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There’s still a lot of investment in renewables in Texas

Good to know.

Four months after the failure of the Texas electric grid sparked a backlash against clean power, investors and developers have decided just what the state needs: more renewable energy. Much more.

Texas is on pace to have as much green-power development in coming years as the next three states combined, according to the American Clean Power Association, a Washington-based trade group. Projects totaling 15 gigawatts — equal to the total electrical capacity of Finland in 2019 — are under construction or in advanced development, more than double three years ago. That’s according to data from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or Ercot, the state’s grid operator.

All told, the forthcoming wind, solar and battery-storage projects are worth an estimated $20 billion to $25 billion, the American Clean Power Association said.

[…]

The amount of renewable energy in the Ercot queue in May was much higher than the same month in any of the past three years. That massive growth is driven by jumps in solar farms and battery storage that outweigh a drop in the amount of wind power in the queue.

New utility-scale solar installations in Texas totaled 3.3 gigawatts last year, nearly matching the 3.5 gigawatts of new wind, according to BloombergNEF. The research group projects more than double the amount of new utility-scale solar and 4.2 gigawatts of new wind there this year.

Republicans bashed renewable energy during and after the storm, even as the state’s grid operator said that frozen instruments at gas, coal and even nuclear plants were the main reason for the blackouts. “This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” Texas governor Greg Abbott told Sean Hannity on Fox News in the midst of the freeze. He went on to blame wind and solar power and said fossil fuel plants are necessary for baseline power.

Several renewable developers said new laws that targeted clean power projects would force them to rethink building in Texas. A group including big power companies, Amazon.com Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. sent letters to Abbott and lawmakers in April, writing that proposed new laws would chill investment in the state.

Perhaps that letter had an effect, for as the story notes we managed to make it through this session without any explicitly anti-renewables bills passing. (Not that the Republicans didn’t try, mind you.) There are still issues with the grid’s capacity to handle more output from renewables, but maybe the investors are assuming some of those problems will work themselves out. I note in the story’s graphic that the amount being invested in battery storage is way higher than it used to be, so maybe that has an effect as well. In any event, we are still investing in renewable energy here. Let’s hope we don’t screw it up.

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One Comment

  1. policywonqueria says:

    NEW STUDY OF FEB. 2021 TEXAS FREEZE FIASCO

    Abstract

    The Texas freeze of February 2021 left more than 4.5 million customers (more than 10 million people) without electricity at its peak, some for several days. The freeze had cascading effects on other services reliant upon electricity including drinking water treatment and medical services. Economic losses from lost output and damage are estimated to be $130 billion in Texas alone.

    In the wake of the freeze, there has been major fallout among regulators and utilities as actors sought to apportion blame and utilities and generators began to settle up accounts.

    This piece offers a retrospective on what caused the blackouts and the knock-on effects on other services, the subsequent financial and political effects of the freeze, and the implications for Texas and the country going forward. Texas failed to sufficiently winterize its electricity and gas systems after 2011. Feedback between failures in the two systems made the situation worse. Overall, the state faced outages of 30 GW of electricity as demand reached unprecedented highs. The gap between production and demand forced the non-profit grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), to cut off supply to millions of customers or face a systems collapse that by some accounts was minutes away.

    The 2021 freeze suggests a need to rethink the state’s regulatory approach to energy to avoid future such outcomes. Weatherization, demand response, and expanded interstate interconnections are potential solutions Texas should consider to avoid generation losses, reduce demand, and tap neighboring states’ capacity.

    Joshua Busby et al, Cascading risks: Understanding the 2021 winter blackout in Texas, ENERGY RESEARCH & SOCIAL SCIENCE 77 (July 2021)

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629621001997#s0040

    QUICKIE COMMENTARY

    This is a good review of what happened accompanied by timeline data, with policy prescriptions flowing from the authors’ analysis, and lots of valuable footnotes to sources that might be helpful to others working on this topic.

    A major shortcoming here is the complete omission of energy storage (batteries, hydrogen, and other technologies) as an additional approach to address demand-supply imbalances and intermittency problems of renewables. The discussion of the politics surrounding the Texas grid is somewhat sketchy and not fully up-to-date (e.g., the repricing issue for power billed at $9,000 per MWh by ERCOT even after the Energy Emergency Level 3 and concomitant loadshed had ended).

    Unlike the bulk of the media coverage, one distinctive merit of this article is that it also looks at the demand-side for possible solutions to future energy crunches, that is, ways to reduce demand by electricity consumers through dynamic response and better insulation of old-stock homes and use of heatpumps.

    What in industry jargon is called “demand response” is mostly limited to commercial/industrial consumers currently. The latter type of energy consumers, however, make money off the foregone consumption that they had contracted for, while consumers are only exhorted to voluntarily adjust thermostats and to consume less during periods of peak demand, with no financial incentives or disincentives. That dimension remains unaddressed along with the problem of energy policy in Texas being driven by industry interests, with consumers — by contrast — having no proper representation or lobbying clout.