Archive for the ‘geothermal’ Category

CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, runs the global disclosure system that enables companies, cities, states and regions to measure and manage their environmental impacts. CDP has the most comprehensive collection of self-reported environmental data in the world. Of the 570 plus global cities reporting to CDP, over 100 now get at least 70% of their electricity from renewable sources such as hydro, geothermal, solar and wind.

Data on renewable energy mix is self-reported via CDP’s questionnaire.  These cities report at least 70% of their electricity is from renewables. Because this is a self-reporting survey, some cities (such as Georgetown, TX) may noy appear on the list.  Cities reporting they are powered by renewable energy are ‘city-wide’, not just municipal use only.   Read on to see the whole list. (more…)

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Updating the the Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan to 2020 to become the Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan to 2024 probably doesn’t sound super exciting, but there’s almost certainly some aspect of the choices that will soon be made on your behalf that you care about.

IMG_48691. Climate Change: I’m not going to try to convince anyone reading this that our planet’s climate is changing and that humans are largely responsible for that change.  Nor am I going to try to convince you that those changes are going to be largely detrimental to human prosperity.  But if you already recognize those two basic truths, then you will definitely want to listen up.  Austin Energy is proposing to not only run Austin’s portion of the Fayette coal plant until 2025, but also to dramatically increase its use of natural gas by adding a new 800 megawatt gas plant to its energy portfolio.  That’s bigger than Austin’s portion of Fayette.  And although natural gas emits less carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour of energy production than burning coal, once the substantial impact of the roughly 3% of gas that leaks into the atmosphere during extraction, processing and transportation is accounted for, natural gas is almost as harmful to the climate as coal.  That’s because the primary component of natural gas, methane, is 87 times more powerful of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over 20 years.  Although many people focus on the 100 year time frame when talking about climate change, we can’t afford to ignore our more immediate future.  Central Texas has already experienced its share of climate impacts over the past few years in the form of drought, wildfires and floods.  We must stop those impacts from worsening at a greater rate than they already will be.  Natural gas isn’t going to save us.  Even without the massive problem of leaking methane, burning gas instead of coal only decreases our climate impact by about half, so it’s not a long term solution anyway – the best it could have been was a stopgap.  Instead of investing in infrastructure that won’t get us where we need to be, we can make better decisions now.

Attend one of Austin Energy’s stakeholder meetings this week and ask the staff to consider the full climate impacts of energy sources.

2. Jobs: Developing renewable energy sources creates 3 times as many jobs as developing fossil fuel energy sources per dollar invested.  Whereas a large chunk of the cost connected to a coal plan or a gas plant is for the coal and gas, the wind and sun are free.  So, instead of paying for the privilege of burning a limited resource, we can pay people to harness the energy from free and unlimited resources.

Across the U.S., solar energy jobs grew 20% from 2012 to 2013, compared to average job growth across all industries of 1.9%.  A large percentage of that growth was in Texas, but Texas still ranks 44th in solar jobs per capita.  Increasing Austin Energy’s solar goal will bring more jobs to Texas, but it’s increasing the local solar goal that will have the most impact on local job creation.  The Austin Local Solar Advisory Commission unanimously recommended that Austin Energy’s solar goal for 2020 be increased from 200 megawatts (MW) to 400 MW.  It also recommended that at least half of that solar development be local and at least half of that local solar be customer controlled (that’s what you see on residential and business rooftops and yards).  According to the LSAC’s calculations done using the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Jobs and Economic Development Impact (JEDI) model, the $60 million it would take to develop that amount of local solar would bring the Austin area a net of $300 million in local economic benefits – wages, taxes, etc.  If Austin Energy adopts policies to give preference to local companies who hire local workers, our community can benefit even more.  On the other hand, we are currently sending $80 million to Montana each year for the coal we burn in the Fayette coal plant.

Tell Austin Energy that you support growing local jobs by increasing our solar goals, including the local and customer owned solar goals.

