Waco Trib Weighs in on Renewable Portfolio Standard

EDITORIAL: Seeing the light and all its power

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dismiss talk of global warming and environmentalism if you must. But times are changing fast and, along with them, the very way we heat and cool our homes and businesses.

The Texas Senate signaled as much this week, approving a bill encouraging development of solar energy plants to generate electricity, much as the state has done in making wind an energy player in Texas and beyond.

Now it’s up to the House and Gov. Rick Perry to show similar vision for Texas.

We hope it isn’t much of a stretch. Sunshine is something we have plenty of in Texas — and we’re unlikely to run out of it anytime soon.

Passage of state Sen. Kirk Watson’s legislation, with help from Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, is remarkable for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the Senate is dominated by Republicans. Watson is a Democrat.

Yet many lawmakers on both sides want to encourage the solar, geothermal and biomass energy aims in this bill. Some see the writing on the wall.

A Texas Public Utility Commission report issued Tuesday concludes that electricity prices could jump as much as $10 billion a year — $27 a month in the average electric bill — if Texans don’t anticipate looming federal greenhouse regulations aimed at cutting carbon-based fuels like natural gas and coal.

Environmentalists and lawmakers see Watson’s bill as neatly bolstering our state’s energy arsenal, especially as Texas continues to grow. Solar could help ensure energy offerings at peak times of the day, while wind will prove of greatest impact during the night hours.

Plus, the PUC study says, displacing expensive natural gas with renewable energy could reduce overall energy costs, especially as technologies become more competitive. It can also help deter reliance on coal-fired power plants.

Beyond all this, the bill provides incentives when renewable energy is created by technology crafted or devised here in Texas.

The bill is quite timely: Congressional leaders in Washington, D.C., want to require that 15 percent of all electricity generated nationwide comes from sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass by 2020, with another 5 percent coming through energy efficiency.

Strangely, state Sen. Troy Fraser led a handful of Republicans in voting against Watson’s bill — strange, we say, because a good bill by Fraser allows homeowners and businesses to qualify for rebates helping defray the cost of solar panels.

We find Fraser’s suggestion that Watson’s bill be shelved because there’s no need for it yet absurd, especially given Fraser’s hard push for a voter ID bill despite the dearth of evidence of in-person voting fraud anywhere in Texas.