Growing numbers of Texas consumers rely on renewables to power their homes and businesses. In the first six months of 2019, Texas electricity generation by wind overtook production by coal for the first time, and solar power generation is on the brink of a major boom.
According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), renewable power capacity rose by about 10 percent from 2017 to 2018, increasing from 26.3 gigawatts to 28.9 gigawatts. However, the lion’s share of the Lone Star State’s energy is still generated by nonrenewable sources, such as natural gas (53.1 percent) and coal (17.9 percent).
Despite the heavy concentration on natural gas and coal for generation, Texans do have options for energy consumption. ERCOT operates a Renewable Energy Certificate plan, under which energy providers buy or sell credits to meet customer demand. RECs can cover energy generated from wind, solar, biodegradable materials, hydro and landfill gas operations. RECs are equivalent to the generation of 1 megawatt hour of electricity for the grid.
With some utilities committing to expand renewables over the coming years and decades, customers often wonder how much influence they can have on the energy transition through the REC program.
Dallas resident Adam Evans purchased a 100 percent green energy plan for his home several years ago. He was motivated by his concern at the amount of CO2 emissions in the United States.
Evans knows that a 100 percent green energy plan doesn’t mean that his home is only powered by renewables. “It’s not as though there’s a line that goes to my house that is wind and one that goes to my neighbor’s that’s coal,” Evans explains.
Nonetheless, he hopes that by purchasing a green energy plan, which requires the provider to buy RECs worth the same value as the customer’s energy use, he is encouraging energy companies to build more renewables. “I would be disappointed if you told me that the way I described it is completely off base,” he adds.