By State Rep. Drew Darby
Austin American-Statesman, Jun. 15, 2022
Texas is the leader in domestic energy production and far surpasses every other state in electricity net generation. In 2021, Texas produced 43% of all crude oil and 25% of all natural gas in the U.S., and produced 26% of its wind power. West Texas oil and gas, Panhandle and Gulf Coast wind, and Hill Country sun are all power derived from our state’s natural resources that help drive economic development, generate income for landowners, fund roads and education, and strengthen our national security. The current state of affairs demands we fortify our energy resources to respond to any crisis, and we can do this by continuing our more comprehensive “all-of-the-above” approach to energy.
Unpredictable market events, projected population growth, and periods of drought and extreme weather trigger considerable electricity demand and strain our electrical grid. In worst-case scenarios, the consequences from unplanned outages trickle down and across our entire integrated infrastructure, which depends heavily on electricity to operate. Safe drinking water, internet services, and certain at-home medical devices, for example, depend on a functioning electrical grid.
To keep pace with growth and adapt to changes, policymakers must continue to embrace an “all-of-the-above” approach to developing and deploying Texas’ abundant resources. This means everything must be on the table when it comes to readying our energy reserves, and we must cut the red tape preventing Texas from fully harnessing renewables like wind or extracting tried-and-true commodities like Permian Basin oil and gas. This also means embracing generation that uses less water, encouraging new and emerging technologies like green hydrogen, and emphasizing the addition of battery storage to dispatch electricity on demand. And finally, this means incentivizing companies to choose Texas for new energy development, especially as aging power plants retire.
Texans deserve a resilient energy portfolio that we can trust. We do not need to pit renewables against traditional fossil fuels or seek to replace one with the other; we must use both essential sources to generate electricity for residential, commercial, and industrial users. Renewable power generation and thermal power generation complement each other and we must ensure this relationship is successful.
An “all-of-the-above” strategy also requires we advance our state’s transmission capabilities. Although Texas is a leading producer of electricity, we must effectively move it, sell it, and buy it to accommodate our thriving state. Transmission constraints and congestion prevent the lowest-priced electricity from reaching customers, particularly during high-demand times or power outages. Congestion is an expensive problem and a hidden cost that consumers absorb in our electricity bills, made more burdensome now as we pay record-high food and gasoline prices.
According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ Independent Market Monitor, congestion costs exceeded $2 billion in 2021 and continue to trend upward. Already this year, congestion costs approached $800 million in a single month. Modeling shows that optimizing the Texas power grid by 2035 would result in enormous economic, energy, and environmental benefits, including more than $11 billion in local tax revenue and as many as 25,300 new jobs. Without strategic investments and policy reforms now, our inadequate transmission infrastructure will continue to aggravate grid reliability and the overall competitiveness of the Texas economy.
In 2021, state lawmakers prioritized legislation to prepare Texas’ electric market for weather emergencies. These efforts go far to strengthen the reliability and resiliency of our electrical grid, but lawmakers cannot lose steam in our efforts to ensure long-term sustainability and modernity. Providing affordable and reliable power for homes, businesses, schools, and hospitals across every region of our state must be today’s urgent priority. As we approach the 88th Texas Legislative Session, it is critical that we focus on developing all of our energy resources synchronously with building out our energy infrastructure. Our vision and action will secure a better future for all Texans.
Darby, a Republican, represents District 72 in West Texas.