Renewable Energy Boom for Texas

Tens of thousands of highly skilled jobs would be created in Texas if a 20 percent national renewable electricity standard (RES) were adopted, according to a new study released by the Union of Concerned Scientists. A national RES could require that 20 percent of our nation’s electricity come from clean renewable sources such as wind, biomass, and solar. It would also provide a significant source of new income for rural communities and save consumers money on their energy bills by reducing natural gas and electricity costs, according to the study.

Austin, Texas – September 2, 2004 [] In 1999, Texas passed an RES of 2,880 MW by 2009 (or about three percent of the state’s electricity production) and has seen wind power pump money into school districts and rural economies. “A national goal of providing twenty percent of our energy from renewable sources will help Texas more than any other state,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “It will bring more jobs for Texans, especially in our rural communities, cleaner air for our cities, and will bring lower energy bills for everyone.” The state legislature will consider upgrading the current state RES in the upcoming session. Wind industry and environmental groups are calling for an upgraded standard of 20 percent by 2020. In Texas, four legislative committees looking at this issue are expected to make their recommendations by Thanksgiving. “Along with a national standard, Texas would benefit greatly from an upgrade of the current state renewable requirement,” said Walter Hornaday, president of Cielo Wind Power, a leader in developing wind power projects in Texas. The analysis found that a national RES of 20 percent by 2020 would boost the Texas economy with benefits such as: A net gain of more than 36,000 new high-skilled jobs in manufacturing, construction, operation, maintenance, and other industries. $10 billion in capital investment. $665 million in property tax revenues for rural communities and school districts. $1.1 billion in payments to farmers and rural landowners from producing biomass energy. $225 million in lease payments to farmers, ranchers, and rural landowners from wind power. “These important economic benefits come without the pollution generated by coal-fired power plants,” said Jeff Deyette, energy analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Because Texas has the technical potential to produce eight times its electricity needs from clean renewable energy, setting standards and building toward that potential is good economic and public health policy.” A national RES of 20 percent would also save Texas consumers more than $9 billion on their energy bills through 2020. The RES achieves these savings primarily by reducing the demand for-and the price of-natural gas. Both the state RES and federal initiatives are in line with the goal adopted last month by the Western Governors’ Association of developing 30,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2015. US power plant carbon dioxide emissions-a major contributor to global warming-would be 15% lower in 2025 under a national RES of 20% by 2020. The same policy would reduce other pollutants from burning fossil fuels such as nitrogen oxides that produce smog and mercury that harms human health. Increasing renewable energy use would also reduce the environmental impacts of extracting and transporting fossil fuels. “Getting a national renewable energy standard and strengthening our standard in Texas will help ensure our state’s future as an energy leader,” said Russel Smith, executive director of the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association. “More than $1 billion was invested in Texas wind power projects in 2001 as a result of the state’s RES.”