Secretive committee of utility insiders could undermine Texas energy leadership and affordability

The Texas Legislature needs to ensure that self-interested electric generation actors are not sacrificing Texas families and businesses to protect their market share.

The following is a contributed article by Landon Stevens, policy director for the Conservative Energy Network.

Last month, the Texas State Energy Plan Advisory Committee voted 7-5 to narrowly approve its report to the Texas Legislature by a Sept. 1 deadline. Now lawmakers in the state are reviewing the recommendations that have been mired in controversy from the very beginning. The report submitted by the committee was constructed in secret with no open public input and was seemingly designed to give incumbent electric generators a windfall of billions of dollars while kneecapping clean energy competitors and making Texas families and businesses foot the bill. 

Created by Senate Bill 3 during the 2021 legislative session in response to Winter Storm Uri, the State Energy Plan Advisory Committee consists of 12 members with four members appointed by each of the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the house. The appointed members consist of representatives from groups like NRG Energy, ConocoPhillips, the Texas Oil and Gas Association, and electric cooperative utilities in the state. Notably absent from the committee is any representation by knowledgeable wind, solar or other clean energy developers, owners or operators. 

For decades, the unique structure of Texas’ electricity markets has been seen by many as the gold standard in balancing cost, reliability and innovation by encouraging free market competition and consumer choice as much as possible. In fact, a study produced by the Conservative Energy Network with the University of Texas at Austin showed that Texas received a passing mark on 11 of 13 possible points to measure the state of electric competition. However, following power outages during winter storm Uri, debate erupted and finger pointing began across the state.

One element of Texas’ competitive electricity sector is the extraordinary growth of clean energy led by market forces. From nearly 0% in 2002 when Texas instituted its competitive markets, renewable energy grew to 8% of electricity production in Texas by 2010 and was up to a full 25% of production in 2020. Last year alone, Texas led the nation by installing an additional 7,352 MW of wind, solar and storage projects — nearly three times that of the next highest state, California. These trends are driven by market demand, not government mandates.

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