Texas Solar Energy—The Lone Star State Is Ready to Go Big
September 8, 2016
Part II of our two-part series on the growing Texas solar energy market
In Part I of our two-part series on Texas solar energy, we looked at how the state’s deregulated electricity market has opened the door for independent solar developers to come in and offer 100% renewable energy plans at competitive fixed prices for up to five years. But the state’s regulatory environment is just one of several factors making Texas such a solar-friendly state. Here in Part II, we’ll look at some of the other forces driving the Texas solar energy boom.
Regional Haze Rule
The Regional Haze Rule is a requirement initiated in 1999 by the Environmental Protection Agency, which requires states to work toward reducing the air pollution that impacts visibility in national parks, national monuments and other protected spaces. Individual states were given the opportunity to craft their own plans to address regional haze. But in Texas and Oklahoma, the EPA is fighting to replace their compliance plans with a federal plan, which could dramatically impact coal production in the state. In March, Texas won a judicial stay to keep this from happening, but, according to BreakingEnergy.com, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) isn’t taking any chances and is planning for a scenario in which approximately 5 gigawatts of coal go offline over the next 15 years due to the Regional Haze Rule. In this scenario, solar would be the dominant replacement energy technology.
In addition to factoring for the Regional Haze Rule, ERCOT has developed 15-year projections for multiple energy production scenarios in Texas, including ones that account for extreme weather, recession and low natural gas prices. In each scenario, the outlook is the same—they predict the majority of electricity capacity additions coming from solar. The following slide, found in the ERCOT 2016 LTSA Update Power Point presentation from June 21, 2016 (available for download here), best shows the projections.
Solar Costs Drop
A recent report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab shows that the price of utility-scale solar development has fallen dramatically since 2007. The report states, “Median installed PV project prices within a sizable sample have steadily fallen by nearly 60% since the 2007–2009 period.”
This report looked at a variety of factors influencing utility-scale solar prices, including operations and maintenance, capacity factors and power purchase agreement (PPA) prices. A most interesting finding, and one that specifically pertains to the Texas market, is that PPA prices for utilities have fallen. And while these prices are currently comparable with existing gas-fired electricity generation prices, they are in line to be quite competitive with new gas-fired generation projects and, as the report states, “Can also provide a hedge against possible future increases in fossil fuel costs.”
This is important to Texas residents because, as we explained in Part I of this series, a solar developer, like Cypress Creek Renewables, is able to offer fixed prices—at or below current market rates—to its subscribers for as long as five years. And while no one can predict the future, if the past is any indication, long-term fossil fuel rates always go up. Check out this chart we’ve created based on data from the Energy Information Agency to see what we mean.
Power to the People!
Finally, perhaps the best reason that Texas solar energy is going so big is because the implementation of renewables across the state is a people-driven movement. A recent survey conducted on behalf of the Texas Clean Energy Coalition (TCEC) revealed widespread, bi-partisan support of clean energy for the state. In fact, a press release detailing the survey’s findings reports, “85 percent of Texas voters—including 78 percent of Republicans—favor increasing the use of clean energy to generate electricity in Texas.”
Cypress Creek Is Texas Proud!
Texas is going solar, and Cypress Creek Renewables is a proud part of that effort. Stay tuned for more news about our efforts in the state and find out how Texas residents living in the regions surrounding our developments will soon be able to purchase 100% renewable energy plans at competitive fixed rates!
Read More from the Cypress Creek Renewables Blog: