Posted in Campaign Finance, Energy, Renewables, tagged Big Oil, Block Renewable Energy Lines, carbon dioxide emissions, Clean Energy, david power, deputy director, kay bailey hutchison, michael williams, natural gas, oil and gas companies, panhandle, public citizen texas, PUC, regulation, renewable energy, special interests, Texas Legislature, texas public utility commission, Texas Railroad Commission, transmission lines, US senate, west texas, wind farms on December 2, 2009 |
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Statement of David Power, Deputy Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office
Seemingly out of concern that competitive renewable energy will damage Big Oil’s bottom line, the Texas Railroad Commission wants to block renewable energy transmission lines that would put affordable energy from west Texas wind farms on an even playing field with the historical titans of Texas energy – oil and gas companies.
A new investment in these transmission lines would save ratepayers $2 billion a year, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 16 percent and create more than $5 billion in economic development benefits for Texas. Ratepayers, companies and organizations with an interest in seeing the further development of renewable energy and green jobs should contact the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) and tell them to deny the Railroad Commission’s request to intervene.
The Texas Legislature authorized these transmission lines in 2008 to address the lack of available transmission lines to deliver wind energy from the panhandle and west Texas to the major metropolitan areas in central Texas where demand is higher. This renewable energy helps reduce costs for ratepayers by providing abundant and inexpensive clean energy that helps offset the volatile price of natural gas.
In its filing with the PUC, the Railroad Commission inappropriately expressed concern for current and future oil and gas development in Texas. In doing so, the commission stepped outside of its regulatory role to promote the interests of Big Oil. While the commission’s stated task is “primary regulatory jurisdiction over (the) oil and natural gas industry,” in this case, it is attempting to pick winners and losers in regards to Texas’ energy future. It is also questionable whether Michael Williams, who sits on the Railroad Commission and who is currently in the running for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s U.S. Senate seat, is acting in the best interest of the public or doing favors for potential campaign contributors.
This is another example of outrageous overreaching by the Railroad Commission on behalf of the same industries it is supposed to regulate. The commission is charged with regulating the oil and gas industries, not with protecting their interests with taxpayer dollars. The Railroad Commission and Mr. Williams need to stick to their own jurisdiction, rather than making an inappropriate power play to earn favors with Big Oil.
By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.
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Posted in Energy, tagged Austin Energy, Clean Energy, Coal, contract, electricity deregulation, Energy, energy grid, Gas, green choice, greenchoice, Myths, natural gas, Power, Renewables, Texas, transmission lines, wind on July 23, 2009 |
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Since the Austin American Statesman published a couple of articles on the less-than-stellar sales of Austin Energy’s Green Choice program, many media outlets have picked up the story and the takeaway message is something like “liberal Austin finds out the hard way that renewable energy is too expensive”. It’s really regrettable that this message is permeating throughout the country because it’s just not true.
Austin Energy’s sales of the most recent GreenChoice batch have been low, but I hope that folks will understand that the blame lies not with wind energy itself but some serious underlying problems with the rate structure of this program and the way the energy market is regulated in Texas (hint: it isn’t).
The high cost of GreenChoice highlights the failure of the deregulated market. Consumers are now unfairly burdened with the transmission costs to get wind energy from West Texas to the center of the state. Wind has to pay a toll to drive the power transmission highway, but coal, gas, and nuclear get a free ride. Not all utilities charge similar transmission costs, and in many places that would be factored into the simple cost of doing business, but in Austin consumers are asked to foot that bill. Then there’s the fact that coal, gas, and nuclear power currently have priority on the transmission grid. If the wind can provide 300 MW of energy at a given time and coal can dispatch 300 MW, but there is only room for 400 MW of power to run through the lines, coal gets to move 300 MW and wind can only move 100 MW.
Another problem with Green Choice is that in addition to paying for 100% wind, customers are forced to pay the maintenance and capitol costs to upkeep Austin’s dirty power sources. That just isn’t fair – folks shouldn’t have to pay a premium for clean energy and then be asked to foot the bill for polluters too. Folks argue that GreenChoice customers should pay a portion of the upkeep for traditional dirty power sources when the wind isn’t blowing, but they shouldn’t pay the same *full* capital and maintenance costs that average customers pay. If anything, GreenChoice customers should be offered a pro-rated charge for those costs, so that they only pay the maintenance costs for when they are actually getting power from those dirty sources. Right now, Austin Energy is asking GreenChoice customers to pay an Equal share of maintenance and upkeep for an Unequal share of power – not fair.
Then there’s the fact that Austin Energy got a bad deal on this contract. They bought into a ten year power purchase agreement when natural gas prices, and energy prices in general, were at an all time high (remember $4/gallon gas?).
Austin Energy could easily restructure this program so that it is more affordable. GreenChoice wouldn’t be so expensive if wind was operating on a level playing field with fossil fuels. Austin Energy can make that happen.
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