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Posts Tagged ‘jobs’

It wouldn’t be a Texas legislative session without some truly backwards bills.  Today we have House Bill 2026 by freshman Representative Sanford of Collin county that would eliminate our state renewable energy goals.

BeachWindIn 1999, the state of Texas made a commitment to renewable energy in the form of the renewable portfolio standard (RPS).  That decision played a major role in spurring the development of the wind industry in Texas.

We have now exceeded the renewable energy goals established in the 2005 update to the RPS and Texas has more wind energy capacity than any other state.[1]  On the surface that may seem to indicate that the RPS has been 100% successful and is no longer needed, but that isn’t the case.

One of the major reasons for establishing the RPS was to encourage diversification of our energy sources, which ultimately makes us more resilient to physical and economic forces that can impact the availability and price of energy sources.  While wind energy has increased from zero percent when the RPS was first established to around ten percent today, other renewable energy sources are still largely absent from our energy portfolio.

With more solar energy potential than any other state, Texas should be the center point of the solar industry as well.[2]  Instead we are lagging behind states with far less solar resources, such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania,[3] and are paying the price in missed opportunities for job growth and new generation capacity that can produce during peak demand.

Solar companies invest in California and other states, because smart policies created attractive markets in those places.  California has 1,505 solar companies compared to Texas’ 260. Even New Jersey has more, with 382.[4] Texas should be doing more, not less to attract solar businesses to our state.

SolarInstallProjections showing that we won’t have enough electricity to meet demand by 2020.[5]  The maximum wholesale price of electricity has been set to triple by 2015, without even determining what the cost to consumers will be.  There have been workshops and meetings to consider the prospect of implementing a capacity market in Texas, which would raise costs even more.  But little time has been spent considering simpler, cheaper solutions such as expanding efficiency and demand response (where customers get paid to reduce there energy usage for short periods of time when demand is high) and getting more solar capacity built in Texas.  Solar is most productive when we need it the most – on hot, sunny afternoons.

The RPS should be retooled to focus on solar and other renewable energy resources that are most capable of producing during peak demand.  Millions of dollars could be saved in the wholesale electric market if we had more solar panels installed.[6]

Solar, like wind, also has the benefit of needing very little water to operate.  Solar photovoltaic (PV) installations need an occasional cleaning to keep performance high, but the amount of water need is minimal in comparison to fossil fuel options.  Coal-fired generators need billions of gallons of water to operate each year[7] and while natural gas-fired generations consume less water than coal-fired generators, they still use more than solar, even without accounting for the millions of gallons of water used to extract the gas with hydraulic fracturing.[8]  Including more renewable energy in our portfolio will make our electric grid less vulnerable to drought[9] and will free up water supplies that are desperately needed for human consumption and agriculture.

Abandoning the RPS now would send a terrible signal to renewable energy companies that are deciding where to establish their businesses.  Our state made a commitment that isn’t set to expire until 2025 at the earliest.  There is no good reason to abandon the policy now.  We should be moving in the opposite direction of what is proposed in HB 2026.  Instead of giving up on a policy that has been successful, we should be looking at ways to build on that success and benefit our state.


[1] AWEA. “Wind Energy Facts: Texas.” Oct 2012. http://www.awea.org/learnabout/publications/factsheets/upload/3Q-12-Texas.pdf.

[2] NREL. “U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS Based Analysis.” July, 2012. Pg. 10-13. http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy12osti/51946.pdf.

[3] SEIA. Solar Industry Data. http://www.seia.org/research-resources/solar-industry-data#state_rankings.

[4] SEIA. State Solar Policy. http://www.seia.org/policy/state-solar-policy.

[5] “Report on the Capacity, Demand, and Reserves in the ERCOT Region.” Dec 2012. Pg 8. http://www.ercot.com/content/news/presentations/2012/CapacityDemandandReservesReport_Winter_2012_Final.pdf.

[6] Weiss, Jurgen, Judy Chang and Onur Aydin. “The Potential Impact of Solar PV on Electricity Markets in Texas.” The Brattle Group.  June 19, 2012. http://www.seia.org/sites/default/files/brattlegrouptexasstudy6-19-12-120619081828-phpapp01.pdf.

