Texas can remain a leader in clean energy

April 16, 2017 GMT

Texas is a national leader in the development of clean energy. We have more wind power capacity than any other state and all but five countries. The solar power market in Texas is also taking off as the manufactured cost of panels have been reduced. Clean energy involves more than a commitment to the development of renewables. It includes investments in new technologies that can make conventional generation cleaner, too.

A good example of the Texas commitment to clean energy and clean technology is carbon capture and storage, or CCS. Texas is home to the largest post-combustion carbon capture system in the world, the Petra Nova project built by NRG in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy and the state of Texas.

Petra Nova began operations two months ago. It burns coal, but by using new technology, 90 percent of CO2 emissions are captured — roughly 1.6 million tons of CO2 a year. These emissions are then transferred by pipeline to a nearby oilfield and injected into the ground as part of a process called “enhanced oil field recovery.” This process is expected to boost production from 300 barrels a day to 15,000 barrels a day.


An innovative technology, CCS protects the climate while expanding conventional production. It is a perfect example of our twin commitment to being good stewards of both the economy and the environment. We have only begun to realize the potential of captured carbon as both a fuel source and feedstock.

But we cannot assume that the rest of the world will stand by idly when it comes to perfecting CCS and developing new applications. The United States needs to remain on the leading edge of CCS and other energy technologies, just as we led the way on hydraulic fracturing, which is transforming America’s energy economy.

The shale energy boom demonstrates how the effectiveness of new technologies are leading the way in developing cleaner sources of energy. Natural gas is a cleaner fuel source for electricity generation than other fossil fuels, and the advent of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling is making this abundant gas available across the United States from the border of Mexico to Canada. While coastal states like California and New York ban hydraulic fracturing on their lands, Texas’ reliance on that technology enables our state to make major reductions in our carbon output — reductions those states would love to realize.

We also have a reasonable regulatory process in Texas for permitting energy exploration that not only benefits conventional generation but renewable sources, too. In fact, because wind energy does not consume water or emit pollutants, there are no required state or county permits for turbines to be erected in a field. Wind power companies simply have to negotiate agreements with local counties and landowners.


That light regulatory touch helps explain why Texas went from nearly zero megawatts of wind production at the turn of the century to becoming the largest producer of wind energy in the country. Because Texas has its own grid serving the large population centers of the state, we have also been able to build new transmission lines known as competitive renewable energy zones, or CREZ, lines to take more wind from the west to the I-35 corridor. Since transmission wires are agnostic as to the source, CREZ lines can also transmit power generated by gas and other sources. With the price of solar panels dropping precipitously in recent years, Texas is also becoming a bigger player in the solar market, ensuring greater renewable diversity.

Our commitment to develop renewable sources, to tap the potential of our shale formations, and to develop the technology needed to make our air cleaner and our economy stronger means Texas remains positioned as the nation’s energy leader.

As chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, I am proud to oversee such an innovative industry that is changing the American economy and enhancing our nation’s security.

Commissioner Christi Craddick chairs the Texas Railroad Commission.