SENATE GIVES TENTATIVE APPROVAL TO HIGHER GREEN ENERGY STANDARDS
|Senator Kirk Watson of Austin explains the benefits of an expanded renewable energy portfolio in Texas.|
(AUSTIN) — Texas would continue to add to its lead in renewable energy under a bill given tentative passage by the Senate on Monday. SB 541 by Austin Senator Kirk Watson would increase the amount of wind generated energy in Texas over the next decade, and would also encourage the development of other forms of renewable energy, like solar, geothermal and biomass generation. "Texas has the sun, the wind, the people and the demand," said Watson, referring to a statement by a solar generation company. "This is where [the renewable energy industry] wants to be if there is a long term commitment."
The bill would create two tiers of green energy standards in the state. Tier 1 generally refers to large scale wind farms, already found throughout west Texas. Tier 2 energy generation would refer to wind generation under 150 kilowatts, in addition to biomass, solar, and geothermal energy. The bill would increase the goal of tier 1 renewable energy capacity by 5000 megawatts by 2015, and 10,000 megawatts by 2025. The goals for tier 2 generation are more modest, 1500 megawatts by 2020.
Utilities that are required to purchase renewable energy could elect to pay an alternative fee rather than generating tier 1 or tier 2 energy. This fee would go toward the solar rebate program passed by the Senate earlier this year. The bill would also give the Public Utilities Commission flexibility to end the program if it isn't working by 2016. In that event, alternative payments made under the program go for rebates on residential and industrial electric bills. The bill will likely see a final vote later in the week.
Another bill passed by the Senate would give voters the choice to limit the power of eminent domain. SCR 42, by Senator Robert Duncan of Lubbock, would propose a constitutional amendment, for the November ballot, that would prevent the taking of private land for the purposes of economic development or increased tax revenue. That measure now heads to the House for further consideration.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, May 12 at 7 a.m. to consider the local and uncontested calendar, and will meet in regular session at 11 a.m.