[7] “Environmental impacts of coal power: water use” Union of Concerned Scientists http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/coalvswind/c02b.html

[8] http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/energy-and-water-use/water-energy-electricity-natural-gas.html

[9] Wu, M. and M. J. Peng.  “Developing a Tool to Estimate Water Use in Electric Power Generation in the United States.” Argonne National Laboratory – U.S. Department of Energy. http://greet.es.anl.gov/publication-watertool.

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A survey done by Solar Austin at the beginning of 2012 shows there are at least 615 full-time solar energy jobs in Austin.  These jobs include manufacturing, R&D, solar installation, financial and engineering consultants.  Adding standard jobs multipliers the total direct and indirect employment supported by the Austin solar industry is 1,180 to 2,190 jobs.

The job figures in Solar Austin’s survey did not include the 240 local job years of employment created by the 30-Megawatt solar park at Webberville east of Austin.  The group says the job potential for rooftop solar is even greater.

In 2004, Austin Energy began a rebate program to promote rooftop solar panel installations.  It was the first program of its kind in Texas. Austin has since founded and funded institutions that develop new clean energy technology and businesses resulting in clean-tech start-ups, spin-offs, and expansions with many of the jobs at family-wage scale – solar electric system installers making $36,000 a year, solar manufacturing jobs averaging $50,000 a year, and solar engineering paying $75,000 and more annually.

In spite of the potential for job growth, the group pointed to Austin’s south where San Antonio’s public utility CPS, has begun funding solar rebate programs that have overtaken Austin’s and challenged the city to continue to capitalize on their previous commitment, taking it to the next level to make Austin a renewable energy industry cluster in the same way it has electronic manufacturing and software clusters.

We want thousands of jobs in renewable energy, not hundreds!,” says Public Citizen’s Texas director, Tom “Smitty” Smith.

Take a look at the 4 page flyer on the survey put out by Solar Austin – Jobs Survey 4-Pager.

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A new Texans for Public Justice report finds that most of Governor Rick Perry’s Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) projects failed to deliver on their 2010 job promises. The study analyzes compliance reports filed by 65 companies that received $350 million to create Texas jobs in 2010.

“Governor Perry’s jobs’ stimulus program is a classic example of government waste, fraud and abuse,” said Texans for Public Justice Director Craig McDonald. “The Enterprise Fund has an alarming rate of defaulting on the Governor’s jobs promises.”

A summary that Governor Perry’s office published in August suggests that $440 million in taxpayer TEF grants have created 59,600 Texas jobs. Perry claimed in an October presidential debate that TEF has produced 54,600 jobs. Putting aside five TEF projects that make fraudulent job claims and a sixth project that appears to be undergoing an audit, TPJ found evidence that TEF had created 22,349 jobs by the end of 2010. That number amounts to 37 percent of the job claims made by the Governor’s Office.

Analyzing the 65 TEF projects, the new report found that:

  • 24 projects (37 percent) failed to deliver on their original 2010 job promises;
  • 17 projects (26 percent) complied with their 2010 job commitments;
  • 11 failing projects were terminated prematurely (17 percent);
  • 7 projects are troubled (11 percent), usually because they defaulted on 2010 job pledges but covered the shortfall with job credits earned by exceeding their job targets in past years;
  • 5 projects (8 percent) fraudulently claim that they created more jobs than they actually did (this category includes most of TEF’s largest grants); and
  • One project claimed “new” jobs that had hiring dates predating its TEC contract.

Click here to read the full report, Con Job: Most Enterprise Fund Grantees Failed to Deliver in 2010.

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In a New York Times piece, they report on a study by the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies in Chattanooga, TN, which takes an in-depth look at the promises of jobs made by builders of new coal plants.

No one should be surprised to learn that when wooing a community, developers in just about every industry tend to overestimate the number of jobs they expect to create when they they build that new shopping mall, industrial park, widget factory or coal plant.

