Renewable energy leads growth for Texas’ electric grid

HOUSTON — Renewable energy from windy West Texas has outpaced the growth of coal, natural gas and other resources feeding Texas’ electric grid, according to a recent report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Texas breezes and other sources of renewable energy provided about 1 percent of the state’s electric supply in 2001, but have grown to a share of more than 10 percent this year. Meanwhile, coal and natural gas — even though both have grown in absolute terms — remained relatively constant at around 35 percent and 50 percent of the state’s electric supply respectively, the EIA reports.

The growth in renewable resources comes as the state’s electric grid, strained by the demands of economic growth and blazing summers, has fallen into the crosshairs of state regulators. In recent months, the state’s Public Utility Commission has been mulling changing the market so power generators are paid to keep enough capacity available for the hottest summer days, when electricity demand peaks.

Some regulators fear the state is going to be short on generating resources in coming years and that power prices are too low to attract new investment. Texas’ current energy-only market pays generators only for the power they provide, not for maintaining extra capacity. The prospect of implementing a capacity market has stoked investment plans among big generators, such as Houston-based Calpine Corp.

The strained electric network has in part driven the scramble for wind farms popping up around the state. Renewable resources began to see a larger share of the electric grid around 2007, EIA data shows.

Last year, Texas added enough wind energy capacity to power 913,000 homes during typical conditions and more than 365,000 homes during scorching summer months. That was double the wind power increase in California, runner up to the Lone Star State, according to the Department of Energy.

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