Report: Renewable energy to soar on Texas grid

Renewable energy could supply more than 40 percent of the electricity for Texas by 2032, according to a report issued Tuesday.

Wind and solar energy are projected to contribute 25 to 43 percent of total power generation in the next 20 years, benefiting from technology improvements and compatibility with natural gas, The Brattle Group said in a report on natural gas and renewables, prepared for the Texas Clean Energy Coalition.

And for those concerned that the surge in renewables will dampen natural gas’ prospects, researchers said that the two forms actually have a mutually beneficially relationship. Natural gas plants can be fired up quickly, to replace renewable energy when generation conditions are poor, making them an important part of a shift increased renewable energy.

“You see growth in both forms of generation,” said Peter Fox-Penner, chairman of The Brattle Group, discussing the results of the study in a webcast. “When you have so much additional generation and it comes from gas and renewables, you could say that once is displacing the other, but we mostly see them growing together.”

The Brattle Report also predicts that no new coal plants will be built in the state, even though the existing ones are expected to remain profitable, unless new policies significantly increase carbon capture requirements.

The report provides a 20-year outlook for natural gas and renewable power in Texas, creating a range of models and prices to show how various policy decisions could affect how renewable and natural gas energy is used. Its release comes days after President Obama ordered the federal government to increase its renewable energy use to 20 percent by 2020, as part of a push to increase renewable energy’s profile.

The report also found that power grids can add much larger amounts of renewable energy without reliability issues, contradicting concerns that too much renewable power would compromise the grid.

Texas is the country’s largest generator of wind energy, with more than 12,000 megawatts of installed capacity.

Texas is also the leading generator of natural gas and almost half of its electricity comes from natural gas plants. New electricity capacity from combined cycle natural gas plants, which can currently generate about 31,000 megawatts, is expected to grow by more than 60 percent by 2032.

The report authors also expect nearly all future natural gas plants to be combined-cycle gas turbine plants rather than traditional gas turbines, because of their flexibility and efficiency.


Editor's Note: This report for the Texas Clean Energy Coalition was funded by the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation. 

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