Let’s Take a Look Inside Texas

Earlier this month, I attended my first RE+ Texas event in Austin so I thought I would write about the growth in Texas in this month's Recruiter's Outlook. RE+ Events said attendance (which surpassed 1,400) broke an attendee record for their regional Texas event. As with all RE+ regional events, it was well organized and very well attended.

Texas has always been a powerhouse in wind energy. With 92 Terawatt-hours of output, representing 20% of the state's overall energy production, Texas creates more wind energy than any other state. But thanks to blackouts and mismanagement at ERCOT, solar and battery energy storage in Texas is also fast growing.

In 2021 and 2022, no US state added more solar capacity than Texas. (California still leads in total cumulative solar installed.) Last year, more wind and solar projects (in megawatts) in Texas were added to the grid than natural gas-fired power plants in the state. Natural gas-fired plants' capacity has remained flat for the last 20 years in Texas while renewables have been booming. Is it totally ERCOT's fault? Of course not, the Texas grid was not built for today's electricity demand.

Extreme weather in Texas the last few years has increased the need for electricity, not to mention the fast-growing business of cryptocurrency is leaving Texas "gasping for electricity," as Texas has the most energy-sucking Bitcoin mines than any other state in the US. Read more from this New York Times article.

Not everyone is excited about renewable energy development in Texas. This article from Renewable Energy World hit my inbox earlier this week and talks about residents in west Texas trying to shut down projects during town hall meetings. Unfortunately, this is nothing new in the world of big project development, but, nonetheless, this type of disagreement on energy still creates social friction and continues to fuel news headlines. New Republican-led legislation could serious hurt wind and solar projects as it relates to adjacent properties of cited projects. Some of our active project developer customers are pausing on ERCOT development until further information is released on this law. As renewable energy projects grow in Texas, so does the talent pool. SEIA claims Texas is home to 10,000 jobs in solar alone and the DOE claims that 25,000 jobs support the wind industry. Texas added 31,000 new energy jobs in 2021 — more than any other state. The full report from USEER can be found here.

When I started EnergeiaWorks in 2011, nobody asked for Texas hires. Now, hiring in Texas is part of our normal activity. Obviously the question is, does ERCOT have enough transmission lines to support all the utility-scale projects? According to ERCOT, they are currently "critically evaluating planning processes and pursuing changes necessary to meet challenges associated with the evolving grid." Not sure about you, but to me, that sounds like tons of delays and increased costs.

ERCOT is currently reviewing $500M in transmission improvement projects and I can almost guarantee that the cost will be passed along to the project developers. As I heard from our guest speaker, Lauren Williams-Elstein, "our industry has both headwinds and tailwinds." And this quote just about sums up the current landscape for renewables in Texas. But solar, wind, and storage isn't going away. This is the new energy! ERCOT and the utilities will figure it out for their rate payers. Texas is just getting started! 

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April 30, 2023 William V. Liuzza

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