Texas Republicans have made renewables their latest legislative target. A number of bills are being considered in the Texas legislature that would impose additional costs on renewable energy. This comes right after wind power just generated more electricity in Texas than any other source for the first time ever.
HB 4466, a bill that was discussed in committee last Thursday, would require wind and solar energy to pay for “ancillary services,” which refers to the backup resources required to account for fluctuations in the grid. ERCOT currently pays for ancillary services for all generators but HB 4466 would require renewables (and only renewables) to shoulder that burden. This is similar to an amendment tucked into SB-3, an omnibus bill reforming Texas’ energy system that has already passed.
It should be noted that wind and solar are not the only ones that require ancillary services. Industrial loads such as steel mills with large electric arc furnaces can cause sudden spikes in demand and require a lot of backup power on standby. Furthermore, these industrial loads tend to be more erratic than wind and solar, which while variable are much more predictable. Yet the Republicans don’t plan on making these industrial loads pay for ancillary services, just win and solar.
Republicans give two justifications for their proposed legislation. First, they say it’s necessary to level the playing field, arguing that wind and solar get an unfair advantage from federal subsidies. However, the federal government also gives tens of billions in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry every year, so that argument makes absolutely no sense. Furthermore, even if fossil fuel subsidies ended tomorrow, there’s still the fact that fossil fuels have received over a century of support from the government while renewables have not.
The GOP is also driven by lies placing the blame on wind power for the winter storm blackouts. The reality is that a failure to weatherize Texas’ energy infrastructure was to blame, not frozen wind turbines. While 16 gigawatts of renewable energy, mostly from wind was offline during the storm, this was largely expected. The real and unexpected problem was that thermal sources (gas, coal, and nuclear) also went offline, accounting for nearly twice as much lost capacity. Natural gas was a particular problem since water produced alongside the gas will freeze and block pipes if the system is not properly winterized. Furthermore, wind power can work in extremely cold places such as Antarctica, making this one of the more far-fetched false narratives from the GOP. Even if frozen wind turbines were the culprit, the problem would lie with a lack of winterization rather than wind power as a whole.
The Republican attack on renewables will only increase costs for consumers and make it more difficult to fight climate change. While the GOP can deny climate change all it wants, the truth is that the world will transition away from fossil fuels at some point. Even discounting the environmental impact, there’s the simple fact that fossil fuels are not evenly distributed across the world and many nations are forced to rely on hostile or unstable countries for their energy. So the rest of the world will forge ahead regardless of what the GOP wants. Texas, a state that’s already a massive renewable energy powerhouse, can get with the trend or be left behind.
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