Right now, Texas gets most of its electricity from coal and natural gas power plants. But a new report from the agency that runs Texas’ electric grid says the way the state generates electricity could be changing in the next few years.
As of today, all new energy in Texas will be clean energy. That’s according to a report released by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which oversees most of the Texas electric grid.
“These are the grid operators. They have their hands on the levers –moving all the power plants up and down,” says Michael Jacobs, an energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit science advocacy organization. “When they say the future is solar, nobody else can speak with that authority.”
ERCOT’s report models how Texas is likely to add power plants to its grid over the next 15 years. In all the scenarios they modeled, solar is the safest bet.
“I think what sets Texas apart is the combination of the open deregulated wholesale market and the ease with which new technologies can connect to the grid,” says Warren Lasher of ERCOT.
He means that in Texas, if you can get a power source up and running, you can plug into the grid. In other states, older energy sources enjoy protections, which discourage new competitors. Right now, solar provides less than 1 percent of Texas’ electricity. But the price of solar continues to drop and, if current trends continue, ERCOT says 17 percent of our power will come from the sun by the year 2031 – with no additional coal or natural gas sources. In fact, in all of ERCOT’s predictions, solar dominates.
“This is a model, this is not a crystal ball,” Lasher says. “What is striking though, is, that, solar is coming through as a competitive resource in all of the different scenarios. Is it going to be the only thing that gets built in ERCOT going forward? I think that’s probably a stretch.”
But the report does show that solar energy has reached an important tipping point, a good sign for the energy future of Texas.
“So, this is a great indication that there will be little cost once you get to these tipping points. And so Texas is showing the way, that we’re headed in the right direction.”
ERCOT will be discussing its findings in full on Tuesday in Austin. The meeting is open to the public.