Why Does Texas Consume the Most Energy?
According to a report by the U.S. energy information administration (EIA), Texas is the leading state in electricity consumption in the country. This is not surprising, since we’ve been leading in energy consumption for the past 60 or so years. But, the million-dollar question is, why is this so? What is it that consumes a lot of energy in Texas?
Well, according to the same report, Texas uses slightly more than half of its energy on industrial functions with the most notable usage being natural gas. One of the interesting facts from the report is that Texans use more electricity compared to Californians (although this could be explained by the difference in the weather). However, energy prices in Texas are lower than in California. The big California coastal cities like San Francisco and San Diego have mild weather, but the average retail price of electricity in Texas is two times lower than California’s. Quite a number of Texas urban areas are not located anywhere close to an ocean – yet the states still have to deal with heat-gathering humidity.
The residential energy consumption (which is the highest in the country in terms of British Thermal Unit, although it’s lower in regards to per capita usage) in Texas accounts for 13 percent of the total energy consumed. Commercial electricity usage is slightly lower compared to residential usage, while transportation uses around 25 percent of the total electricity consumed in Texas.
The energy industry in itself utilizes a small percentage of the industrial energy in its power plants to produce power, which basically means that a proportion of the energy used in Texas gets back to the market. Texas is one of the largest energy exporters and it is only logical that it consumes some of its energy to generate more, unlike other states such as New York, Florida, and California which are net importers of electricity.
Which State Consumes the Most Electricity?
The state that consumes the most electricity per the 2017 EIA report is Texas. It is reported that Texas used a total of thirteen quadrillions British Thermal Unit or BTU in 2015, which translates to 13 percent of the 2015 total U.S. energy consumption. As stated earlier, Texas has been leading the pack of the highest energy spenders since 1960. Second on the list is California with a total energy consumption of 8 quadrillion BTU which is approximately 8 percent of the total energy consumed in the U.S.
Others that form the top five include the state of Illinois, Florida, and Louisiana whose aggregate energy consumption forms around 33 percent of the total U.S. energy usage.
In regards to energy consumption per capita, the leading state in 2015 was Louisiana with a total of 912 million BTU (MMBTU) per person. The rankings were based on the overall consumption across different sectors including, industrial, transportation, electric power, commercial, and residential. The second on the list was Wyoming with a total of 893 MMBTU/person and is followed by Alaska with 840 MMBTU. The top four is completed by North Dakota with 802 MMBTU, and Iowa with a total of 479 MMBTU/person.
How Does Texas Produce Electricity?
Texas is known to produce the highest amount of electricity in the U.S. compared to any other state. In fact, it produces almost twice the amount of electricity produced by Florida which is second on the list. It is both the highest-generating and highest-consuming state in the country.
Texas generates electricity from several different sources. Actually, the state generates six types of electricity i.e., wind, hydro, nuclear, coal, natural gas, and solar. It has four electricity grids and the main one is operated and managed by the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). This main grid supplies around 75 percent of Texas and is independent of the interconnected power systems that connect Western and Eastern U.S.
According to ERCOT, approximately half of the electricity produced in Texas in 2019 was produced by power plants running on natural gas. Wind power and coal-fired plants contributed about 20 percent to the state grid, whereas, the two of Texas’s nuclear power plants – Comanche Peak close to Glen Rose and South Texas project close to Bay City – produced roughly 11 percent of the total energy produced in Texas in 2019. The rest was supplied by biomass, hydroelectric, and solar sources.
Sources of Electricity in Texas
As mentioned earlier, wind energy contributed around 18 percent of the 2018 total energy generated in Texas. Texas’ massive landscape provides the speed and space required to operate the wind turbines that help in producing wind-powered electricity. Roscoe Wind Farm, situated in Roscoe, Texas, is reported to be the largest wind farm in the world and contains 627 wind turbines, with a capacity to power over 625,000 homes.
Solar power contribution to the state’s electricity generation is still minimal. For instance, in 2018, it contributed a disappointing 1.3 percent of the total electricity generated in the state. There was a slight improvement in 2019 as it improved its contribution by 0.8 percent. With the direct and intense solar radiation in Western Texas coupled with unreliable wind energy, solar energy is gradually becoming an attractive source of renewable energy.
Whereas solar electricity production in Texas remains relatively low, the potential for growth remains high – thanks to its high solar capacity. It is predicted that come 2020, Texas will be able to produce 3,000 megawatts of power from its solar plants. This will be enough to supply just under one million homes in Texas considering that a single home requires 300 megawatts of power per day.
Texas has been ranked 5th by the Solar Energy Industries Association for its installed solar capacity of 4,606 megawatts, with a potential of employing over 10,000 people. The impressive increase in both solar and wind power generation capabilities can be partly attributed to the Texas’ Renewable Energy program.
Texas boasts of two nuclear power plants. One is situated in Glen Rose, approximately 40 miles from Fort Worth and the other is in Bay City. These two plants contribute about 10 percent of Texas’ electricity. They produce about 2700 megawatts of electricity supplying approximately 2 million homes in Texas with clean energy. Electricity generated from nuclear energy prevents emissions of pollutants such as greenhouse gases, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide that is usually linked to burning fossil fuels.
There are very few dozen hydroelectric power plants in Texas producing less than one percent of the state’s electricity. Its low input to the state’s grid is contributed largely by the erratic rainfall and dry climate experienced in Texas.
As the country’s biggest producer of lignite coal, about 40 percent of the electricity generated in Texas comes from coal-powered power plants. Lignite Coal is a smooth sedimentary rock that’s brownish in color and is derived from a naturally compacted peat and is commonly found in narrow brands mostly close to the Texas Gulf.
Most lignite-powered power plants are commonly located close to surface mines. However, the environmental and health risks that have been associated with coal-fueled power plants, in addition to competitive price of other sources of electricity e.g. renewable energy and natural gas, has led to a scale down of coal powered industries.
Natural gas is actually Texas’ geothermal golden goose, and 25 percent of the United States’ natural gas reserves comes fromTexas. Apart from its role in generating electricity, it is also used for heating and has a significant impact on the national economy as it employs over 218,000 people.
Texas’ natural gas reserves are concentrated around the Permian Basin in the south central part of texas, west texas and in the north eastern part of the state.
A whopping 36 percent of the United States’ natural gas usage is purely spent in producing electric power, and out of this, 14.7 percent is consumed by Texas.
How Many Megawatts Does Texas Use?
The amount of energy generated in Texas annually is estimated to be 429.8 Terawatt-hour (TWh) which represents 11 percent of the country’s total annual energy production. Coal contributes about 138.1 TWh or 32 percent of the state’s energy. Petroleum, natural gas, nuclear and hydroelectric power annual energy production are 1.5 TWh (1%) , 213.9 TWh (50%), 38.4 TWh (9%), and 0.6 TWh (1%) respectively.
According to the Energy Information Administration, Texas’ primary source of electricity in 2019 was natural gas and the net summer capacity that year was 125, 117 megawatts out of which electricity utilities had a capacity of 29,068 megawatts and the Independent Power Producer (IPP) had 96,049 MW. The net generation was 483, 201,031 megawatts-hours with IPP and electric utilities generating 397.383, 499 and 85,817,532 megawatts-hours respectively.
The total retail sales was 429,343, 404 megawatts-hours with a 36, 870287 megawatt-hours direct use. The average Retail price that year was 8.60 cents per kWh.