The Ochs Center findings  suggest that the trade-off that many cash-strapped communities make — specifically, accepting the health and environmental risks that come with having a new coal-burning power plant in their midst, in return for a boost in employment — is not what it’s cracked up to be.  In all cases they studied, what these communities were promised, isn’t what was delivered.

The analysis looked at the six largest new coal-fired power plants to come online between 2005 and 2009, including facilities in Pottawattamie County, IA; Milam and Robertson Counties, TX.; Otoe County, NE.; Berkeley County, SC; and Marathon County, WI.  All of the plants had capacities that exceeded 500 megawatts.

Researchers looked at each project’s initial proposals and the job projection data, from public statements, published documents and other material. They then looked at employment — before, during and after construction — in the areas where the projects were built, relying chiefly on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

The results: only a little over half, or 56 percent of every 1,000 jobs projected, appeared to be actually created as a result of the coal plants’ coming online. And in four of the six counties, the projects delivered on just over a quarter of the jobs projected.

So communities are left with fewer jobs than promised and a plethora of  harmful emissions like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, mercury and planet-warming carbon dioxide.  These emissions contribute to a long term legacy of  thousands of deaths over the lifetime of a plant, according to an estimate by the Clean Air Task Force.  Hardly a bargain in our estimation, but what a good deal for the coal plants.

Click here to read the New York Times blog: Coal, Jobs and America’s Energy Future by Tom Zeller.

Click here to read the report, A Fraction of the Jobs, by the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies.

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Republicans keep rejecting the success of the stimulus package but that is nothing new, being opposed is just a Republican thing to do nowadays. President Obama said yesterday that even if he said the sky is blue, Republicans would disagree. Despite all that, in Texas, the stimulus seems to serve its purpose just fine, especially in the field of energy. Unlike what Republicans claim, it has provided incentives for small businesses with incentives to grow, save money, and it has also helped create jobs.

The Austin American Statesman shared a couple of stories about small businesses that have benefited from the stimulus. First is the Dog Ranch in Pflugerville. The owners wanted to install solar panels atop the ranch roof, a move they figured would save them some money on energy bills. The panel cost $87,000. With the stimulus funds(Grants from the Department of Energy) the owners received and Austin Energy’s rebate program, they only had to pay $10,000. For the Ranch owners, this deal saved them a lot of money since they only pay one third of the energy bill they used to pay before installing the panels in addition to the tax credit they get from installing the panels, “We just expanded in December, and we wouldn’t otherwise have had capitol to do it,” Said the Dog Ranch owner.

Longhorn Solar is the installation company that set up the Dog Ranch solar panels. The company too has taken advantage of the stimulus money and now it has 10 employees and many more installation projects. Louis Petrik, the CEO of Longhorn Solar said “It (the Stimulus) allows us to put a lot of jobs in the pipeline and go out and actively hire,”

A part of the stimulus money was given to states to have at their disposal to run their own programs (And they say the Feds want to take over local governments). To track the federal stimulus funds, the Texas Legislature appointed the Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding. According to its website, The Committee “monitor[s] actions of the federal government, including legislation and regulations, related to efforts to promote economic recovery by providing federal funds to the states.”

On September 1st, the Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing in Corpus Christi where major stimulus fund recipients such as Centerpoint Energy and Iberdrola Renewables presented in what project they are using the stimulus money and how they are going about meeting their goals. Documents from the hearing are provided on the Texas Stimulus Funds website or you can access them by clicking here.

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One point we often forget when debating climate change strategies is the major economic case for changing our economy to new, clean technology.  A new study has been released on the impacts of the Kerry-Lieberman bill, which we’ve never been so hot on, but it shows that despite what the chicken littles at the Chamber of Commerce might spew about how a carbon cap is a jobs killer, it’s anything but.  From the NY Times articles on this story:

The Peterson Institute for International Economics said in its 18-page report that the bill from Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) creates the new jobs between 2011 and 2020 because of its mandatory limits on greenhouse gases, which will prompt $41.1 billion in investments per year as the nation shifts away from traditional fossil fuels like coal and oil and toward new nuclear power and renewables.

So, good news, right? 

