Let's not be timid in setting goals for renewable energy
San Angelo Standard-Times
Feb. 27, 2005
They might fight like cats and dogs over taxes, social issues and how to pay for public education, but nearly every politician in Austin agrees that renewable energy is great for Texas.
Wind, solar, geothermal and other forms of renewable energy are clean, less expensive than fossil fuels and inexhaustible, and just about everyone wants more of it.
The only real area of disagreement is how much more, and how soon.
In 1999, the Texas Legislature set a goal of 2,880 megawatts of renewable capacity - or about 3 percent of the state's energy needs - by 2009, and the plan is ahead of schedule, with about 2,000 megawatts being generated. Almost two-thirds of that is from wind.
State Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, has offered legislation that reflects the recommendations of the Texas Energy Council, with a goal of 5,000 megawatts by 2015 and 10,000 by 2025.
But others, including state Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, want to move faster. Duncan would like to see 10,000 megawatts produced by 2015.
The Legislature's task is to figure out whether the higher goal is practical, and even if it isn't right now, whether conditions can be changed to make it so.
For example, the biggest problem now isn't generating more renewable energy, but how to move it. The Legislature has taken steps to get more transmission lines up, but that has been a slow process. Greater emphasis on that piece of the equation would lead to the building of more wind farms like those operating near McCamey.
No doubt one reason Duncan is an ardent supporter is that his West Texas district would be a big beneficiary. Not only is there abundant wind in this part of the state ready to be harnessed, the rural communities where wind farms would be located need the economic boost that comes from job creation and tax revenues.
The Union of Concerned Scientists says that if Texas adopts an aggressive plan to generate 17,820 megawatts of renewable energy, or 20 percent of its supply, by 2025, consumers will save $5.6 billion, 38,290 new jobs will be created and $1.1 billion in school taxes will be raised.
Let's call that a windfall. And let's see what it would take to reach that worthwhile goal.
©2005 San Angelo Standard-Times
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