We do not have to choose between fossil fuels and renewables – we need both
By Tom Giovanetti | March 15, 2023
Texans are descended from a tough bunch, or moved here because they wanted to be in a place where sterner stuff still exists. But us modern, citified Texans are still scarred from the Great Freeze of 2021.
I should call it the Great Power Crisis of 2021, because that was really the issue. It was the worst energy infrastructure failure in Texas history, causing the deaths of hundreds and nearly $200 billion in property damage. Every heat wave or cold snap since has caused chills to run up and down the spines of Texans like me who never quite got around to buying and installing a home backup generator.
We now understand that it was largely a failure of the natural gas delivery infrastructure, not the failure of renewables, that caused the crisis. I’m a huge proponent of natural gas as a clean, safe, abundant, inexpensive source of energy, but I’m not a hack like those who rushed to try to pin the blame on renewables because of their own financial interests. You have to be truthful about the facts in order to actually solve problems and prevent future disasters.
Far too many of our elected Republicans in Austin have maintained this fiction that renewables were to blame, however, and this lie is affecting policy choices. They mistakenly think that one must prove one’s support for fossil fuels by demeaning and defeating renewable energy sources, when the truth is that Texas needs more of everything, and shouldn’t be discouraging a single megawatt of generation from contributing to the resilience of the Texas grid.
For instance, the debate over renewing Chapter 313, passed into law as the Texas Economic Development Act, includes proposals that would exclude tax breaks for renewable projects. Now, it’s intellectually consistent to oppose tax breaks for any and all development projects, and it’s consistent to allow them for any legal development projects. But by excluding renewable projects from incentives that are available to any other business, Texas Republicans are doing precisely what they claim to reject — having government pick winners and losers, instead of letting markets and competition and the price mechanism determine how energy generation is allocated and distributed.
Too many of my fellow Texas Republicans, who claim to believe in free markets and innovation, are positioning themselves against both, and in the process against enhanced energy reliability and against Texas consumers. We’ve seen the problem with cutting things too close — Texans need more of all of the above: natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal and anything else that will feed power into our growing Texas economy.
Soon, Texas will begin to have large-scale battery storage facilities around the state, which will greatly enhance the resiliency of the grid. These storage purchasers will be able to buy power from the lowest cost available supplies and then resell into the grid when their resources are needed. Energy storage providers are going to be agnostic about the source of the megawatts they purchase, and will facilitate a beneficial new market in backup energy.
Texas law should be equally agnostic about our sources of energy generation. Our laws and regulations should not mandate one form of energy over another or subsidize one over another. We shouldn’t favor politically preferred energy sources and discriminate against others. Frankly, politics should have nothing to do with it. More of everything should be Texas’ energy policy, and any and every law passed during this legislative session should more toward abundance, not away from it.