Texas Lawmakers Have a New Scheme to Punish Renewables and Prop Up Fossil Fuels
Molly Taft – March 14, 2023
Texas Republicans are at it again. Last week, Republican politicians in the state legislature introduced a package of bills intended to punish renewable energy and boost fossil fuels, despite the fact that Texas is currently one of the nation’s top generators of renewable power.
On Thursday, Texas state senators Charles Schwertner and Phil King introduced nine bills that they said would help solve issues with Texas’s beleaguered power grid. According to the Dallas Morning News, the bills include one that would create up to 10,000 megawatts of natural gas-fueled generation; one to smooth out what Schwertner said were pro-wind and solar “market distortions” that federal tax breaks create; one to get rid of any remaining state tax credits for renewables; and one that would limit new renewable energy facilities being built based on how much natural gas facilities are also being built, in an attempt to keep natural gas competitive.
The bills are an echo of some of the concepts raised in bills introduced two years ago, the last time the legislature was in session, introduced shortly after a 2021 winter freeze and subsequent blackouts killed hundreds of people—and while the GOP was still erroneously trying to blame the issues with the grid exclusively on renewable energy (a lot of the blame actually lay with natural gas supply). While the renewables bill didn’t end up passing, Texas Republicans have kept beating the drum to try to use grid reforms to sink renewables and prop up fossil fuels.
As the Dallas Morning News reported, Texas leadership are all for these types of measures. Earlier this month, Governor Greg Abbott said he would not allow wind and solar companies to get corporate tax breaks under a new state program. Meanwhile, last week Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick praised the bills at the press conference, saying in a release that they will “fix the Texas power grid once and for all.” Patrick said that he has designated two of the bills—the one to create the new natural gas generation and one dealing with the “market distortions”—as part of his hand-picked suite of 30 priority bills that he would be pushing during this legislative session.
What’s truly wild about this set of possible laws is just how well renewable energy is doing in Texas. Last year, the state was the number one producer of wind energy in the country and the number two producer of solar. The International Energy Agency predicted last year that renewables’ work on the grid could grow even more in 2023, pushing natural gas use down.
“These bills will subsidize those dirty energy sources at a big cost to consumers and the environment,” Luke Metzger, executive director at Environment Texas, told Earther in an email. “Folks at the Texas Legislature used to speak of the importance of not picking winners and losers in the energy marketplace. Well, that’s exactly what these bills do. The state of Texas is dispensing with the free market to subsidize polluting power plants and discriminating against wind and solar energy.”
The Texas power grid’s issues are a hell of a lot more complex than ‘renewables bad, fossil fuels good.’ It’s going to take more uncomfortable reforms to iron out what actually is going to work for the state, but we can count on Republicans to take any opportunity to use renewable energy as a political punching bag.