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Texas Can Phase Out Coal with Wind & Solar

Texas has enough wind and solar power to phase out coal entirely to reduce Electric Rates, but there’s a catch!

According to a study by researchers at Houston’s Rice University, it would take just 1/3 of the solar and wind energy projects that have been proposed to phase out coal in Texas.

The caveat is that the state’s energy grid is a mess, and it is standing in the way of a faster transition in Texas away from coal and toward renewables.

“Transmission lines are the leading bottleneck that is slowing down the growth of wind and solar,”

Daniel Cohan, Rice University
Wind and Solar to Lower Electricity Rates

Texas is Energy-rich so why are Electric Rates still high?

As the top U.S. producer of crude oil and natural gas, Texas is easily one of the most energy-rich states in the country. It also leads the nation in wind power generation, which accounts for around 20% of Texas’s energy usage, while the state’s solar power industry is also growing fast. The potential for renewable energy in the state is massive! Unfortunately, Texas is also the country’s largest coal consumer.

Dirty Energy & Electricity

As the nation’s largest coal consumer, and biggest electricity consumer in general, how coal is phased out and replaced with clean energy in Texas would be crucial to meeting any nationwide climate agenda and to lead other states in the inevitable energy transition.

Since June 2020, dozens of the new renewable energy projects have been approved, and the number of new proposals for solar and wind farms has doubled. But there’s still the huge problem…

Texas Electrical Grid is Embarrassing  

Different parts of the state can generate more energy at different times. Winds are strongest at night in west Texas, for instance, but tend to pick up during the afternoon in coastal southern regions of the state. You need a power grid to connect all those areas. Simply put, it’s not always windy and not always sunny, but it’s almost always windy or sunny somewhere in Texas. But without an extensive and up-to-date network of transmission lines to connect the electricity generated at these farms to cities, Texas’s energy transition will have to wait.

In February 2021, Texas was hit by a historic deep freeze that led to prolonged power outages across the state. Although lawmakers blamed wind power and renewable energy for failing during the storm, the major culprit was the electrical grid’s dated infrastructure and aging transmission lines. After the storm, ERCOT, the private company that manages Texas’s electrical grid, came under fire for reportedly cutting corners and loosening regulations, leading to outdated and ill-equipped infrastructure.

Progress Will Help Electric Rates

Nationwide, aging electrical transmission infrastructure could soon be updated. In the recently approved infrastructure bill, the federal government laid out a financing plan worth over $15 billion to construct thousands of miles of new lines and upgrade existing ones.

While Texas’s ERCOT has historically remained inflexible with regard to integrating with the national grids, it is beginning to intertwine itself more with neighboring power systems, such as through the ongoing $2 billion Southern Cross Transmission project.

Researcher Daniel Cohan at Rice University believes that even though the infrastructure bill is a good start. More attention and investment is needed to sufficiently update the country’s power system. It’s nowhere near the scale of what’s needed nationwide to expand our transmission infrastructure.