Environment

Texas led the country in new renewable energy projects last year

Transmission towers are shown on June 15, 2021 in Houston, Texas. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which controls approximately 90% of the power in Texas, has requested Texas residents to conserve power through Friday as temperatures surge in the state.
Brandon Bell | Getty Images

Texas led the country in building new renewable energy projects last year, according to a report released this week by the American Clean Power Association, continuing a promising trend in a state that’s largely dependent on planet-warming fossil fuels.

Texas installed 7,352 megawatts of new wind, solar and energy installation projects in 2021, significantly outpacing California, which installed 2,697 megawatts of storage projects. Oklahoma, Florida and New Mexico were the other top producing states.

Texas also surpassed other states in the amount of storage it has under construction or in advanced development, reaching nearly 20,000 megawatts, followed by California at nearly 14,000 megawatts.

Texas is experiencing a rise in renewable energy deployment not necessarily due to concerns over human-caused climate change, but rather because of the low costs of renewable energy sources like solar and wind development.

Republicans for decades have overseen the the energy sector in Texas, which still ranks 10th in the country for fossil fuel consumption, as nearly 90% of its energy is derived from fossil fuels and only about 7% derived from renewable sources.

Texas has avoided federal regulation by establishing its own power grid that’s nearly cut off from the rest of the country. During a winter storm in 2021, the system collapsed amid a surge in demand and frozen utility plants, which then increased energy prices and triggered the state’s worst blackouts in decades.

During the state’s grid failure, Gov. Greg Abbott, along with other conservative state leaders, falsely blamed the outages on renewable energy sources like wind and solar. However, most of the outages stemmed from problems with limited natural gas production and frozen supplies at natural gas, coal and nuclear facilities, and not from solar and wind failures.

More broadly, energy from fossil fuel production accounts for more than 80% of total consumption across the country, despite the growing investment in renewables, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The U.S. last year installed 27,773 megawatts of wind, solar and energy storage, down 3% from the previous year, according to the American Clean Power Association report. Cumulative wind, solar and energy storage capacity hit 200,000 megawatts, which is equivalent to 200 gigawatts. Solar power was also up 19%, energy storage was up 196% and wind was down 25% compared to the previous year.

“Surpassing over 200 gigawatts of clean energy is a significant milestone for the United States and shows that we can achieve even more with strong public policy support for the industry,” Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association, said in a statement.

“Although the U.S. has reached this incredible achievement, more needs to be done, at a faster pace, to reach the climate goals and targets our country needs to achieve,” Zichal said.

House Democrats recently reupped calls for President Joe Biden to move ahead with the $555 billion in climate and clean energy investments already passed by the House as part of the Build Back Better Act.

The climate portion of the legislation represents the largest-ever federal investment in clean energy and would help the U.S. get roughly halfway to meeting Biden’s pledge to slash emissions in half from 2005 levels by 2030, according to the nonpartisan analysis firm Rhodium Group.

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