3. Water: If you live in central Texas, I don’t need to tell you that water is a huge issue – in fact it’s just a big issue for Texas that the Legislature, with voter approval appropriated $2 billion dollars to fund water projects, with 20% of those funds to be used on water conservation efforts.  We can’t make it rain more, so we are going to have to make some choices about what we want to use water for.  The Fayette coal plant, which Austin Energy owns one third of, needs about 5 billion gallons of water per year to operate.  And lest you start thinking natural gas plants are the answer, know that over 39 billion gallons of water was used in fracking jobs in Texas between January 2011 and May 2013.  Producers in the Eagle Ford Shale play are especially wasteful, using an average of 4.4 million gallons of water per well.  That’s water that can’t be used for domestic, commercial, industrial, agricultural, or ecosystem uses.

Tell Austin Energy to focus investment on drought proof energy sources like wind and solar.

4. Health: Air pollution from burning coal and extracting natural gas are taking a real toll on human health in Texas.  The Fayette coal plant is responsible for over $55.5 million in health impacts from air pollution.  Those impacts include asthma attacks, chronic bronchitis, heart attacks and the associated hospital visits and deaths.  Even so, Austin Energy has proposed running its portion of Fayette until 2025.

Lack of regulation over the natural gas industry, which has operations strewn across vast areas has resulted in a tragic disregard for human well being.  If you haven’t already, read this excellent piece of investigative journalism about how your fellow Texans are being assaulted with toxic chemicals in the Eagle Ford Shale area.  Instead of building a large new gas plant to drive up demand for dangerous fracking, Austin Energy should focus on growing its renewable energy portofolio with more wind and solar and perhaps some geothermal energy.

Air pollution is much more than an environmental issue – it’s a public health issue.  That’s why you find medical professionals and health advocates supporting a transition to clean energy.

Sign up for one of Austin Energy’s stakeholder meetings and ask them to give up their plans for a giant new gas plant and to examine more options for retiring the Fayette coal plant in an affordable way.

5. Affordable Energy: Wind and solar energy are competitive with coal and natural gas already.  Meanwhile, electricity from coal plants is going to get more expensive because of various regulations to limit pollution.  Natural gas prices are low now, but have fluctuated greatly over time, making a big bet on natural gas risky.  When natural gas prices go up, Austin Energy raises our fuel charge to recover those costs.  Since affordable wind and solar are available now and can assure us a predictable price for 10-20 years, why would we not make those energy sources our priority?  Austin Energy has done a great job getting good wind contracts to keep customer rates low and is set to achieve its 35% renewable energy goal 4 years early in 2016.

Tell Austin Energy to keep up its momentum by expanding the renewable energy goal to 50% for 2020 and 60% by 2024.

Take Action:

Austin Energy is holding 3 stakeholder meetings to gather public input on the Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan update to 2024.

  • Tuesday, February 25: 10 am – 12 pm (noon)
  • Tuesday, February 25: 6 pm – 8 pm
  • Thursday, February 27: 1 pm – 3 pm

This is your chance to help determine how the money you pay for your electric bills is invested by our publicly owned utility.

Please sign up to attend one of the meetings.

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Texas is a state that is abundant with clean and renewable sources of energy. From the booming wind industry, to the emerging solar sector, Texas is primed to be a clean energy leader. And now thanks to the SMU Geothermal Laboratory, Texans have one more reason to go green.

Research from SMU has shown that there are substantial geothermal resources all along the East I35 Corridor. Geothermal power stations work by harnessing the heat trapped deep within the Earth, and would utilize the ample number of active and plugged wells from the oil and gas industry. “There are currently over 200,000 active wells in Texas. That is 200,000 potential sources of cost-competitive, renewable, baseload, clean energy to Texans.”

Given that geothermal in Texas would most likely be small distributed generation systems of 250 kw to 1 MW per well, a realistic Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) potential for Texas is 318,652 exajoules (EJs). To put that in perspective, that is enough to power the entire industrial sector for over 500 years at the 2008 Texas electrical consumption rate of 32,525 thousand megawatt-hour (MWh).

Tapping into these resources would provide a clean source of energy, while invigorating rural economies with jobs growth and investments. And since geothermal uses existing wells, it could be rapidly deployed to create a clean energy boom for East Texas.

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There’s a lot to like in the president’s plan that he announced today, but there is a lot that falls short, too. Certainly on the most important measure, reducing coal-burning plant emissions, the president is a day late and a dollar short. The lack of specificity on the standard eventually to be issued makes it impossible to know how far reaching it will be.

