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Competition due to the introduction of electricity deregulation in Texas has not only provided a healthy market for Texas energy consumers shopping or switching service providers, but the nature of how energy is bought and sold in Texas has also opened doors to a newer crop of energy sources.
The remaining untapped potential for green energy in Texas has prompted electric generation companies across the state to increase the generation and availability of green energy plans as an alternative to natural gas and petroleum.
The Texas Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) was created by Senate Bill 7 in 1999, initially setting the required level of renewable energy in the overall utility portfolio at 2,000 new megawatts (MW) by 2009.
Due to the passing of Senate Bill 20, that number will more than double to 5,880 MW by 2015 with a final goal of 10,000 by 2025. This is a hefty charge for a state that accounts for more than 12 percent of U.S. energy consumption and has traditionally generated a vast percentage of energy from natural gas and oil.
It is estimated that the renewable energy potential that could be generated from biomass, wind and solar resources in Texas equals nearly 4,330 quadrillion (4,330,000,000,000,000,000) British Thermal Units (BTUs), a whopping 400 times that of Texas’ yearly energy consumption.
Electric generation companies, because of deregulation and the RPS requirements, have steadily increased their production of renewable energy to a level that offers Texas consumers growing options for 100 percent pollution-free electricity.
Texas is number one in the U.S. for wind energy generation, boasting not only the country’s largest wind farm with the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, but also nearly 8,000 MW of installed wind energy capacity.
Both the West and North Texas regions hold huge potential for solar energy. In fact, Texas has the the highest such potential for wide-scale solar energy of any state in the nation due to the levels of direct solar radiation that could easily support larger scale solar power plants.
Biomass is produced in several ways in Texas; either via wood, waste or alcohol fuels, or with landfill gases, cattle manure and other forms of organic waste. Texas is the second leading agricultural producing state in the U.S., making it a prime land resource for biomass. Biomass is also the largest domestic resource of renewable energy available, recently passing hydroelectric power.
Typically, hydroelectric power is produced via dammed water that is passed through turbines and generators to produce electricity. Texas is not known for a high level of hydropower potential, though through hydroelectric, saline water and ocean energy the state does generate a portion of its renewable energy from water.
Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) are tradeable certificates that represent one megawatt-hour of renewable energy produced and placed on the electricity grid. In Texas, RECs are one way that Retail Electric Providers meet the requirements and demand for renewable energy.
Currently, the REC trading program is set to run through 2019 as part of the RPS in Texas.
In addition to being a viable option for consumers to purchase and offset their energy consumption and its impact on the environment, RECs offer Texas electricity providers that do not generate or purchase an adequate level of renewable energy capacity the option to fill the gaps in their energy portfolio.
Transmission and Distribution of Renewable Energy
In the past two years, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas approved a nearly $5-billion plan to build new transmission lines that would carry up to 18,456 megawatts (MW) of wind power from West Texas and the Texas Panhandle to cities across the state.
Though the new lines are speculated to be operational somewhere between 2011 and 2013, the plan would potentially increase available renewable energy produced from wind significantly. Not only would currently generated capacity of wind power be able to better reach metro areas across Texas, but nearly 12,000 new MW of wind power could also be produced and distributed to Texas consumers.