As most of Texas continues to experience freezing temperatures this week, the underperformance of unreliable energy sources like wind and solar are once again raising questions about the state’s dependence on them.
While the Electric Reliability Council of Texas—the entity that oversees Texas’ power grid—says there will be “sufficient generation” to meet demand, the bulk of that power is coming from natural gas.
As of 10 a.m. on Wednesday, ERCOT reported that 68 percent of energy generation came from natural gas, with coal and lignite coming in second at 19 percent.
Solar accounted for 1 percent, while wind accounted for 3 percent.
The disparity is similar to that seen in the winter storm of February 2021, which saw millions of Texans without power in freezing temperatures as wind turbines froze and solar panels failed to produce significant electricity.
But despite their failure, Texas taxpayers have been forced to subsidize these failing energy generators.
Texas wind and solar generators obtained $19.4 billion in taxpayer-funded benefits and subsidies between 2006 and 2019 alone. According to Bill Peacock, an energy policy analyst and researcher, 28 percent of renewable generators’ income came from subsidies in 2018.
Much of that has come from the state’s controversial Chapter 313 corporate welfare program, which allows school districts to offer large tax breaks for 10 years to renewable energy and other businesses, including wind farms.
The tax breaks come at no loss to the school districts. Instead, the state supplements the lost revenue to the districts from sales taxes and other state-collected taxes.
The program has drawn criticism from both the right and left; both the Republican Party of Texas and the Democrat Party of Texas call for the abolition of Chapter 313 abatements in their party platforms.
While the Legislature did not renew the program in 2021, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan has repeatedly indicated interest in reviving the scheme.
“[S]omehow lobbyists in Texas and D.C. think we should be in the business of subsidizing Bird Killing Wind Turbines and Solar that delivers 0% on days like today,” said former Railroad Commission candidate Tom Slocum, who highlighted that natural gas, coal, and nuclear were delivering 96 percent of the power for the state.
It’s now 9:08am in Texas.
The sun has been up for well over 1.5hrs.
Windfarms in Texas are frozen over to the tune of 10,000MW!!!!
Nuclear, Natural Gas, and Coal are delivering 96% of the electricity for Texas right now!!!!
— Tom Slocum for Texas 🇺🇸 (@slocumfortexas) February 1, 2023
As for the state’s current lack of power generation from wind and solar, Agricultural Commissioner Sid Miller put his reaction simply: “Thank God for fossil fuels!”