But Texas shows how it can be done!  See below.

Associated Press/Charles Dharapak - President Barack Obama wipes perspiration from his face as he speaks about climate change

Associated Press/Charles Dharapak – President Barack Obama wipes perspiration from his face as he speaks about climate change

Catastrophic climate change poses a near-existential threat to humanity. We need a national mobilization — and indeed a worldwide mobilization – to transform rapidly from our fossil fuel-reliant past and present to a clean energy future. We need a sense of urgency – indeed, emergency – with massive investments, tough and specific standards and binding rules which are missing from the president’s plan.

The administration is finally using the authority ratified by a conservative Supreme Court to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. The Administration will re-write rules for new plants and develop rules for all existing power plants. This is the most important tool the Administration has, and if the rules are written the way they should be, it will go a long way towards protecting consumers and our climate. This initiative builds on the successful and strong automobile tailpipe standards that have already been successfully rolled out. The downside is that the late 2015 final rule date is far off in the future, and will likely see lengthy legal challenges.

The plan also, helpfully, builds on existing programs and plucks some low-hanging fruit to reduce carbon emissions: Increasing renewable targets and efficiency on federal land, in the federal government’s operations, in the Pentagon, and in federally-assisted housing.

The Administration set the table recently by increasing the estimated cost of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to society, from $23.80/ton to $38.

Targeting oil industry subsidies, as the Administration proposes here, is also commonsense, and much needed policy.

However, there is no mention in the plan of using a uniform, strong climate change impact assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act, which would require the costs and impacts of GHG in every federal environmental impact statement. The failure to utilize NEPA for GHG assessment is a huge oversight.

Reserving the troubled loan guarantee program for “clean coal” is a taxpayer boondoggle waiting to happen. A case in point is the Obama-backed Kemper IGCC coal plant owned by Southern Co, which has seen costs balloon from $2.4 billion to $4.2 billion, with costs still rising further.

In general, the President’s embrace of an “all of the above” strategy, including oil and gas expansion, is a disaster. His focus on fossil fuel exports — including the explicit promotion of LNG (liquefied natural gas) and his failure to curtail coal exports – threatens to undo any positive elements of the plan. By promoting LNG, the Administration is moving full-speed-ahead on fracking – with no mention of how to control fugitive emissions, water contamination and other environmental problems posed by the controversial process. And while the proposed EPA rules over existing and new coal power plants will result in significant GHG reductions here at home, all of that will be negated (and more) if we ramp up our coal exports to China. Using NEPA and other statutes to ensure that the emissions of coal exports – and the fugitive emissions of fracked gas – are included in the environmental impact study (EIS) for export projects is essential.

The same goes for Keystone XL. Awaiting approval by the State Dept, the Keystone XL pipeline’s EIS is fatally flawed. The Administration has a chance to re-write the EIS to take into account the true GHG impact of the tar sands, which would require this gas-price boosting project to be rejected.  And Obama’s welcome announcement on KXL won’t affect the southern segment of the line being built from Oklahoma to Houston, nor will it stop the conversion of existing pipelines to carry tar sands. These are the back door ways that tar sands and its carbon pollution will leak into the international markets

At the end of the day, it would be helpful if the Administration would lend its support to an existing climate bill – the Climate Protection Act of 2013. This legislation places a price on carbon, sending revenues back to families and into investments for a sustainable energy economy (not to mention regulating fracking and repealing oil industry subsidies).

“Texas Shows How It Can Be Done”

The good news is that the solutions to global warming from the energy sector are within reach — and Texas shows how it can be done. We can power our state with renewable energy, energy efficiency demand side management and energy storage technologies and techniques that exist or are being developed right now.

“Here’s what Texas has shown in recent years:

  • In 1999 Texas adopted renewable energy goals – partially to reduce global warming. Now Texas leads the nation in production of wind energy, which is now so cheap that it is reducing consumers bills;
  • Renewable energy is now employing more people than coal plants and coal mines are  in Texas;
  • If we were to  develop more solar and geothermal, and employ energy  storage, we could meet our energy needs around the clock without relying on coal;
  • With the combination of those tools we could phase out and shut down our 22 climate killing coal plants;
  • Adopting building energy codes has reduced statewide carbon emissions by as much a coal plant would produce.”

