According to EcoWatch, the 2012 Long Term System Assessment of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) contains a very surprising finding. In this biannual report to the Texas legislature on energy transmission needs, ERCOT found that wind and solar are more competitive than natural gas over the next 20 years.
Wait a minute. This runs counter to the widely circulated and widely believed assumption that natural gas will be the cheapest power source for the foreseeable future – so cheap that the environmental costs of Fracking are worth it.
ERCOT is a conservative organization reporting to a conservative legislature. They are not addressing the environmental and health costs that are not included in the price of natural gas at this time. They did an old fashioned economic analysis of which sources of energy will cost the least and therefore be used the most in order to decide how to build our Texas’ energy grid in coming years.
Economic Case for Solar and Wind
But, actually when we think a little more deeply about this finding, it makes pretty good sense. The cost of solar is plummeting as China pumps out cheap solar panels.
Texas already produces the most wind power of any state in the nation. A couple of years ago I helped San Antonio Texas formulate Mission Verde – its Sustainable Economic Development Strategy. In that process, I was surprised to discover that CPS Energy purchases more wind power than any other publicly owned utility in the nation.
By most estimates, Texas has both the largest wind and the largest solar potential of any state in the country.
Problems with Fracking
Now we know that Fracking technology – high pressure injection of a combination of water, sand, and a variety of chemicals into shale to fracture the rock and release natural gas – has many well documented environmental and health hazards associated with it. For example, the chemicals that are used are toxic, invade the water table, and get into drinking water. Also, radon gas, a significant carcinogen, is released from the shale and pumped into families homes with the natural gas.
Choice of Solar and Wind Makes Sense
So, if solar and wind are much healthier and safer and they are now less expensive, long term, doesn’t it make sense to listen to this report from Texas and embrace the energy alternative that is healthier, safer, and more cost effective?