Texas ranks high for green job growth

WASHINGTON — Texas added nearly 800 clean energy jobs during the first three months of the year, putting the Lone Star State second in the nation just behind Idaho and well above California, according to an analysis released Thursday.

But that’s where the good news ends, according to Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), the non-partisan business group that put out the figures.

Although E2 counted 5,600 new clean energy and clean transportation jobs announced nationwide during the first quarter, that’s fewer than half the 12,000 reported in the same time frame last year, and it marks a steep drop from the past two quarters.

E2 Executive Director Bob Keefe suggests more declines could be on the horizon, amid uncertainty about the future of state mandates and federal tax incentives driving renewable energy investments around the country.

“Congress pulled the plug on smart clean energy tax policies at the end of last year, while in the states, lawmakers are getting bullied by special interests that don’t want our country to produce more clean, renewable energy,” Keefe said in a statement.

Texas success: Renewable energy production up 12 percent

The biggest hit at the federal level is the disappearance of the renewable energy production tax credit which allows project owners to reduce tax bills by 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced over 10 years.

Prospects for quickly reauthorizing the credit are slim, with the Senate stalemated over a measure to extend it and a slew of other expired tax breaks, and House leaders committed to tackling the provisions individually.

Wind industry leaders who have championed the PTC also are up against significant opposition in the House from lawmakers who say it is no longer needed.

An investment tax credit that has been used to finance solar projects with long lead times is also set to expire in 2016.

Tax credits for investing in efficiency improvements and constructing efficient homes also are in limbo.

Outside of Washington, D.C., in statehouses across the country, lawmakers also are weighing measures that would scale back or repeal existing mandates that utilities derive some of their electricity from renewable sources such as the wind and sun.

New customers: Transmission line could expand Texas wind market outside state

So far, renewable energy advocates have been prevailing in most of those fights, most notably when the Kansas House voted to retain the state’s requirement that utilities draw 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. But a similar battle is under way in Ohio, where the state Senate has passed legislation to freeze efficiency and renewable energy targets for 2014.

E2’s assessment, updated quarterly, tracks announcements of new jobs tied to renewable energy sources, including solar, wind and biomass, as well as initiatives involving recycling, public transportation infrastructure, smart meters, transmission improvements and building efficiency.

Nationwide, the group documented a shift in the solar sector, from larger, utility-scale projects to residential initiatives and distributed solar generation. Some sun-drenched states, such as California, have exceeded state quotas for renewable energy, which may be one reason for the shift.

In Texas, the group counted four big new projects: the Barilla Solar project in Pecos County, the Plainview Orchard Wind project in Plainview, the First Wind project in Armstrong and Carson counties and Austin-based Thomas Biodiesel’s plans to locate a 25,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Temple. The wind and solar projects announced in Texas during the first quarter have a combined capacity of 249 megawatts.

Texas narrowly lost the top spot by 11 jobs to Idaho, where a single project — a 25-megawatt geothermal project — is responsible for 800 planned jobs.

Other top-ranking states:

  • 3: California, with four projects tied to 660 jobs.
  • 4: Missouri, with three projects tied to 449 jobs.
  • 5: New York, with three projects tied to 435 jobs.
  • 6: Kansas, with two projects worth 355 jobs.
  • 7: Arizona, with two projects tied to 342 jobs.
  • 8: Hawaii, with two projects tied to 340 jobs.
  • 9: New Mexico, with two projects tied to 328 jobs.
  • 10: Louisiana, with 1 project tied to 300 jobs.

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