More on The Big Texas Wind Decision

puc_commissioners Public Utility Commission members Julie Parsley, Chairman Barry Smitherman and Paul Hudson at Thursday’s meeting. Smitherman and Hudson voted to move forward on projects to build billions of dollars worth of new electric transmission lines to bring wind energy from West Texas to urban areas. (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)

As our Chronicle colleague Janet Elliot in Austin reports today:

The land of oil and gas is staking a big chunk of its energy future on the Texas wind with Thursday’s decision by utility regulators to build nearly $5 billion worth of transmission capacity.

She notes that Commissioner Paul Hudson and Chairman Barry Smitherman supported the transmission proposal, but Commissioner Julie Parsley said she is concerned about putting too much wind into the state’s power system.
Here’s how others covered the news:
The Associated Press includes this observation:

“People think about oil wells and football in Texas, but in 10 years, they’ll look back and say this was a brilliant thing to do,” said Patrick Woodson, vice president of E.On Climate & Renewables North America, which has about 1,200 megawatts of wind projects already in use or planned in Texas.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s take includes:

Paul Sadler, a former East Texas lawmaker who now heads a consortium of businesses called the Wind Coalition, said the panel’s “historic decision will not only greatly increase wind production in Texas, it will reduce the total carbon output of the power industry and apply downward pressure to electric rates.”

The Abiline Reporter-News includes this comment from a PUC spokesman:
“The only thing that could delay … is someone could take us to court on this,” Damon Withrow said.
Drew Thornley at planetgore points out some of the ratepayer fallout:

Among the bad news for ratepayers is that these billions of dollars in transmission costs will be distributed among all ERCOT utilities, in proportion to their relative load. Thus, conventional generators will pay much more than wind generators, even though the new transmission lines will be built in order to accommodate new wind capacity. These costs will subsequently be passed on to all ERCOT ratepayers. In other words, the costs of the legislatively mandated wind-energy boom will be socialized across the state, while the developers rake in subsidies, enjoy accelerated depreciation on their equipment, and get fat tax breaks.

(On a more positive note, the PUCT agreed that Texas should not back down at all from nuclear power.)

CNBC’s take on the impact of the announcement soon after it came over:

Quanta Services should get the “lion’s share” of those contracts.
But “everything wind is going to get a multiday move,” Cramer said, “even with oil going down.”
While oil has dropped about $5 today, these wind plays work as long as the price per barrel stays above $100.
Cramer recommended another stock with wind-power exposure, Owens Corning. OC makes the composites for wind-mill blades, so the company should also get a lot of business out of the new Texas initiative.

The Amarillo Globe-Mail notes how Northwest Texas is getting ready for the ongoing boom:

Schools in the region hope to deliver skilled workers to the growing wind-energy industry.
“Wind energy is more and more on the radar,” said Paul Matney, vice president and dean of instruction at Amarillo College. “We can’t be too far ahead of the curve with the industry, but we can’t be too far behind.”
A work group is investigating what it might do to train students to do operations and maintenance jobs on wind farms. Later this month, it will host industry representatives.
“We’re trying to get a read from industry, some of the owner-operators,” Matney said. “Would you be interested in hiring our students? What do they need to know to do the job?”

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