The U.S. Partnership for Renewable Energy Finance – made up of a coalition of corporations that includes Google, Amazon Web Services, and Goldman Sachs – sent a letter Monday urging Texas leaders to scrap anti-renewable energy proposals crafted in response to the extreme winter storm that left millions in the state without power last February.
The letter addressed to Gov. Greg Abbott, Public Utility Commission of Texas Chairman Peter Lake, and leaders in the state legislature, said current policy proposals are built on the false premise that renewable energy sources – like wind and solar – were to blame for the outages.
The Texas Capitol in Austin on a snowy day in Feb. 2020, when an extreme winter storm left millions without power (Photo: Jno Skinner/Wikimedia Commons)
In July, Abbott directed the PUC to “allocate reliability costs to generation resources that cannot guarantee their own availability, such as wind or solar power” and to “streamline incentives within the ERCOT market to foster the development and maintenance of adequate and reliable sources of power, like natural gas, coal, and nuclear power.”
Gregory Wetstone, president and chief executive officer of the American Council on Renewable Energy, said it’s difficult to model the impact that potential market changes by the PUC could have on renewables, but added that additional costs threaten the growth of an industry that generated $270 million in tax revenue for the Lone Star State this year.’
“Unbalanced cost allocation proposals appear to be premised on the discredited assumption that renewable energy was disproportionately responsible for the state’s February power outages,” Wetstone said. “In fact, while wind power outperformed forecasts across the state during the vast majority of the February power outages, thermal power plants did the opposite ― with nearly twice the amount of generation going offline as predicted under ERCOT’s ‘extreme generator outage’ scenario.”
Blame for the winter storm outages in Texas was (almost) immediately placed on renewable energy sources. But energy experts quickly rejected the premise.
Michael Webber, Josey Centennial Professor in Energy Resources at the University of Texas at Austin, said natural gas, not renewable energy, was the root cause of the failures.
“If additional costs are added to renewables, it will slow down the development of new renewable capacity, which raises the risk that we will have a capacity shortfall during future weather events,” Webber told Renewable Energy World. “Adding costs to renewables will drive up systemwide cost for consumers without improving reliability.
“As such, it seems like a clumsy policy option that won’t achieve its stated objectives.”