By Mose Buchele
KUT 90.5, Mar. 10, 2023
The story of what comes next for the Texas power grid took another twist Thursday as state senators unveiled a package of bills aimed at dramatically reducing renewable energy generation in Texas while pushing public money toward the construction of natural gas power plants.
Lawmakers pitched the bills as a way to increase energy reliability in response to the catastrophic 2021 blackout. But the proposals rely on discouraging Texas’ fastest growing energy sources – wind and solar power – while incentivizing the construction of natural gas power plants that will take years to build.
Failures at gas plants in freezing weather were the primary cause of the 2021 blackout.
“We know that it will take several years from this day forward to get [power] plants in the ground to add more power,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said at a press conference touting the bills. “But this is the beginning of that process.”
The plan to create a backup fleet of power plants, outlined in Senate Bill 6, is not a new one. It was first proposed last legislative session by the company Berkshire Hathaway as a way to protect Texas from further blackouts.
“This program is a true backup program,” said Georgetown Republican Sen. Charles Schwertner, one of the authors of the bill. “That’s why people buy generators for their home. The same reason that Texas needs its own backup generation.”
He said Senate Bill 6 would also create a bank of public money to help finance the maintenance and operations of existing power plants.
Another bill, Senate Bill 607, would force wind and solar power generators to pay a sort of credit to guarantee they can deliver power, something that would increase the cost of renewable energy in Texas.
Still another bill, Senate Bill 2015, would require at least 50% of new power generators built to be “dispatchable” generators.
State lawmakers often use the term “dispatchable” to refer to fossil fuel and nuclear generators, which can be turned off and on, and are not dependent on the wind or sun to generate power.
Senate Bill 2015 would also direct state regulators to encourage the marketing of gas-generated electricity as “green” energy.
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