Texas lawmakers propose bills moving away from renewable energy in attempt to shore up power grid

Some Texas senators unveiled plans Thursday to shift the focus away from wind and solar and toward resources like natural gas.

It was part of nine bills Texas lawmakers announced aimed at shoring up the state’s power grid.

Authors and supporters of the legislation said it’s geared at getting more power in the state that can quickly turn on and off, on demand.

But some have concerns the shift in strategy could up costs for consumers.

"This is a starting point of powering Texas forward," State Sen. Charles Schwertner said.

In the second legislative session since the deadly 2021 winter storm that upended confidence in the grid, a group of Republican and Democrat state senators announced the second salvo aimed at increasing power reliability.

"We have got to address the operational flexibility and the resource adequacy needed to power Texas into the future to make sure that homes are heated and businesses are powered for years and decades to come," Schwertner added.

A common thread in much of the nine bill package announced Thursday was reducing support for renewable energy resources, like wind and solar, while trying to boost more resources known as "dispatchable," like natural gas.

"We’re closing in on 50% of our generation portfolio in Texas being renewables, and it certainly has cost advantages, but we have to focus on reliability and resiliency," Schwertner said.


Discussion held on whether Texas power grid will be reliable as we move toward more renewable energy

This energy conference was all about the future, which will require accessible, affordable energy, even as we look back to the historic winter storm of 2021.

"We do not want to go the way of other states that have overbuilt to the detriment of the dispatchable needs," Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said.

But some said there might be negatives to shifting the focus away from renewables.

"If, as you squash the growth of wind and solar, there's going to be a negative impact with regard to cost consumers," Michael Jewell explained. 

Jewell worked for then Gov. George W. Bush on energy matters.

He now works with Conservative Texans for Energy Innovation, and represents companies working on solar and wind.

"If the legislature wants to support the development of new dispatchable generation resources, focus on that in a very proactive way there. But there's not a need to necessarily to go out and punish the investment that have been made on wind and solar generation and the benefits that that brings to the state as well," he added.


Texas Public Utility Commission finishes up energy market redesign recommendation

At a marathon meeting, Public Utility Commission of Texas commissioners ironed out the energy market redesign recommendation that will be pitched to state lawmakers.

Lawmakers pushing the legislation acknowledge, if passed, it’ll take time for the grid to see the impact.

Jewell said focusing on today’s technology could lead to missing out on the benefits of innovation, like better battery storage for renewable power.

"If we focus just on building natural gas generation resources, rather than harnessing the opportunities that are coming down the pipe, we're going to impose costs on customers that, frankly, are just staggering," he explained.

Jewell said it’s a glaring omission that energy efficiency wasn’t a focus of Thursday’s announcement.

That’s the idea that programs aimed at improving the efficiency of homes and business will reduce the strain on the grid, meaning less of a need for more power generation of any kind.