TEXAS VIEW: Renewable energy will transform Texas if lawmakers stay out of the way

THE POINT: Texas’ carbon-free energy moments signal a bright future.

Solar and wind power are often dismissed as niche sources of power that are more of a novelty than an energy staple.

That hasn’t been true for quite some time and was underscored on Feb. 25. Energy expert Doug Lewin astutely noted on social media that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ power grid on that Sunday reached 82.8% carbon-free power, 71.2% of which was provided by renewables, both all-time records. And for about six hours that day, he says, power prices were $0, indicating that renewables can produce massive amounts of power cheaply.

The continued expansion of carbon-free power on the grid represents an important market signal that renewables are sustainable, reliable and affordable power sources in Texas. And from that momentum, the state must not retreat.

We highlight Feb. 25 because Texas’ energy politics turned ugly last year when certain ideologically driven lawmakers introduced numerous proposals to curtail wind and solar power investments and promote traditional oil and gas production. Renewable energy emerged from the most aggressive effort in years to curtail its ascendance without deep, investment-crippling wounds. But backers of renewable energy are bracing for another assault on renewables next session.

State officials would be shortsighted to again put a heavy fist on the scale against renewables. As the state grows, Texas must add power from all sources, including natural gas generation and from batteries that can flexibly dispatch stored power when needed to avert energy emergencies and catastrophic blackouts. Most of all, public policy must promote market competition and encourage energy efficiency, allow renewable energy to expand and reduce carbon emissions.

The reality is that Texas will have extreme temperature days that will set peak load records and edge ERCOT to consider emergency conservation or rotating outages to ensure grid stability. But renewables provide opportunities, not vulnerabilities. The ability to run industrial sites during high peak periods with lower-cost, carbon-free energy supported by a robust battery network is a competitive net plus for economic productivity. The U.S. Energy Information Administration, for example, predicts that solar and battery storage in the United States will make up 81% of new electric-generating capacity in 2024 and that Texas, aided by the Inflation Reduction Act’s investment tax credits for stand-alone storage, is on pace to surpass California.

The expansion of renewables on the grid validates more than two decades of support for a competitive energy marketplace in Texas that dates back to Govs. George W. Bush and Rick Perry. Texas has come a long way and has an opportunity to secure a robust energy mix that is able to sustain this state’s vast economy.

The Dallas Morning News