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Texas Capitol - north viewTwo bills have now been filed in the Texas House that would expand the state’s goals for renewable energy.  Representative Rafael Anchia‘s bill, HB 723, would establish goals for growing renewable energy installations other than large-scale wind through 2022.  Similarly, Representative Eddie Rodriquez‘s bill, HB 303, would establish a goal for solar installations and increase the existing goal (which was met 15 years ahead of schedule) for all renewable energy for 2020.

We applaud these efforts and the leadership that Rep. Anchia and Rep. Rodriquez are showing by filing these bills.  These proposals recognize that success is a good thing and something we want more of.  You wouldn’t think that would need saying, but when a state agency recommends tossing out a successful policy, I start to wonder.  Texas’s renewable energy goals have been extraordinarily successful.  Not only have the goals been met ahead of time, but they have spurred development of the wind industry in Texas, bringing economic benefits to rural parts of West Texas, as well as to manufacturing centers.  On top of that, wind energy is helping to keep electric bills lower.

A carpenter doesn’t throw away her hammer just because she finished building her first book shelf and Texas shouldn’t repeal it’s renewable energy policies, just because we’ve met some of our goals (remember, the non-wind goal was never enforced).  Wind energy does now makes a substantial contribution to meeting the state’s electrical needs – it contributed a record 26% this past Christmas day, but solar energy is still very underutilized (accounting for less than 1% of energy on the ERCOT grid, which serves 85% of the Texas population) and the geothermal energy industry is still getting off it’s feet.  As Rep. Anchia and Rep. Rodriquez’s bills show, this successful policy tool can be adjusted to keep moving Texas forward.

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Advocates fault PUC for turning a blind eye to industry as Texas falls behind

Solar energy backers rallied outside the Texas Public Utility Commission [last] week seeking enforcement of a seven-year-old law that would boost electric generation from geothermal, biomass and the state’s ample supply of sunshine.

Public comment [ended Friday]on proposed rulemaking at the PUC, which has been reluctant to embrace the non-wind portion of the so-called renewable portfolio standards passed by the Texas Legislature in 2005. With those standards calling for generation of about 500 megawatts of renewable power from non-wind sources by 2015 and 3,000 megawatts by 2025, the Clean Energy Works for Texas Campaign sent petitions to the PUC urging it to carry out the law’s provisions. The group estimates that more than 6,000 individuals across Texas and 50 businesses or organizations lent their signatures in support.

“Why aren’t we seeing the clean energy we’ve demanded from our legislators? Why aren’t we seeing the thousands of new green jobs, new energy businesses and new tax revenues for our underfunded schools?” asked activist Dave Cortez of the Texas BlueGreen Apollo Alliance. “Four words: The Texas Public Utility Commission – a government agency run by unelected commissioners who have the power to take state law and misinterpret it, sit on it, lambast it, everything but implement it and ultimately say, ‘No, sorry. We don’t like it.’”

The PUC’s stand, as articulated by Chairman Donna Nelson, stresses the fact that wind power’s success has eclipsed the minimum renewable standards set in the law many times over. And, she argues that the law’s instructions on non-wind energy are not mandatory, a point of contention with solar backers. Moreover, she has said propping up solar power would increase electric bills and that the commission is not in the business of favoring one type of energy generation over another.

Executives from two Austin-based solar companies who attended the rally said each had respectively grown from only two employees to at least 25. And, with the business climate unfriendly to solar in Texas, they said, both companies are making upcoming expansions in a state more hospitable to their interests.

“The bad news is we’re in the process of opening a second office, and the second office will be in California,” said Tim Padden, founder of Revolve Solar. “I would rather be in Dallas, San Antonio or Houston, but the reality is California has taken a stand to support the development of the solar industry seriously by setting statewide goals and local support for their solar companies. I want to see this happen here in my home state. These could be Texas jobs.”

Stan Pipkin of Lighthouse Solar, an Austin-based solar design integration firm said his own company has shown an almost identical job growth and will also be opening offices in California.

