The Texas Paradox
Texas is firmly within the grip of conservative Republicans. So what’s the cope with renewables?
I sometimes ask students to guess what state produces probably the most wind power. They’re all the time shocked to search out out the appropriate answer: Texas. Republicans have an iron grip on Texas government. And never just that, but Texas is by far the largest producer of oil, with a governor who has pledged to guard the industry from climate regulation in any respect cost. Which seems somewhat hard to square with the state’s reliance on renewable energy.
It’s not as if the state’s extensive use of wind power is only a historical fluke, either. As an alternative, Texas is doubling down on renewables. The state will soon get more power from renewables than natural gas. If anything, use of fresh energy is about to speed up. Based on the ability sector news report UtilityDive:
“Texas also led the country in renewable energy projects in 2021. . .. Its 7,325 MW of recent wind, solar and energy storage projects brought online last yr far surpasses the two,697 MW in the subsequent most lively state, California. Texas can be the leader when ranked by how much wind, solar and storage states have under construction or in advanced development.”
In contrast, the opposite big GOP state, Florida, is a notorious laggard in renewables. It could be the “Sunshine State,” nevertheless it has been hesitant to make use of the sunshine for anything aside from tanning.
One major difference between the 2 states is the way in which they regulate electricity. Texas is the poster child for electricity deregulation. The dominant regulatory philosophy is free market. Florida, in contrast, has a really traditional regulatory system, with a public utility commission controlling all features of the ability sector. And, it appears, the state’s big utilities in turn control the commission. Florida utilities have made big investments in fossil fuels, and it is barely recently that they’ve begun to speculate in utility-scale solar. And like utilities in every single place, they hate the concept of rooftop solar.
This difference in regulatory approaches may perhaps reflect social, political, and economic differences between the 2 states which have led to a greater libertarian streak within the Texas version of conservatism. Regardless of the deeper reasons, the upshot is that it could be harder for the federal government to quash renewables in Texas than in Florida, even assuming it desired to. It also probably matters that Texas not only has solar capability but sits on the foot of the “wind belt” that runs from the Rio Grande as much as the Dakotas. The truth is, Texas began constructing out wind power for economic reasons, since it desired to hedge against fluctuations in the value of natural gas.
On condition that Texas can be by far the most important carbon emitter of any state, it could behoove us all to raised understand the dynamics behind the state’s energy policy— and the way we’d nudge those dynamics more within the direction of emission reduction. Unfortunately, in the intervening time, there’s a risk that the dynamics of the “culture wars” may push the state in the wrong way, embracing oil and gas as a logo of anti-wokeness.