Jul 6, 2023 - Climate

The politics of renewable energy in Texas

Illustration of the Texas State Capitol with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Despite renewable energy's performance in helping Texas steer clear of outages this summer, the industry has remained a boogeyman in the halls of the Capitol in Austin.

The big picture: In this year's regular legislative session, renewable power projects were stricken from a rewrite of the state's biggest incentive program, which aims to bring large businesses to the state.

The irony: As governors, George W. Bush and Rick Perry, both Republicans, helped jumpstart wind energy production in Texas.

  • Bush signed a wide-ranging 1999 electricity deregulation law that mandated energy providers get a certain amount of power from renewables.
  • Perry backed 2005 legislation that led to the construction of transmission lines to bear wind energy from West Texas to the more populated parts of the state.

Between the lines: The conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation, bankrolled by oilmen such as vice chair Tim Dunn, has in recent years engaged in an all-out blitz against renewable energy.

Flashback: In the immediate wake of the devastating 2021 winter storm that left hundreds of Texans dead, Gov. Greg Abbott, a guest at TPPF events, criticized wind and solar generation as unreliable — even though all types of energy production had faltered, leading to the massive outages.

  • Abbott vowed earlier this year to exclude renewable energy from any renewal of the major economic incentive program.

Yes, but: The wind and solar industries dodged heavier permitting requirements when a Senate bill they opposed never made it to the House floor.

By the numbers: About 65% of the nearly 600 current economic incentive agreements are for renewable energy projects, per a 2023 Texas Comptroller report.

What we're watching: Whether the exclusion of renewables from the incentive program actually slows down the industry.

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