“I’m deeply concerned that Texas is not taking advantage of the energy resource we have in most abundance,” he said. “Texas is currently 10th in solar capacity. This is absolutely confounding given our solar resource, our electric demand and our shortage of reserve capacity. It just doesn’t make sense.”

By Polly Ross Hughes

Copyright September 14, 2012, Harvey Kronberg, www.texasenergyreport.com, All rights are reserved.  Reposted by TexasVox.org with permission of the Texas Energy Report.

The PUC has put the non-wind RPS on the agenda for its open meeting this Thursday.  We need you to be there to show your support for moving forward with the rulemaking process.  Please email [email protected] if you are interested in attending.  The meeting will be in the Commissioners’ Hearing Room on the 7th Floor of the William B. Travis building at 1701 N. Congress Ave, Austin.

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We are taking our Clean Energy Works for Texas campaign to the doorstep of the Public Utility Commission (PUC) next week.  We hope you will join us for a rally on Thursday, October 18 at 12 p.m. in front of the William B. Travis building at 1701 N. Congress Avenue, Austin, TX 78701

We are urging the PUC to create rules to enforce and expand the non-wind renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Passed into law in 2005, the non-wind RPS has languished at the PUC, thanks to pressure from certain lobby interests not to enforce the law. 7 years is too long to wait.

The PUC needs to hear that the people of Texas are ready to get to work building 21st century energy economies. With more solar potential than any other state, Texas should be an epicenter of the solar industry. Our workers should be supplying solar panels, inverters and other equipment to the rest of the country and the world. Enforcing the non-wind renewable portfolio standard will send a message to investors that Texas is open for business.


For more information on the campaign and to sign on in support, visit www.CleanEnergyWorksForTexas.org.

Contact [email protected] with any questions.

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Orbach: $1 billion for energy storage research could launch state’s next energy era

Watch for the University of Texas at Austin to soon make a $1 billion pitch to lawmakers aimed at unleashing the state’s vast potential to lead the nation and even the world in renewable energy production.

Ray Orbach, director of UT’s Texas Energy Institute, has compiled what he considers a compelling case for a large public investment in battery storage research meaningful enough to launch Texas into a new energy economy that taps the state’s enormous potential capacity for solar, wind and geothermal power generation.

“I really would like to have a crash program. My thought is it could be comparable to the cancer initiative,” he told Texas Energy Report. “I would like to see it in the billion-dollar range. My point is the potential is there. I just think it’s crazy not to sit down and optimize it for Texas.”

Orbach said a new study found that Texas has the potential to lead the nation in nearly every form of renewable energy. In concentrating solar alone – which allows for fluctuations that make it more economical – tapping just one percent of Texas’ total capacity could generate electricity equivalent to the entire needs of the ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) power grid, he said.

“We have as much energy potential above ground as we do below ground,” Orbach said this week to an audience attending a symposium sponsored by the Texas Public Utility Commission called “Renewable Solutions for Energy Prosperity in Texas.”

Citing a just released July study called “U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS-Based Analysis,” Orbach laid out what’s in it for Texas if the state’s leading scientific minds solve the energy storage puzzle:

Urban utility-scale photovoltaics:  Texas has the highest estimated potential (13 percent of the U.S.)

Rural utility-scale photovoltaic: Texas has the highest estimated potential (14 percent of the U.S.

Rooftop photovoltaic’s: Texas has the second-highest estimated potential (9 percent of the U.S.)

Concentrating solar power: Texas has the highest estimated potential (20 percent of U.S.)

Onshore wind power: Texas has the highest estimated potential (17 percent of U.S.)

Offshore wind power: Hawaii has the highest estimated potential, while Texas has 6 percent of U.S.

Enhanced geothermal systems: Texas has the highest estimated potential (10 percent of U.S.)

“The opportunities are so enormous. I was stunned,” Orbach said of his reaction when he read the study that takes into account environmental and land-use constraints, and topographical limitations.

Because each of the renewable capacity calculations is based on the same total land, Orbach said Texas leaders need to determine how to best optimize the state’s renewable resources with decisions about which fuel mix to pursue and where. In an interview, he acknowledged that political and economic considerations would pose major challenges, but he suggested a planning commission appointed by the governor and legislators could help navigate those.

