Printer Friendly

Toward a sustainable future: energy resources in Texas.

With the recent creation of the Sustainable Energy Development Council (SEDC), Texas joins a growing national and international trend toward crafting plans and policies to ensure sustainability of essential energy services and develop energy resources. At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, 178 nations met and agreed to a Declaration on Environment and Development. Principle 3 of the Rio Declaration states that "|t~he right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations."(1)

This principle, that development must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, has been embraced throughout the world. On June 14, 1993, President Clinton and Vice-President Gore supported the principle by announcing the creation of the Presidential Council on Sustainable Development.(2) Likewise, the Business Council for Sustainable Development, a group of 48 chief executive officers and chairs of the boards of national and multinational companies from all regions of the world, affirmed the goal of sustainable development in its own declaration.(3) Further, the justification for promoting sustainable energy development is clearly established in Agenda 21, the United Nations' extensive blueprint for global sustainable development into the 21st century, which states: "The need to control atmospheric emissions of greenhouse and other gases and substances will increasingly need to be based on efficiency in energy production, transmission, distribution and consumption, and on growing reliance on environmentally sound energy systems, particularly new and renewable sources of energy. All energy sources will need to be used in ways that respect the atmosphere, human health and the environment as a whole."(4)

Developing Renewable Energy Resources in Texas

The Sustainable Energy Development Council builds on all these concepts. As stated in the Executive Order, the purpose of the Council is the development of "a strategic plan to ensure the optimum utilization of Texas' renewable and efficiency resource base." The strategic plan will establish both a policy and a technical information base that will, in turn, foster an improved regulatory and economic climate for the development of renewable energy and efficiency resources in Texas.

The potential for development of the state's renewable resource base has been identified (see following "Renewable Energy Resources in Texas"). Texas' abundant solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal resources have hardly been tapped. Even when hydroelectric power is included, renewable energy resources account for less than 1 percent of the currently installed electrical generation in Texas.(5) Nevertheless, Dr. Bruce Hunn of the University of Texas Center for Energy Studies, who has quantified the renewable resource potential for Texas, reports that "despite considerable uncertainty in both quantity and cost, renewable energy and energy efficiency should be major contributors to the Texas energy economy in the future."(6)

Developing a Sustainable Energy Resources Policy for Texas

The SEDC strategic plan will be the combined product of two distinct efforts. First, the Council brings together representatives of the Governor's Office, the Texas Air Control Board (or its successor agency), the Comptroller's Office, the Department of Commerce, the General Land Office, the Public Utility Commission, the Railroad Commission, the Water Development Board, businesses, utilities, educators, consumer advocates, and environmental groups. This comprehensive group will work to create a policy framework for increased use of sustainable energy resources and will provide guidance for government and private industry. The second objective of the SEDC strategic plan is the development of a technical resources base. Incorporated within the resource base will be a comprehensive assessment of renewable and efficiency resources within Texas. Particular attention will be devoted to analyses of the opportunities and limitations of sustainable energy technologies, economic development opportunities (especially in rural counties), industrial efficiency potential, and electric transmission and distribution systems.

The policy framework and technical resources base will be integrated into the final strategic plan and tested through demonstration projects and government/industry partnerships. The goal of the strategic plan is the production of a business plan and sustainable energy blueprint for Texas.

Policy Goals and Benefits

Although the Council is still in the organizational stage, several anticipated benefits and intended goals of the SEDC effort have been identified. First and foremost is the creation of new sustainable energy jobs for Texas. The jobs created by the development of sustainable energy resources will stimulate the Texas economy and offset job losses experienced in fossil fuel sectors. Second, the SEDC will act as a vehicle for attracting federal dollars to the state. Currently proposed budgets for the U.S. Department of Energy include a 30 percent increase in funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. The Texas SEDC will help ensure that our state is a competitor for those funds.

Finally, and most broadly, it is hoped that the efforts of the SEDC will offset and reverse the recent trend toward Texas becoming a net energy importer. By developing our renewable resource base and the technologies of efficient use of energy, Texas should be able to maintain its position as a national leader in the energy sector.

The Texas Sustainable Energy Development Council is poised to take advantage of growing national and international trends toward sustainability in development and use of resources. The leadership of government, in partnership with industry and citizens, will ensure a sustainable future for all Texans.


1. "Rio Declaration on Environment and Development," reprinted in Agenda 21: The United Nations Programme of Action from Rio, United Nations Publication E.93.I.11, 1993, p. 9.

2. White House Office of the Press Secretary, "Remarks by the President in Signing Executive Order on Presidential Council on Sustainable Development" (press release), June 14, 1993.

3. Stephen Schmidheiny, Changing Course: A Global Business Perspective on Development and the Environment (executive summary), Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992.

4. "Agenda 21," reprinted in Agenda 21: The United Nations Programme of Action from Rio, United Nations Publication E.93.I.11, 1993, p. 78.

5. Public Utility Commission of Texas, Long-Term Electric Peak Demand and Capacity Resource Forecast for Texas 1992, Vol. 1, 1992, table 6.1.

6. Bruce D. Hunn, "A Proposed Approach to the Quantification of the Texas Energy Resource Base," appendix to the "Report of the Committee on Renewable Energy," contained in the State of Texas Energy Policy Partnership (STEPP), Report to the Governor, the Legislature, and the Citizens of Texas, Vol. 1, March 1993.

Karl R. Rabago Commissioner, Public Utility Commission and Co-chairperson, Texas Sustainable Energy Development Council
COPYRIGHT 1993 University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Business Research
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Rabago, Karl R.
Publication:Texas Business Review
Date:Aug 1, 1993
Previous Article:Maquiladoras: an industry in transition.
Next Article:Renewable energy in Texas: resources and demand.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters