It’s been topping out around 100+ degrees across Texas this Summer driving statewide demand for electric power close to the 88 Gigawatts of system capacity. To the great surprise of many, wind and solar farms are providing 30 of the 88 Gigawatts. Without that power, large parts of the Texas grid would have to be shut down — causing massive human misery and death without essential air conditioning. It’s 4 degrees hotter on average in Texas in Summer than just 25 years ago.
All this new clean power is crucial not only for AC but to power the big and growing Texas economy. In 2022, it had GDP growth of 7 percent versus 2.5 percent for the rest of the country and legal in-migration of half a million people. Over the last 30 years, the state's population has grown from 20 to 30 million people.
Ironically, Texas is best known for its prodigious oil and gas production: 40% of US crude oil and 25% of US natural gas. A spider web of pipelines flow this energy out to the rest of the country. But it’s also a vast, flat state with plenty of wind and sunshine so there’s unlimited potential for producing clean power. It’s adding 7.7 Gigawatts of new solar power in 2023 alone and 3 Gigawatts of new wind. At a growth rate of 10 Gigawatts per year, Texas will soon get a majority of its electric power from solar and wind, further cutting demand for gas and coal fired power and associated emissions.
Nevertheless, the grid needs power when it’s not windy and sunny, so continuing production from natural gas fired power plants will be essential. But Texas is also building record amounts of new battery storage to capture energy when it’s sunny and windy to avoid having to turn on those coal/gas power plants.
Texas will inevitably produce a large amount of excess renewable power, which it can use to charge all the coming EVs and also profitably export to the US grid. The present problem is that Texas has an independent system with no wires connecting outside the state. It’s time to build those wires.
Renewables are also saving consumers and businesses a bundle. The price per Kilowatt for solar and wind power is in the 5 cents range, while the price from a natural gas-fired power plant is closer to 8 cents. Because the state added 10 Gigawatts of solar and wind power in 2022, power prices are down 20 percent in 2023 versus 2022. That saves a family of four about $1,000 in energy bills and helps propel the Texas economy forward with cheap electricity for years to come.
Analysts have underestimated the pace of the clean energy build out and we believe they are still well short. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is going to supercharge the deployment of solar, wind and battery storage across the US in the coming years because IRA’s tax credits further reduce costs by 30%. Texas will be the largest IRA beneficiary as it’s responsible for 13.5% of US CO2 emissions, about twice that of the next biggest emissions state (California).
Back in February 2021, Texas politicians were quick to blame the Super Freeze blackouts on the failure of wind turbines. It was soon discovered that the blackouts, which killed 246 Texans, were caused by widespread failures of Texas natural gas and coal-fired plants. (It turns out renewables are more reliable than fossil fired power plants in both hot and cold conditions.) These politicians are predictably quiet this Summer about solar/wind saving Texas from massive blackouts. They should instead be “Texas Proud” of what their state is doing and where it’s headed.