Think of the planning concept as akin to the Texas Railroad Commission’s early history in setting production limits to ensure that oil and gas resources would last longer with conservation measures such as adequate well spacing, he said.  And think of state’s commitment to building CREZ (Competitive Renewable Energy Zones) transmission lines to transport wind energy as a parallel to the research commitment needed to solve the problem of energy battery storage for wind and solar.

With its federal production tax credits, Orbach said wind has posed pricing issues for ERCOT’s wholesale competitive market. But he insisted he’s a free-market advocate who does not think wind or solar would need any subsidies to compete. As for kick-starting research to solve energy storage issues, he said Texans should think of that as an investment that would repay itself many times over.

“Our future will depend on our ability to store base load electricity from fluctuating sources. We are truly blessed with intellectual and energy sources. It’s time for a zoning, an optimization of how we use these wonderful resources for the benefit of citizens in this state,” Orbach said. “This is not just a Texas issue. The market for what we produce in Texas is global. You can think outside the boundaries of our state for these opportunities.”

In addition to the big picture, some of Texas’ energy opportunities have hardly been discussed, he said. The potential for enhanced geothermal energy alone, he said, is 384 gigawatts. That’s equivalent to five times the total ERCOT load.

Geothermal energy taps into underground heat, and fracturing underground rock is one way to release the heat. He points to natural gas wells hydraulically fractured in the Barnett Shale of North Texas and their future to be repurposed in 10 to 20 years for renewable energy production. The wells have already fractured rock at a depth of 8,000 to 10,000 feet where temperatures range from 200-300 degrees Fahrenheit, he noted.

“What happens when those wells are played out? Do we just cap them and walk away? They are a source of potential enhanced geothermal energy. We have the sources now that we’re using for liquids and gas and oil that in fact may well be available in the future for enhanced geothermal,” Orbach said.

Meanwhile, the price of solar panels is dropping sharply as China floods the market with panels at 80 cents a watt, he said. Consequently, solar installations in the first half of this year doubled to 1,254 megawatts over the 623 installed in the first six months of 2011. That’s the size of a nuclear reactor, he said, and this year it will amount to two.

“It’s a revolution,” he added. “It’s a sign for those of us interested in solar and wind and renewable energy that there’s an opportunity here for Texas to be mined.”

By Polly Ross Hughes

Copyright September 14, 2012, Harvey Kronberg, www.texasenergyreport.com, All rights are reserved.  Reposted by TexasVox.org with permission of the Texas Energy Report.

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Yesterday, Clean Energy Works for Texas – a coalition consisting of Public Citizen, Sierra Club, Texas BlueGreen Apollo Alliance, Progress Texas, Clean Water Action, Environment Texas, North Texas Renewable Energy Group, North Texas Renewable Energy Inc., SEED Coalition, Solar Austin, Solar San Antonio, Texas Campaign for the Environment and  Texas Pecan Alliance – filed a petition with the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) asking for a rule-making to implement the non-wind renewable portfolio standard (RPS).

A law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2005 established that at least 500 megawatts (MW) of the electricity used in Texas would come from renewable energy sources other than wind by 2015.  The PUC, however, has failed to establish rules to ensure that this goal is reached.  Clean Energy Works for Texas calls on the PUC to fulfill its statutory duty and create rules to ensure that the goal is reached.  The petition also proposes and expansion of that goal to 3,000 MW by 2025.

The non-wind RPS would provide a level of certainty for investors considering Texas for clean energy projects.  While the wind industry has thrived in Texas, thanks, at least in part, to the RPS, other renewable energy industries have lagged behind.  Implementation of the non-wind RPS would send a signal to investors that Texas is open for business.   At at time when nearly a million Texans are looking for work, developing 21st century industries here in Texas should be a priority.

Texas has immense solar resources, as well as substantial geothermal resources that, if developed, could be providing the State with additional electricity that it needs.  Electricity market regulators and policy-makers have had numerous discussions about electricity generation shortages over the past year.  The petition filed by Clean Energy Works for Texas offers a solution – and it’s one that can be expanded upon in the coming years.

Please visit www.CleanEnergyWorksForTexas.org to learn more and send an email to to the PUC in support of the non-wind RPS.

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