In a recent article by the NPR, writer Terrence Henry takes an admiring look at Austin and their commitment to green energy sources. He asks whether or not the rest of Texas will be likely to follow their example.
My knee-jerk, educated guess? Unlikely.
Austin is pretty unique from an energy perspective. Their energy needs are modest compared to larger metropolitan areas, and 1900 of their megawatts come from natural gas plants. They also get 10% of their energy needs from nuclear power, having a 16% ownership in the South Texas Nuclear Station. They have a 50% ownership of just one coal plant, and it provides just 300 megawatts.
This is all great for Austin. I just happen to think it unlikely that other areas will be able to follow suit. For starters, there are no more nuclear power plants being constructed or planned after financing fell through on NRG’s designs to build two more reactors to add to the Texas electricity grid. And as I’ve written previously, Texas is having real issues getting investors to invest in more natural gas powered plants.
Austin plans on replacing their modest coal energy needs from wind energy, which is fantastic, but is also problematic because wind power is unpredictable and oftentimes the wind isn’t blowing when Texans need the energy the most (in the summer). As a result, I doubt many other cities will be willing to invest too heavily in an inconsistent source of green energy such as wind.
So with no potential for nuclear plans, a scarcity of activity on the construction front for natural gas plants, and the inconsistency of wind energy, my guess is that other cities won’t be able to follow Austin’s example.