Hey Texas Governments and Utilities: Let Clean Energy Work!

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Hey Texas Governments and Utilities: Let Clean Energy Work!

By Bret Biggart

As the world’s energy leader, Texas is an obvious place for solar power to take root and grow — and that’s just what’s happening.

Now our government, utilities and others just need to give Texans what they want.

This month, the Dallas Morning News unpacked the fact that Texans are flocking to solar power, both to save money and to protect themselves from problems with Texas’ grid.

But that’s not all: Across the country, the growing solar sector is helping boost the share of electricity coming from renewables. Also, outside Austin, officials just broke ground on what may be the world’s largest solar roof facility. And solar panel sales in Houston are stratospheric.

So the market and industry are doing just fine — connecting Texans who want alternatives that make them more free and more safe from blackouts, high electricity bills, extreme weather and old power plants.

The problem is the other stuff.

Look at Houston. As the Houston Chronicle reported this month, some homeowners are having to wait six months after they install solar panels on their roofs for the electric utility to come by, inspect the equipment, and turn it on.

Every day that goes by is a day that the solar panels can’t do their jobs, and that homeowners are stuck paying full-freight for electricity from the utility — even after they’ve invested in solar to get free of those power bills. As the Chronicle noted, “There are no established timelines for utilities to process permits for household solar panels in Texas.”

Delays don’t just eat into customers’ pocketbooks. They also force people to rely on the power grid even after they’ve invested money for affordable, clean, steady electricity.

It’s not just Houston. In Austin, the city-owned electric utility is proposing an increase and restructuring of rates that could eat significantly into the savings of homeowners who invested in solar power.

While Austin Energy is a leader in trying to make it easier to install solar systems, the process could still be improved for homeowners. For instance, the inspection process often takes too long, in part because there’s no certainty on when solar panels will be inspected and energized.

Freedom Solar is part of a group that’s working through these issues with the City of Austin. But the truth is that these issues are prevalent across Texas — I recently co-authored an opinion piece in Texas Monthly exploring that very issue. As I said there, Texans are losing far too much time to red tape and delays imposed by municipalities, utilities, and homeowners associations.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Austin and Texas both need to be clean energy centers for the world — we don’t have any excuse not to be. Texans want power that makes them more free and more safe, and the private sector is poised to deliver it.

Government and utilities just need to let us — and the solar panels on people’s roofs — do our jobs.

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