Little-known committee takes aim at wind, solar power in Texas grid recommendations

The Legislature should consider requirements that would make generating renewable energy more expensive, a new report says.

AUSTIN — One of the recommendations a little-known group of fossil fuel and electricity industry insiders has for Texas lawmakers would likely increase the cost of generating wind and solar power in the state.

Under Senate Bill 3 last year, the Legislature called for a new State Energy Plan Advisory Committee that would submit recommendations for the future of Texas’ electric grid.

The members, who were appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan, met only twice, at the Austin headquarters of the Lower Colorado River Authority, to produce a 100-page report that was narrowly approved, 7-5, with little deliberation.


Lawmakers could rely on the report during next year’s legislative session, when lawmakers are expected to consider additional grid legislation to address failures that led to blackouts in February 2021 and killed more than 200 people.

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The report concludes that Texas’ power grid has grown more vulnerable because of the rising importance of wind and solar power, so-called intermittent energy, in Texas’ array of more than 1,000 electricity generating facilities. In the past decade, wind has become the second leading power source in Texas behind natural gas, which continues to power about half the grid.


Solar is also ascendant in Texas and could be set to explode as a power source under new subsidies in the Inflation Reduction Act that Congress passed last month. A recent report from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas found that about half of new electricity projects in Texas are solar power, while only about 5% are natural gas.

But the committee’s report cautions against the grid becoming too reliant on intermittent power sources, as well as batteries.

“The more that power systems rely on wind, solar, and battery storage systems, the greater the risk that a major grid disturbance will cause the grid to cascade into a blackout condition,” the report states.


The conclusion is at odds with studies from the University of Texas and the Federal Electric Regulatory Commission, which found freezes at power plants and natural gas wells and pipelines to be leading causes of blackouts during the winter storm. A report commissioned by the natural gas industry disputes these findings.

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The committee’s report recommends requiring wind and solar to complement their generating capacity by purchasing or creating “dispatchable” energy to offset any lack of production when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining. Dispatchable energy generally refers to power that can be activated with the flip of a switch, with natural gas the most prevalent source.

As part of the report, committee member Joel Mickey, an Austin-area energy consultant and former director of grid operations at ERCOT, wrote that the dispatchable requirement is “discriminatory” and “ignores the fundamental purpose of ERCOT.”

Mickey said that, if renewable energy generators were forced to purchase large amounts of power from competitors, thousands of megawatts of existing renewable resources would shut down and new generators would be discouraged from joining the ERCOT grid.

“Both results will reduce reliability in ERCOT and increase the likelihood of emergency conditions or rotating outages,” he wrote.

Retired Houston banker Mark Ammerman, one of Patrick’s committee appointments, also wrote in dissent, saying the group’s work is incomplete and its effectiveness was doomed from the get-go.

“The report [lawmakers] will be presented representing the work of this committee is inadequate. There are several things that are unstudied but obvious to those on the committee,” Ammerman wrote, referring to how, among other things, the committee did not hear testimony about battery storage at either of its meetings.


Many of the other recommendations in the report are similar to provisions in power grid legislation passed in 2021 that have not been completed. The author of Senate Bill 3, Georgetown Republican Sen. Charles Schwertner, has described the State Energy Plan Advisory Committee as a backstop in case the Public Utility Commission fails to address grid failures.

The PUC has been quite active, however, with commissioners planning major improvements to Texas’ grid through a market redesign that places a premium on resiliency as opposed to cheap power, which could increase costs.