12 Sep 2010

Prospects for solar incentives from the 2011 Texas Legislature

Written by Jim Pierobon

With wind energy already a huge success in the Long Star state and inexpensive natural gas offering a low-cost option for additional utility-scale power generation, the prospects for first-ever incentives throughout most of Texas are murky.

The Texas Capitol in Austin, via Wikipedia

The Texas Legislature, which meets only in the odd years, came very close with three bills in 2009 but balked in the end at adopting solar incentives that would have jump-started a large market for developers and installers and cost-saving benefits for homeowners and many businesses. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Solar City was so hopeful it geared up for a major push in the residential market but ended up having to cancel many applications after an incentive program proved wildly popular and funding for it ran out virtually overnight.

If anything, that experience should credibly demonstrate to lawmakers, solar advocates and yes even opponents, that solar incentives have a place in Texas, if for no other reason the thousands of jobs they can help create.

Ah, but not so fast. If solar incentives require state funding, the Texas budget deficit complicates finding the money. If there are to be any Solar Renewable Energy Credits (aka SRECs), setting the Alternative Compliance Payment (ACP) at a level that won’t drive up retail electricity rates is another hurdle advocate would have to clear.

Wind energy already has met the 5,880-megawatt-by2015 goal of renewable energy in Texas so advocates will need a compelling reason to up the ante. More jobs should go a long way in making the case, but will that be enough?

Cyrus Reed of the Sierra Club chapter in Texas points out that interpretations of the 500 MW non-wind “goal” that is a part of the over renewable energy mandate could prove a boost to solar. The Public Utilities Commission of Texas has opened a rulemaking project to consider changes.

The lobbying shifts into high gear when the Legislature convenes January 11, 2011. No doubt many manufacturers, along with the the coal and oil and gas industries are preparing to engage. Lawmakers will have until the end of May to make up their minds.

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