S&P Global Market Intelligence– Garrett Hering
As Texas power plant operators and grid managers revive the state’s storm-battered electric system and prepare for an uncertain future, one thing appears unlikely to change: the rapid proliferation of renewable energy resources in the nation’s largest power market.
Between 2021 and 2023, developers plan to add roughly 35 GW of combined solar and wind capacity to the state’s primary transmission system, operated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc., according to the grid operator’s most recent data. The near-term additions — which are largely underpinned by financial security deposits for interconnection, federal tax incentives and power purchase agreements — would more than double ERCOT’s solar and wind footprint to 64 GW in just three years.
Natural gas, which now dominates the state’s power mix, accounts for nearly 60 GW of ERCOT’s winter capacity, S&P Global Market Intelligence data shows.
Texas has emerged as America’s leading renewable energy market, with its recent rise in solar riding the coattails of an ongoing wind boom. But this week’s energy crisis, which resulted in prolonged power outages for millions of residents, has revealed considerable backlash to the state’s clean energy transition. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, for instance, was among a host of renewable energy critics who claimed falsely that frozen wind turbines and snow-covered solar arrays were the primary culprits in the power system’s collapse that started early Feb. 15.
That was not the case, according to ERCOT officials. Of the approximately 46 GW of generating capacity that was out of service as of midday Feb. 17, 28 GW was thermal power plants and 18 GW was renewables, according to ERCOT officials. “We’re really just seeing the impacts of this weather event go across wind, solar, coal, nuclear, gas, across the industry,” ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said during a Feb. 17 media briefing when asked to respond to Abbott’s comments.
As variable wind and solar resources multiply in Texas, energy storage is poised to play a bigger role in balancing supply and demand. According to ERCOT data, installed battery capacity connected to its system could jump to 1.7 GW in 2021 and to more than 2 GW in 2022 from 225 MW in 2020. But that just scratches the surface of the more than 26 GW of large-scale battery storage under study in ERCOT’s deeper interconnection queue — more than wind and second only to solar.