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Wind power has overtaken coal as a proportion of Texas’s power for the first time and promises to continue growing. In 2020, wind power made up almost a quarter of Texas’s total power, compared to just 18% from coal. Even before his inauguration, experts say this move from the nation’s largest power producing state is a big win for President-Elect Joe Biden’s climate plan.
Why This Matters: Texas is the nation’s largest producer of both wind energy and fossil fuel energy. This past year, 95% of new generation capacity in the state was made up of wind, solar, and battery power. Despite criticism from conservative politicians and fossil fuel stakeholders that renewable energy would be “prohibitively expensive” to implement, Texas has proven otherwise. The state has generated billions of dollars in investments and a surge in renewable sector jobs. Renewables experience rapid growth, while Texas coal production continues to tank. On this trend, we should not mess with Texas!
Bye Bye Coal
This shift away from coal, which only 10 years ago accounted for 40% of the state’s power, could signal the start of a new era for renewable energy in the United States.
In 2017, the state’s coal mines produced 35 million tons of coal.
In 2018 that fell almost 30%, down to 25 million tons.
While the renewable boom has been met with some resistance, a recent poll from the University of Houston found that Texans and voters across the country strongly favor the development of renewable energy infrastructure. Interest and demand are high enough that the issue is now on the agenda of the upcoming biennial session of the Texas legislature.
Even Republican Governor Greg Abbott has expressed support for the growing renewable energy market in the state:
“Texans know that responsible stewardship of our environment must be a priority as we continue to utilize the natural resources available to us while also preserving the treasure that Texas is. For this reason, clean and renewable energy are a valuable part of America’s future and are closely tied with Texas’ prosperity and success.”
Despite these claims, Abbott continued to take large donations from Texas oil executives in the most recent election. Abbott also opposed Joe Biden’s statement that the U.S. must “transition” away from the fossil fuel industry, saying in a tweet that, “Joe just wants to transition away from Texas.”
Even some fossil fuel companies have been more willing than Abbott to embrace renewables. BP, Shell, Chevron, and ExxonMobil are just a few of the giants to invest billions in renewable resources. Although these investments make up only a very small amount of their combined budgets, it shows that the fossil fuel industry knows that adapting is the only way to survive. It also knows that Texas is a crucial market to conquer. In 2018, ExxonMobil signed a 12-year deal with Danish energy company Orsted to buy solar and wind power in West Texas.
The sale of oil and gas drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) was supposed to bring in upwards of $1 billion, but in the end, the first of the auctions mandated by Congress at the urging of President Trump brought in only $14M.
Why This Matters: Banks won’t underwrite Arctic drilling, so it is unclear those ANWR leases will be drilled ever.
When 2020 began, even with oil prices relatively strong, many industry analysts were predicting it was the beginning of the end for oil and gas. And then the pandemic hit and the Saudis and Russians decided to take advantage of the downturn. With supplies still high and demand declining, the industry may never be the same again.
As we grapple with the disastrous pandemic, recession, and climate change, the nation is in desperate need of investment in clean energy to reduce climate pollution and jumpstart the economy. The Energy Act of 2020, included with the COVID-19 relief and 2021 spending package, will help the United States on both fronts by investing in a spectrum of technologies.
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