Everything in Texas is bigger, so the saying goes, and the expression lives up when it comes to energy. The Lone Star State has long been associated with oil and gas production. However, in recent years, Texas has witnessed a significant surge in renewable energy generation, particularly wind and solar power. This shift towards clean energy sources has not only benefited the environment but has also profoundly impacted energy prices and consumer costs.
More Americans are moving to Texas than any other state, with close to half a million people since July 2021, according to data from the U.S. Census. A few of the reasons people are choosing Texas: no state income tax, the cost of living is lower than the national average, and there are plenty of business-friendly policies.
As Texas grows, so does the enormous demand for electricity. As the number one producer and consumer of energy in the country, the state needs to look to all available resources. “In order to remain on top, Texas should incentivize all forms of energy development and encourage our state’s innovative spirit and uniquely qualified workforce. Renewable energy is helping Texas meet this growing demand for energy, while also providing jobs, bolstering rural economies and supporting communities all across the state.” according to the Power Up Texas Alliance.
Texas is already known for its big oil and gas industry, but some might be surprised where Texas stands in its production of clean energy. New data shows Texas’ increasing dominance as the country’s clean energy leader. The state produces more wind and solar power today than the next three states (California, Iowa, and Oklahoma) combined, and that lead is continually growing.
In 2022, Texas generated 136,118 gigawatt-hours from wind and utility-scale solar, most of it from wind. The runner-up was California with 52,927 gigawatt-hours, most of it from utility-scale solar, according to the Energy Information Administration (source).
Here are a few reasons why Texas is the leader in renewable energy:
- High Winds
- Bright Sun
- Resource Rich
- Vast amounts of developable land
Although Texas might be the highest producer of clean energy, renewable energy consists of only 26 percent of the total from all sources of energy in the state. According to the most recent survey report released by the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston, most Texans show support for expanding the country’s reliance on solar and other alternative sources of energy.
However, not everyone is behind the expansion of clean, renewable energy sources, and it’s becoming intensely politicized. One of the biggest debates that have people rethinking the decision to grow the renewable energy industry was the 2021 winter storm, Uri. Many criticized that wind and solar generation as unreliable.
According to Texas Monthly, after the devastation from the winter storm, the top priority from state politicians and the public at large was to increase the capacity to generate more coal, gas, and nuclear power. The second item: make wind and solar companies pay whenever weather conditions prevent them from delivering electricity. However, some believe renewable energy was being made a scapegoat for the outage: yes some wind turbines froze, but even more natural gas generated power went offline in terms of kilowatt hours. Still, there is a debate, and some state politicians want to build more “on demand” electricity to solve the problem –– meaning the kind of power that doesn’t rely on wind or sun (source).
In addition, there are questions and concerns about how increasing the production of renewable energy affects the gas and oil industry, jobs, prices, and electricity stability.
Impact of Renewable Energy on Energy Prices, Consumer Savings, and the Grid
Although there are critics, renewable energy in Texas has plenty of supporters. Renewable energy does more than just provide reliable energy. It also creates jobs and business opportunities, reduces energy prices, and allows Texas to harness its abundance of natural resources.
Here are a few ways renewable energy is making an impact.
The Growth of Renewable Energy in Texas
The state of Texas has witnessed remarkable growth in renewable energy generation over the past decade. Texas had over 30,000 megawatts of installed wind power capacity and more than 10,000 megawatts of solar power capacity. Accounting for carbon-free electricity sources, which include renewables and nuclear, Texas is the leader with 180,145 gigawatt-hours.
Impact on Energy Prices
The integration of renewable energy sources into Texas’s energy mix has had a positive impact on energy prices. A study mentioned in the Dallas News revealed that in 2022, solar and wind energy saved Texas consumers over $7 billion. These savings were primarily due to the lower operating costs of wind and solar projects compared to traditional fossil fuel-based power plants. The fluctuating costs of fossil fuels can contribute to price volatility, whereas renewable energy sources provide stable and predictable electricity prices over the long term.
Consumer Cost Savings
The shift to renewable energy sources has translated into direct savings for Texas consumers. A report highlighted by the Houston Chronicle stated that renewable energy is saving Texans an average of $200 per year. These savings can be attributed to the reduced costs of electricity generation from wind and solar, which are then passed on to consumers. Additionally, as the cost of renewable energy technologies continues to decline, these savings are expected to increase further in the future.
Grid Stability and Resilience
The increased penetration of renewable energy in Texas has also enhanced the stability and resilience of the electricity grid. Wind and solar power projects are often located across a wide geographic area, reducing the risk of localized disruptions. This distributed generation helps to mitigate the impact of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes or ice storms, by diversifying the energy sources. Furthermore, renewable energy’s ability to ramp up or down quickly allows for better grid management and response to sudden changes in demand, ultimately improving grid reliability.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are more than 300,000 jobs in alternative energy across the country, and more than 36,700 of these well-paying jobs are in Texas.
In many cases, renewable energy investments are the #1 taxpayers in rural Texas counties, generating much-needed revenue for schools and local government services (source).
Texas has made remarkable progress in renewable energy, but more can be done, such as constructing more transmission lines to deliver power from wind-rich parts of the state to the major population centers. Currently, there aren’t enough transmission lines to move all the wind- and solar-generated electricity to the customers that need it. Transmission lines can take eight to 10 years to build and require significant capital investment (source). Additionally, state officials could do more to attract solar and wind power manufacturers, such as tax breaks and other incentives.
Still, The Lone Star State is a leader in clean energy generation. As Texas continues to invest in renewable energy infrastructure, the positive impact on energy prices and consumer costs is expected to persist and possibly expand in the coming years. By harnessing the state’s abundant renewable resources, Texas is proving that clean energy is an environmentally responsible choice and a financially advantageous one for its residents.
Everything is bigger and Texas, and clean energy generation is no different.