Clean Power el paso, texas

Published on July 3rd, 2014 | by Jake Richardson


Coal-free Is Goal For Texas Utility

July 3rd, 2014 by  

Texas is known for its fossil fuels (mostly petroleum) but one utility there, El Paso Electric (EPE), wants to be coal-free by 2016. That is, a scant two years from now, there could be a Texas utility serving almost 400,000 people using no coal.

el paso, texas

One way it will achieve the shift is to sell off its 7% stake in the Four Corners coal-fired power plant. EPE has also doubled its utility-scale solar to the point it has become a national leader in solar.

“Our west Texas and southern New Mexico region has the right kind of sun for optimal solar energy production, making this region the ‘goldilocks’ in terms of climate, humidity and heat characteristics that allow us to expand our renewable portfolio with cost-effective technologies and reliable energy resources,” said Tom Shockley, Chief Executive Officer at El Paso Electric.

The utility has also signed power purchase agreements with Macho Springs Solar, LLC and Newman Solar LLC for about 60 MW of solar power installations. An agreement signed last year pegged the cost of power from the Macho Springs facility at about 5.79 cents a kilowatt hour rather than the 12.8 cents per kilowatt hour price from a new coal plant. Declining solar power costs has been one of the top stories in the energy industry for the last year or so.

Though this Texas utility scenario might seem like a “nice little story,” it may be more than that. Texas is one of the most Republican states in the nation. Fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum are typically backed by Republicans who frequently oppose clean energy development, such as solar and wind.

Because of increasingly favorable economics, political resistance to wind and solar appears to be decreasing in impact. In others words, if clean energy technology costs less and is better for our public health and the planet, the groundless opinions of politicians that oppose it will matter less and less. Also, the public may begin to see that these politicians are nothing more than puppets for dying industries.

Texas has plenty of sunshine for more solar development, but it also has tremendous wind resources. It seems inevitable that clean energy will outpace fossil fuel development in certain areas, and that this trend will have an impact on local politics.

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  • Doug

    The air in El Paso is brown – reminds me of Shanghai. Although most of the pollution comes from Mexican cars and trucks, adding renewables can’t hurt.

  • Doug

    For their own best interest, utilities should be keen to divest energy generation where economically feasible – for instance, in markets where the grid allows for shopping around for alternative producers.

    Long haul transmission and distribution could be severed, but in my mind, this would merely create another middle-man profit center between the generator and the retail customer.

  • Rick Kargaard

    I think most utilities will continue to use more renewable types of energy. The speed at which this happens will depend on available capital and government inducements.
    Low cost loans and loan guarantees may be necessary.

  • JamesWimberley

    Still no sign of geothermal or thermal CSP though. Texas is obviously terrible for hydro, so these are the only despatchable renewables in sight. A small utility like El Paso can reasonably plan to free-ride on its neighbours’ despatchables, but the problem doesn’t go away for the grid as a whole. There are mountains in Mexico not too far away that may have potential for pumped storage to serve El Paso with Ciudad Juarez.

    • El Paso is actually split in two by the Franklin Mountains, pumped hydro could potentially be done on the US side.

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