Utility commissioners decline calls for mandatory solar energy targets

The Texas Public Utility Commission says it won’t mandate any non-wind alternative energy targets before 2025, rejecting environmentalists’ proposal to set a solar capacity target a decade sooner.

The Commission said it did not plan to support mandatory targets and investment for non-wind resources — such as solar and geothermal —  despite calls from environmentalists that these sources could relieve threats of an overburdened supply grid in the near future.

“Adopting a non-wind renewable mandate likely will result in a substantially higher electricity costs for Texas ratepayers,” the Commission wrote late last week in its response to the proposal.

Environmental groups had proposed that the Commission set a target of 500 megawatts of non-wind renewable capacity by 2015,  arguing that solar facilities could be developed more quickly than other conventional generation technologies and provide greater savings to consumers.

A coalition of 13 environmental groups, led by the Sierra Club, said that solar energy peaks on the same hot and sunny days when electricity demand in Texas is at its highest, and would be particularly well-suited to meet the time periods with the greatest threat of exceeding capacity demand.

“The coincidence of solar generation and consumer demand enhances the reliability of the … grid and helps to avoid rolling blackouts,” the environmental groups wrote in a September petition to the PUC. “In addition, the peaking nature of solar will reduce energy costs for Texas consumers by increasing the available capacity that can come online quickly during the hottest -periods.”

The PUC’s rejection of the proposal came the same day it voted to double the price cap per megawatt hour on wholesale electricity prices over the next three years. It said raising the cap was necessary to encourage more plant construction and prevent power outages in Texas.