Video screenshot, KHOU-TV

The Texas state Senate on Monday passed a great big bill, SB 3, aimed at addressing some of the problems with the state's electric power system, which experienced huge outages during February's extreme freeze. Some four million people across the state were left without electricity, and at least 57 people died. There are some actually good measures in the package, like a requirement that utilities winterize their equipment, and a ban on the "indexed retail electric plans" that resulted in insanely large power bills when the wholesale cost of electricity spiked. But SB 3 also includes a provision that will increase costs for renewable energy sources, because wind and solar are supposedly "unreliable."

Many of Texas's power plants — of all types — froze up because they weren't winterized, even after a similarly devastating storm in 2011. But conservative media and Texas politicians, including Gov. Greg Abbott, went on TV to blame the blackouts on wind and solar, which wasn't the case at all. So now, even knowing that renewables didn't cause the power outages, Republicans in the Lege are gonna get back at renewable energy. Or at least they'll help out fossil fuels, which have seen their dominance of the Texas energy market slip as wind and solar have become a larger part of the state's overall power supply.

Not coincidentally, Texas Republicans are also joining in on the fun of making voting harder, to stomp out nonexistent "voter fraud." Just because something isn't real is no reason not to pass laws restricting it.


The anti-renewables measure in SB 3, an amendment introduced by Republican state Sen. Kelly Hancock, requires that

"intermittent generation resources" purchase ancillary services and replacement power "sufficient to manage net load variability."

It's fairly complex stuff, but Hancock's amendment basically seeks to shift a big chunk of the costs for keeping the grid functioning from power customers generally, as part of the costs of having a grid, to providers of renewable energy. That will drive up the cost of renewable energy and help out fossil fuels, which won't have to foot the bill for the ancillary services they use.

Hancock "explained" to the Texas Tribune that

the provision was intended to be a "small tweak" to "level out the peaks and valleys" in market prices that he said are created by cheap and intermittent wind and solar power generators.

That, as we'll see, is some bullshit.

In a statement urging the Texas House to pass SB 3, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick framed the measure as a necessary step to protect Texans from those flaky socialist wind and solar power sources, claiming

"SB 3 ensures a more reliable electric grid by requiring renewable energy sources to have backup plans to fill in the gap of any energy they fail to provide during critical periods."

Again, wind and solar were not the cause of the recent blackouts. We feel we need to mention that.

The renewable energy sector in Texas is pretty cheesed off about the measure, since it puts them at a competitive disadvantage. Jeff Clark, president of the renewable energy industry group Advanced Power Alliance, said the provision undoes "decades of precedent" — namely the roughly $60 billion Texas has invested in supporting renewables. Clark added, "This bill doesn't serve anybody. It just increases the costs to customers. If you're going to start assigning ancillary services, let's do it for all generators."

Clark also put it a tad more bluntly, calling the measure a "really dumb idea."

He pointed to statistics from federal regulators to push back at the idea that renewables are less reliable than other energy sources (particularly since coal and gas plants froze up to a far greater extent during the storm). And sure, during normal times, solar panels won't generate power at night, but nightfall is a reasonably predictable occurrence.

In conclusion, this has nothing to do with the reliability of renewable energy; it's a scam to prop up the market for fossil fuels, and Texas being Texas, the state House may well pass something similar unless Texans make a hell of a fuss about it. Fortunately, Texas progressives can be awfully good at making a fuss.

[Texas Tribune / Greening the Grid / RTO Insider (free signup required) / Image: Video screenshot, KHOU-TV]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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