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Unplugging Texas Most Powerful Polluters

In January 2002, Texas opened its electric system to competition. Texans concerned about the environment hoped that a significant number of consumers would choose power produced by clean, renewable sources. Despite the benefits of green power and the escalating costs of fossil fuel and nuclear plants, the green market has failed to take off: voluntary purchases of renewable energy account for less than 1% of Texas’ power sales.

Green market success would benefit the entire state, boosting the Texas economy and cleaning up the Texas environment. The hidden costs of dirty power continue to mount, from pollution that harms public health to water use that drains Texas’ limited supply.

Deregulating the electric market to give consumers the choice to buy green power was an important beginning, but the green market cannot make a significant dent in the retail electricity market without help. Policies and incentives should promote the green energy that benefits everyone.

Key Findings

1. Despite the economic and environmental benefits, the green market has failed to take off in Texas’ newly deregulated electric market. Renewable power purchases represent less than 1% of Texas’ energy sales.

2. Texas leads the nation in potential renewable power production. Wind in Texas alone could produce  250,000 megawatts of power—that’s 10% of the nation’s electricity and four times Texas’ current total generating capacity. Exploring this resource could provide a huge number of jobs and economic benefits to Texans.

3. The costs of dirty power continue to grow, taxing the environment and public health. Almost 60% of Texans breathe air that fails to meet federal standards designed to protect public health, which leads to the illness and death of thousands of Texans each year.

4. Texas ranks number one in power plant emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx), key contributors to smog, acid rain and global climate change. Power plants also take in half of all water used in the nation—Texas power plants alone use 13,400 million gallons per day to generate electricity.

5. The green market cannot succeed through market forces alone. In the first half a year of deregulation, less than five percent of consumers with a choice have switched electric providers despite the presence of cheaper, cleaner power in every service area. Public policy options must promote the green market that benefits all Texans.

To view the complete report,  click here.

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