The Texas Triple Play

Already the country’s leading producer of oil and gas and wind energy, Texas has an opportunity to take the lead in generating solar energy too. It’s the perfect triple play. Texas has more sun than any other state, ample land resources for large scale and distributed solar installations, and a tremendous need for domestic energy generation. Solar is an ideal solution and the market is growing exponentially in markets where a favorable regulatory scheme exists. So how can we jump start this industry in Texas?

Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) has introduced HB 2961 to do just that. This legislation will establish a solar generation program with a goal of installing 1,000 MW of solar over five years. Funded with a modest, voluntary contribution by electricity consumers, the program will provide rebates for wholesale generation as well as for residential and commercial distributed systems. This is the type of stable, predictable policymaking that can attract long-term investment in Texas. When California initiated a similar program, it delivered enormous results in only 4 years, such as: driving $4.5 billion of private sector investment into California solar companies, delivering $1.3 billion in net cost savings for public agencies and non-profit organizations that deployed solar, and creating over 36,000 permanent, good paying solar jobs all over the state. This is the type of policy that makes good sense and cents.

Most importantly, Texans want more solar energy and are willing to invest in its expansion. A December 2010 Baseline and Associates poll found that 70% of Texans were willing to pay more on their electricity bills to spur a new and potentially explosive energy industry. And a host of big box companies as well as industrial entities and business interests have lined up behind the bill, which already has widespread bipartisan support.

Not to carry my sports analogy too far, but this legislation could really allow Texas to knock it out of the park with a robust, local solar industry. Let’s hope this bill gets a quick committee hearing and passage through to the Senate where a similarly structured bill has been introduced by Senator Fraser.

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