Texas Wind Energy Set a Record—But Republicans Are Still Trying to Squash It

Illustration for article titled Texas Wind Energy Set a Record—But Republicans Are Still Trying to Squash It
Photo: Tony Gutierrez (AP)

Despite recent baseless attacks on wind power as unreliable and unneeded from Texas politicians, wind was the number one source of electricity on the state’s grid last month. Awkward!

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Wind energy generated 39% of power on the Texas grid in March, federal data shows, beating out other sources like coal (15%), natural gas (30%), and nuclear (12%). In terms of numbers, wind generated 10.4 million megawatt-hours of power in March—a huge 2 million MWh step up from its previous record, set just last December.

Analysts at S&P also noted that last month marked the first time that wind power in Texas—which has far and away the most installed wind capacity of any state in the U.S.—surpassed natural gas in electricity generation. Texas alone made up 15% of the entire country’s use of gas for electricity generation in 2019, which makes this a pretty big deal. (S&P analysts said that natural gas demand would probably shoot back up in the summer when people turn on their air conditioners and use more power.)

This wind record is the latest act in a rhetorical battle over the merits of wind and solar versus fossil fuels that has been playing out in the Texas statehouse and on national television. Preliminary analysis shows that during February’s storms and blackouts, despite some turbines being out of commission, wind energy actually overperformed normal expectations. (Natural gas, meanwhile, struggled the most of all sources of power during the blackouts.)

But since the blackouts, wind energy in Texas has come under increasing attack as elected officials—many of whom are funded by oil and gas and influenced by climate denial think tanks and organizations—continue to make wind energy into a scapegoat for the state. Since the crisis’s early days, elected officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott, spread misinformation about frozen wind turbines during the blackouts, claimed that natural gas was “the solution” to the crisis, and worked to paint renewables in Texas as unreliable despite evidence to the contrary.

All this anti-wind energy isn’t just rhetorical. Both chambers of the Texas legislature are currently considering measures that would punish renewable energy by essentially forcing providers to pay extra for grid services and backup supply. These regulations aren’t new concepts—the idea of taking punitive measures against renewables is a favorite of denier think tanks, and has been tried in Texas before—but they’ve been gussied up to fit Republicans’ anti-wind narrative emerging in the wake of the blackouts.

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And these laws have caught the attention of some powerful national corporations. Last week, a group of big-name Wall Street and tech companies, including Google, Goldman Sachs, Amazon, BlackRock, Bank of America, and General Electric, wrote a letter to Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Dan Phelan urging them to oppose the anti-renewables bills before the legislature.

“Texas has enjoyed more than $60 billion in new renewable energy investment because it is blessed with abundant renewable resources able to provide low-cost electricity generation,” the letter reads. “Our companies have invested tens of billions of dollars in the state partly because of our confidence in Texas’ historically friendly business environment. This trust would be undermined by [the] proposed legislation.”

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The letter goes on to call out the “unequivocally discredited” claim that renewables were responsible for the blackout. The Abbott administration has campaigned to transform the state into the next “tech hub,” and the governor has touted the state’s “friendly business environment” to tech companies as a reason to move their operations. But despite the state’s seemingly endless possibilities for wind energy, and even with renewable energy’s support from powerful corporations, these anti-renewable policies could potentially still go into effect as well as another separate proposal before the legislature that would ban the state from doing business with any company that is anti-fossil fuels. It remains to be seen whether the will of Big Oil or Big Tech will win out in Abbott’s administration.

Writing about climate change, renewable energy, and Big Oil/Big Gas/Big Everything for Earther. Formerly of the Center for Public Integrity & Nexus Media News. I'm very tall & have a very short dog.

DISCUSSION

anotherevilmonkey
EvilMonkey72

Republicans lying and on the obviously wrong side of an issue? Must be a day that ends in “y”