Texas, the country’s second largest state in population, should not be a surprise when it comes to a compelling future in renewable energy. The state has leading universities, an entrepreneurial culture, and an energy infrastructure full of professionals that know how to take technology to scale. Texas has a business friendly climate, and not just for the oil and gas industry.
The Lone Star State has already met its goal of having 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity 15 years ahead of schedule. Now an independent foundation released a report stating that Texas’s renewable energy future could include almost 23,000 jobs a year and $2.7 billion in local and state tax revenues. Could clean tech follow high tech and biotech as Texas giants?
The report, announced earlier this week at the State Capitol in Austin, is the work of the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation. In sum, the study proposes the state could become a catalyst for the renewable energy industry, and envisions three scenarios:
- For an approximate $13 increase in residential energy bills, the state could gain a 20% growth in its renewable energy capacity, which in turn would create the best possible scenario, the presumed 22,900 additional clean energy jobs added annually. State revenues would also reach the aforementioned $2.7 billion mark. Many residents would probably balk at this—or would the “price of a postage stamp” daily argument work?
- In a baseline scenario, a statewide $4 utility bill increase would create about 6000 new jobs annually, and net a 15% percent increase in Texas’s renewable energy capacity. Texas would also gain close to $1 billion in revenues, with the state and municipalities splitting that gain about 80-20%.
- If Texas stays the course, there would be some modest growth in job creation, economic growth and tax revenues, but nothing approaching the baseline or best-possible scenarios.
Some state leaders touted this report, led by former state official Billy Hamilton, as a reason to pass laws in the 2011 legislative session that would incentivize the renewable energy sector. They will have several challenges: a state budget deficit, the amount of initial investment needed to jumpstart such measures, and the argument that increased energy costs can affect those on fixed incomes.
But Texas also has a history of using tax incentives and other financial hooks to grow its technology sector; adopted tax policies to boost its natural gas industry; and used policies like a Renewable Portfolio Standard to strengthen the wind power industry. Texas certainly has the foundation, and could attract plenty of talent, easily lured by low taxes, housing prices, and of course, that scenic Hill Country.