Republican-led state capitols are considering bills that would punch holes in President Joe Biden’s green revamp of the US electricity system by promoting fossil fuels or piling costs onto renewable energy. The proposed legislation reverses a dynamic that played out over the past four years when lawmakers in states controlled by Democrats moved to counteract Donald Trump’s climate rollbacks. One analyst described a “Biden backlash”.
Legislators have sharpened their focus since a winter storm caused blackouts in Texas and Midwestern states in February. Despite a varied set of causes, some have invoked the crisis to propose new constraints on solar and wind power. If enacted, the bills would cloud Biden’s objective of driving down carbon emissions from the electricity sector, one that he intends to bolster with a $2tn federal infrastructure plan announced last week.
In Texas, where the legislature has been consumed by the blackout debacle, bills introduced by state House Republicans would tax renewable energy projects, keep new wind turbines at least a mile apart, and require solar and wind farms to procure backup power to cover some of their downtime. The Texas Senate on March 29 passed a sweeping electricity reform bill which included an amendment forcing solar and wind farms to purchase “ancillary services” and
“replacement power” to help manage fluctuations on the grid. Introduced by Kelly Hancock, a Republican from suburban Fort Worth, the language posed “a tremendous threat to the continued operation of renewable energy projects in Texas”, the Advanced Power Alliance, an Austin-based clean-energy trade group, said in an alert sent Thursday.
“Some of those proposals do nothing to address the root causes of the power outages but they are designed, self-evidently, to create commercial challenges for renewable energy projects,” said APA president Jeff Clark.