United States

United States

AWEA 2019: Fossil fuel lobbies target Texas wind

Wind power may now have a foothold in the energy capital of world, Texas. But there is increasing pushback from the fossil fuel industry, according to speakers during a panel session on the Lone Star state at Windpower 2019 in Houston, Texas.

Fossil-fuel lobbies have Texas wind power in their sights (pic: Apex Clean Energy)
Fossil-fuel lobbies have Texas wind power in their sights (pic: Apex Clean Energy)

"People are spending millions of dollars to hobble the wind industry," said moderator Chris Tomlinson, a columnist at the Houston Chronicle. He cited sources in the state capital, Austin. He said that there are fossil fuel lobbyists in Austin who have been instructed to spend 40% of their time opposing wind.

Coal, oil and gas companies are fighting for market share, bemoaning their load loss. "They’re acting like a smart business and are no longer ignoring renewables," he added.  

Currently, there is a fierce effort in Austin to track renewable energy’s federal subsidies, in particular wind, but not to account for the government money spent propping up fossil fuels.

This is according to another panelist, Jean Ryall, an Austin-based lobbyist for the renewables industry. Just the night before, as Windpower 2019 concluded its first day, she said that renewables lobbyists in the state capital managed to strip a bill of language authorising such a study.

Even so, Ryall predicted that an interim study on wind’s subsidies in Texas will still be conducted.

"The debate right now includes misinformation — that wind does not pay any taxes," she told attendees. Texas, a freewheeling state with minimal government regulation, does not have an income tax or renewable portfolio standard, although wind is subject to standard property taxes.

So far, it is wind that is in the sights of the intrenched incumbents—the fossil fuel industry. Ryall, however, noted between 4-15GW of solar is in the pipeline.

Electricity prices have been pushed low because of wind, which has a penetration of some 20%, said Beth Garza of ERCOT, the grid operator for almost all of Texas. Owners of other capacity thus face lower profits, she said.

Additionally, natural gas prices even dipped below zero earlier this year in the state, in part because of the boom from the rapidly accelerating shale gas industry in the Permian Basin in west Texas.

Texas, with one of the two largest oilfields in the world after Ghawar in Saudi Arabia, is home to roughly a quarter of all US wind power capacity and to 25,000 wind jobs.

The state leads the nation with nearly 25GW of cumulative installed capacity. Nor is it giving up its frontrunner status any time soon: Texas hosts 22% of wind capacity in advanced development or under construction, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

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