Report predicts big benefits for green industry in Texas
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An independent foundation released an economic study Monday, outlining potential benefits Texas stands to gain if it invests in renewable energy programs.
State leaders joined together at the Texas Capitol Monday morning to tout the report
, released by The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation. The study states that if the state chooses to invest in renewable energy programs, it could spur the creation of 22,900 new jobs a year and $2.7 billion annually in local and state tax revenue.
The report suggests the state model legislation to incentivize green energy investment in Texas, and, based on three potential scenarios, increase energy costs for consumers.
In the high-range scenario, the report estimates that for a 20 percent increase in the state’s clean energy generating capacity, the average Texan would see their energy bill increase by an average of $13 a month. The report says this scenario would create an average of 22,900 jobs per year for the next decade.
Source: Billy Hamilton Consulting: U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Annual 2008 and Annual Energy Outlook 2010 Appendices
In the baseline scenario, the average residential consumer would see an increase of $4 a month by 2020, for a 15 percent increase in the state's clean energy generating capacity. As discussed above and in the report, this moderate scenario would create 6,000 new jobs per year and generate gains in state productivity as well as increased state and local tax revenues.
Lastly, the low-range scenario is based on Texas’ share of U.S. renewable electric generating capacity at its low point of 2.2 percent in 2004. In this case, the report predicts that the clean energy sector would continue to be a steady source of job creation and economic growth, but would not thrive as in the other scenarios.
State leaders in support of expanding the renewable energy industry in Texas hope to pass legislation in the beginning of the 2011 legislative session.
"Being for a clean energy economy is being for Texas continuing its dominant role as an economic developer, as a business and job creator in the area of energy," state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said.
The report notes that Texas may face carbon dioxide emission costs if federal efforts to regulate emission standards take hold. Reducing the state's carbon footprint by investing in greener energy could then save the state money.
Consultant and former Texas chief deputy comptroller of public accounts, Billy Hamilton, produced the study.
"This is a competition to see where this economic engine of the future is sited and it needs to be sited here," Hamilton said. "It is entirely possible that if we are aggressive and take the lead among the states in clean energy we will get an even better result than these numbers suggest."
Hamilton also produced another study in July, detailing the difficulty of pruning the 2011 state budget, given economic factors and a budget shortfall.
In the Mitchell report, Hamilton acknowledges that new investments in renewable energy resources, "could impose a financial burden on low-income Texans, the elderly and the disabled."
In an effort to relieve that burden, the report suggests that the state take advantage of various public policies, such as the System Benefit Fund administered by the Public Utility Commission, that provide assistance for elderly and disabled Texans.
"Currently the System Benefit Fund has a balance of $610 million, which is more than adequate to provide appropriate support for low-income, elderly and disabled Texans so that they will not be adversely impacted," the report states. "Texas lawmakers may also choose to consider additional safeguards so that vulnerable Texans are held harmless."
The report also concedes that various factors that could inhibit green energy production efforts, one of which includes large capital spending costs associated with the transition to new smart grid power systems.
"Even clean energy will impose new costs on the electric power industry, both to integrate them into the fuel mix and to develop the transmission and storage infrastructure needed to make them fully reliable additions to generating capacity," the report states. "The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that electricity prices are very likely to climb, and the increase could be significant, particularly in the early years of a smart-grid build out. A continuation of flat real prices is a hopeful outlook but also an unlikely one."