of renewables and have helped make them economically competitive, but now we need to use the rest of the toolbox to ensure that growth continues, and that clean energy can meet all of Texas' needs."
RECs have helped to drive renewable energy development since the early 2000s by providing an additional revenue stream for developers, helping them achieve economies of scale that brought costs down. This was crucially important during the initial rollout of renewable energy, but with wind and solar power now cheaper than most forms of new power generation, other challenges have become more pressing to overcome, the paper explains.
“Now, with wind and solar routinely cheap, the biggest challenge is making it work for us all day, every day,” said Lennis Barlow, Clean Energy Associate with Environment Texas Research and Policy Center. “We can do it. And with smart policies, Texas cities and counties can help lead the way.”
The report recommends cities and counties prioritize location-specific, local renewable energy projects, create programs to support energy efficiency and energy storage, and use power purchase agreements (PPAs) to provide consistent, predictable support for new renewable energy development.
Governments can implement those tools through a variety of mechanisms, including municipal or county purchases of clean energy, clean energy procurement by municipal utilities, or bulk purchasing programs through which cities or counties negotiate clean, cost-competitive renewable energy plans that they can make available to their residents.
“Bulk purchasing of renewable energy,” concluded Barlow, “brings clean energy and all of its environmental and economic benefits directly to the communities it is serving, while at the same time driving down energy costs and increasing resiliency.”