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Gearing up for a wild ride in Texas

Posted by Annie Carmichael

The Texas legislative session starts in a week, and Vote Solar is ready to help local advocates launch ultra-ambitious, yet completely achievable, solar policy initiatives. We’re going all out this session, waging a strategic campaign that could bring up to 6,000 megawatts of solar online by 2020. For perspective, that’s double California’s solar goal.
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Every two years, for six quick months, Texas legislators convene in Austin to chart the state’s energy future. Call them the cicadas of state legislatures.

The next legislative session starts in a week, and Vote Solar is gearing up to help local advocates launch ultra-ambitious, yet completely achievable, solar policy initiatives. We’re going all out this session, waging a strategic campaign that could bring up to 6,000 megawatts of solar online by 2020. For perspective, that’s double California’s solar goal. Texas already knows a thing or two about the clean energy economy – they’re the leading market for wind in the U.S. But for a state with 32 million people and the best solar resources in the country, solar energy comes in at less than 0.01 % of the electricity mix.

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If we are successful, and believe me it’s going to be a complicated, exciting and sustained hustle, in ten years Texas will be the national wind and solar capital. We are looking to develop solar in all sectors – residential, commercial and utility-scale – by creating an incentive program and ramping up the Renewable Portfolio Standard. We also plan to work on net metering, tax issues, and clearing the way for innovative financing arrangements. If you’re interested in the details you can always email me at annie@votesolar.org.

I just spent three days in Austin strategizing with the experts – folks from Public Citizen, Environment Texas, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association, and local solar companies. In true Texas fashion, the state’s energy landscape is like no other. Texans can purchase electricity from over 100 investor owned utilities, not to mention countless municipal and rural cooperative electric provides. All this makes the state one of the most competitive electricity markets in the world. We’re told that Texas policy makers pride themselves on this market-oriented structure and thus have a history of eschewing mandatory renewable energy polices.

Fortunately we have some aces in our pockets, like the fact that solar is not just an energy policy, it’s the serious economic development strategy- offering more jobs per megawatt to the state than any other energy resource.

Next comes the fun part: building grassroots support for these ambitious goals. Legislators are going to need to hear the call for solar loud and clear, so if you have friends, family, or colleagues in the LoneStarState, please let them know we’d like their help. Joining our online action center will give them easy access to the latest news, information and tools for making their voices heard.

All in all, it was a great visit. And it certainly helped that Austin is a blast; swimming in Barton Springs, listening to a great alt-country band at The Collective, playing charades late into the night with local renewable energy advocates, what more could a girl ask for? Well, 6,000 megawatts of solar for starters.