Houston to buy half its power from renewable sources

(Michael Paulsen / Houston Chronicle)
(Michael Paulsen / Houston Chronicle)

The city of Houston has agreed to purchase half its electricity from renewable sources.

That will make Houston the largest municipal purchaser of renewable energy in the nation, according to the city, which cited estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Houston is already known as the energy capital of the world, but we are committed to becoming the alternative energy capital of the world as well,” Mayor Annise Parker said in a written statement Thursday.

“Purchasing green power reduces the environmental impacts of electricity use, decreases the cost of renewable power over time and supports the development of new renewable generation,” she added.

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The move comes as renewable energy is getting a boost from all quarters. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas reported this spring that generation from renewable sources grew by 7 percent in 2012.

On Thursday, the city announced that it had signed an agreement with Reliant Energy to purchase 140 megawatts of renewable power between July 1 and June 30, 2015, accounting for half of its annual electricity demand.

The transaction is done through the purchase of renewable energy credits. According to the announcement, the city committed $2 million for the two-year agreement.

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Environmentalists praised the move.

“From promoting electric vehicles to adopting some of the strongest energy efficiency standards in the country, Houston is a rising star among clean energy cities,” said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas.

He cited a November 2011 report by the Environment Texas Research and Policy Center that calculated by 2030, improvements in energy efficiency and expanded solar power in the Houston metro area could reduce demand for electricity from fossil fuels by enough to power 627,000 homes, while expanded deployment of electric vehicles would avoid consumption of more than 104 million gallons of gasoline annually.

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