Richardson: Texas could take the lead on climate change

Houston is well-positioned to be the nation’s leader in a much-needed renewable energy future, former U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson told a group of officials and business leaders while speaking in Houston Thursday.

The meeting was one of several public gatherings that Richardson is holding with key city leaders across the country, in an effort to highlight the need for greater investment in renewable energy.

“Our objective is to build support for climate change,” said Richardson, who also served as New Mexico governor, in an interview following the meeting. “Houston has done a very good job in this arena, and if Texas takes the baton to lead on climate change and renewable energy — as a state that has oil and gas, that has renewable energy and has been a leader in wind and solar — it is going to be huge.”

Texas led the country in new wind capacity last year, adding about 1,826 megawatts in new wind capacity in 2012 -– about twice as much as California, which came in second, according to an annual Department of Energy report issued earlier this week.

Solar power is less developed in Texas, but it had the largest rate of growth last year, increasing by 265 percent to 133,642 megawatt- hours, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Richardson praised the City of Houston for promoting renewable energy through its own purchasing decisions. The Houston city government announced in June a huge renewable energy deal with Reliant to supply about half of the city’s anticipated electricity demand for the next two years.

“This is one of the most renewable energy cities in the country,” Richardson said. “What a lot of people don’t know is that you guys have taken up the challenge of creating the clean energy future. I think this is the state that could end up leading the country.”

Richardson acknowledged the creativity of Texans such as T. Boone Pickens in envisioning how renewable energy could be combined with fossil fuels as an initial bridge towards a carbon-free future.

“Boone Pickens had Texas-sized ideas of marrying up natural gas and wind for a clean energy future,” Richardson said. “Gas is so easy to ramp up or down.”

He noted that decisions such as building electric transmission lines in West Texas in anticipation of additional wind capacity represent the kind of forward planning he hopes will be replicated throughout the country.

“Texas – you are big,” Richardson said, noting that Texas’ unique role as the world’s leader for oil and gas also makes it well-suited to provide leadership for renewable energy. “There is so much opportunity in this state, that you can have it all and have it all in a sustainable way.”

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