Texas will not increase non-wind renewables mandate

A petition filed by environmental groups to increase non-wind renewable generation in Texas in accordance with a 2005 law has been rejected by state regulators.

The Texas Public Utility Commission (PUCT) rejected the request on Oct. 25, saying the request to boost solar and geothermal energy by 500 MW by 2015 and 3,000 MW by 2025 was not cost effective. The commission on the same day doubled the wholesale price cap on electricity from $4,500 to $9,000 per MWh.

The request was filed in September by the Sierra Club, Public Citizen, BlueGreen Apollo Alliance and other environmental groups. The groups say they are mobilizing a grassroots response.

“Instead of implementing this bold clean energy law, the PUC has made every effort to reject clean energy policies and is now moving to raise electricity prices without establishing any protections for consumers,” said Dave Cortez of the Texas BlueGreen Apollo Alliance. “We should be implementing policy that supports Texas workers and small business owners, not making administrative moves that pad profits for outdated generators and provide zero guarantee that new power plants will be built.”

The 500-MW requirement for non-wind renewable energy was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry.

A 2009 study conducted by Vote Solar estimated that Texas could gain more than 21,500 installation and manufacturing jobs if a 2,000-MW solar mandate were implemented by 2020.

Comments filed against the petition focus on concerns about increased costs. Supporters emphasized increased employment from green jobs and declining prices for solar.

In rejecting the petition, the Commission said action was not necessary because approximately 270 MW of non-wind installed capacity has been added since 2005 in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) area and a recent report shows an additional 160 MW of non-wind resources will begin commercial operation by 2013. Another study indicates an additional 615 MW of solar renewable generation is presently under full interconnection study.

The order also said an additional mandate would result in substantially higher electricity costs for Texas electric customers. In a study two years ago, Commission staff estimated that the costs for a 500 MW non-wind renewable mandate could reach approximately $200m annually.

The problem with that study, petitioners insist, is its age. Solar prices have dropped dramatically since that study was done, they point out.