August 16, 2010
If lawmakers next year expand the renewable portfolio standards for electric generation to 13,000 with about one-fourth of that set aside for solar power, Texas could expect to add nearly 23,000 jobs a year for the next decade and almost $279 million more in state and local tax collections, a study released today shows.
The study, Texas’ Clean Economy … What We Need to Succeed, by former Chief Deputy Comptroller Billy Hamilton, argues that the state has a vast untapped potential to become a national leader in solar generation – just as it did to become the nation’s top wind generator when lawmakers launched an ambitious RPS goal in 1999.
“We were a leader (in wind energy) in the past decade because the state Legislature was willing to enact a renewable portfolio standard that made clean energy and renewable sources a priority,” Hamilton said during news conference this morning in the Capitol. “In 2009, nearly a third of all the wind power in the United States came from Texas.”
But, the Legislature missed a prime opportunity in 2009 when a bill to establish an RPS for solar died in the House after passing the Senate by a 24-7 margin.
Hamilton acknowledged that a boost to the RPS would come with a cost, but he said it would probably be equivalent to an average customer buying one postage stamp each day.
The study was funded by the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, which was established by legendary Houston oilman George Mitchell, who in his retirement years has become a leading proponent of renewable energy sources.
The study was quickly embraced by state Sen. Kirk Watson and state Rep. Mark Strama, both Austin Democrats who sponsored the solar RPS bill last year.
Watson said that for too long, advocates for cleaner energy sources and those in the traditional oil and gas arena acted as adversaries. He described it as a “de facto two-party system” for energy policy.
But he said the antagonism between the two camps has thawed of late, given that the solar bill cleared the Senate 24-7 and was poised to also pass the House before the late-session slowdown over Voter ID effectively derailed that and numerous other pieces of legislation.
“If we don’t pass something next session, we will have abdicated our responsibility to create jobs,” Watson said.