Looking closer at the study itself, we see something very interesting.  Michael Levi of the CFR points out that it looks more like this is a nuclear jobs bill than a climate bill,  echoing what Public Citizen’s Tyson Slocum has said repeatedly about this bill.

And indeed, here is average ANNUAL net job creation by industry from 2011-2020 according to page 12 the analysis:

  • Nuclear: 165,000
  • CCS: 96,000
  • Renewables: 19,000

Yikes.  Overall, this is a bad deal. And, this assumes that carbon sequestration is economical, safe, and practical.  But more on that later.

The sad thing is, we know what we need to do to create more jobs in renewable energy.  (more…)

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Great joint op-ed by our friend McCall Johnson over at Environment Texas and State Rep. Rafael Anchia, winner of Public Citizen’s Legislator of the Year award.  Following on the heels of TXU’s announcement last week that it will offer customers an affordable solar leasing program, the gist of it is that we can’t let the momentum for solar wane whenever the program’s money runs out.  Sounds like Rep. Anchia may have some ideas for a legislative fix, check it out… (more…)

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Kudos to the North Carolina Conservation Network for rallying the troops for a real grassroots protest outside of today’s Energy Citizen company picnic in Greensboro. Fifty protesters turned out to show their support for clean energy and green jobs development, NCCN reports:

Local folks gathered on the sidewalks surrounding the coliseum to make sure that voices in support of federal action on energy were heard. While a drum corps provided the entertainment, the citizen-activists held signs and banners calling on Senator Kay Hagan (North Carolina) to support efforts in the US Senate to pass strong clean energy and climate legislation this year.

State Representative Pricey Harrison (from Greensboro) was there as well as representatives from clean energy businesses, labor and faith communities. State Representative Harrison along with U.S. Representative Howard Coble attempted to enter the event. While Representative Coble was allowed entry, Representative Harrison (who represents the district in which the event was held) was denied access. Also allowed into the event were activists from FreedomWorks, a right-wing group that has ties to big business and the oil industry.

Rep. Coble was invited inside because he voted against the American Clean Energy and Security Act, but Rep. Harrison (who voted for it) was denied entry.  How completely ridiculous.  At least the “Energy Citizens” American Petroleum Institute has wised up enough to let their supporters from FreedomWorks inside — looks like they learned their lesson from the Houston rally, where anti-cap and trade activists were rudely turned from the door for trying to bring in American flags.

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Even though we were denied access, our intrepid Citizen Sarah was able to blend in with a crowd walking in and starting talking to energy company employees about climate change legislation.  You know, Energy Company Employees Can Say the Darndest Things:

Look for:

  • Global Warming Deniers!
  • People Who Have NO IDEA What is actually in the American Clean Energy & Security Act!
  • Misrepresentations about the bill–and our energy policy and energy sector– all spouted back like they got the memo of Big Oil’s talking points!
  • And…. a guy from a natural gas company who really understands what made the climate bill bad: too much special interest influence and lobbying! (irony, much?  But he does have a point….)

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The Energy Citizens’ rallies company picnics, such as the one we crashed yesterday in Houston, have been getting a lot of attention through the Netroots, in national publications, and even last night on Rachel Maddow (where one of our videos was featured, even if credit was not given — no worries this time Rach, we love you anyway).

Though the Netroots has gotten the message loud and clear: these are really just company picnics, not uprisings of real grassroots support, there has still been some hedging on the part of the traditional media — who is still reporting that “many of the people attending the demonstration were employees of oil companies who work in Houston and were bused from their workplaces.

But the truth is that the Houston rally was attended ONLY by energy company employees and retirees (at least that’s the way they wanted it).  It’s no big surprise that a few rabble-rousing enviros were kicked out, but when even those that oppose cap and trade were turned away– that should raise major red flags about the true nature of these events.  This isn’t even Astroturf anymore, this is asphalt.

But don’t take my word for it, listen to the anti-cap and trade folks from Freedom Works that were  from yesterday’s rally:

Or watch the higher quality version on Vimeo:

Here is another guy we caught up with outside who was also barred from entering– he called it “a circus” and “a county fair”.

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