HOUSTON - Since 2009, Texas has seen almost a 340-fold increase in the amount of electricity it gets from the sun and similarly impressive growth in wind, energy storage, and electric vehicle technology, according to a new report from Environment Texas Research & Policy Center. And earlier this summer, ERCOT revealed that wind outproduced coal in Texas in the first half of the year, for the first time ever.
“Every day, there’s more evidence that a future fueled by renewable energy is within our reach,” said Jen Schmerling, deputy director of Environment Texas. “The progress we’ve made in the last decade on renewable energy and technologies like battery storage and electric cars should give Texans the confidence that we can take clean energy to the next level.”
The report also examined improvements in energy efficiency, but in that category Texas ranked among the bottom ten states. This shows we have a long way to go in implementing statewide efficiency programs, enforcing building codes, and incentivizing high-efficiency technologies. The Public Utilities Commission of Texas should re-evaluate its programs and standards, and examine other opportunities for improving our state’s overall efficiency.
The report, Renewables on the Rise: A Decade of Progress Toward a Clean Energy Future, provides a state-by-state assessment of the growth of key technologies needed to power the nation with clean renewable energy, including wind, solar, energy efficiency, energy storage and electric vehicles. Texas did well overall:
First in wind growth: 75,753 GWh generated in 2018 and a four-fold increase since 2009 (and in 2009 Texas already generated almost three times more wind power than the next state)
Fifth in solar growth: 4,063 GWh generated in 2018 and a 339-fold increase since 2009
Third in battery storage capacity: 94.3 MW, up from zero in 2009
Fifth in EV purchases: there are over 34,000 zero-emission vehicles on Texas roads, but only 4.2 EVs per 1000 registered vehicles (lower than any other state in the top ten)
Sixth-to-last in efficiency improvements: essentially stable in terms of electricity savings
We have significant room to grow in all categories, but particularly in EVs and efficiency: the next step is to incentivize growth so we can move toward a future fully powered by renewable energy. “It is an exciting time for local eMobility in the Greater Houston Area, where EVs just reached the milestone 1% of new car sales in June,” said Michael Conklin, co-founder of EVolve Houston. “With transportation accounting for up to 67% of harmful emissions, there yet remains a lot more for us to do as a community.”
The report describes the factors that caused rapid growth in each category since 2009. They include innovative policies, improved technologies and lower costs—all of which suggest the potential for continued development in the years to come. The establishment of Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZs) in Texas, for example, enabled a boom in the wind market by connecting highly-populated areas in the eastern half of the state with wind farms in the west, and will continue to encourage that development into the future.
"Texas has made significant progress in the area of clean energy over the last several years and is actually now one of the fastest growing states in terms of solar and wind adaptation. We still aren't where we need to be, though,” said Justin Doffin of KW Solar. “The next important step for Texas is to follow the lead of many of the other states and start offering incentives for renewable energy on a state level. This will become even more critical as the 30% federal tax credit for solar begins to phase out at the end of this year."
In addition to providing incentives, our state and local governments can take action in our deregulated market by purchasing 100 percent renewable power. Schmerling applauded the City of Houston for already purchasing 92 percent of its power from renewable sources, and urged both the City and Harris County to move to 100 percent. This can be easily done through a program like the Texas Renewable Energy Cooperative (TREC), which allows public entities to aggregate their purchasing power and lock in low rates on renewable power for years to come.
Renewables on the Rise comes as a diverse group of U.S. cities, states, corporations and institutions are committing to 100 percent renewable energy. There are now six states that have made commitments to 100 percent clean electricity. At the local level, 131 American cities, led by a mix of Republican and Democratic mayors, have committed to that goal, including Georgetown and Denton, TX.
In addition, more than 180 major companies, including Bank of America, IKEA, HP, and Anheuser-Busch have committed to power their operations with 100 percent renewable energy.
“The reality is inescapable: fossil fuels pollute our air, water and land; they threaten our health and are changing our climate even faster than scientists predicted,” said Schmerling. “We need to seize the moment, build on recent progress and lean into a future powered by clean renewable energy. With rapid improvements in technology, vast clean energy resources, and a willing public, a future powered entirely by clean, renewable energy is increasingly within our reach.”
Environment Texas works for clean air, clean water, clean energy, wildlife and open spaces, and a livable climate. Our members across the state put grassroots support behind our research and advocacy. Environment Texas is part of Environment America, a national network of 29 state environmental groups.