In Texas, the State of Solar Is about to Get Stronger
September 21, 2023
By Bret Biggart
There was a telling headline in the Houston Chronicle a couple of weeks back that will tell you a lot about where my head has been at over the past few months:
That tracks Freedom Solar’s experience. Across the country and around the world, solar is booming. Everywhere you look, including Texas, there’s never been a better time to invest in it.
Yes, sales in Texas have been lagging. But it’s pretty clear that we’re about to catch up here in a big way.
The main issue in Texas has been energy prices. Electricity bills have just been a little lower here than elsewhere, so solar didn’t necessarily seem like such a clear no-brainer (though for most of our clients, solar has still been a more economical option).
But for better or worse, electricity prices are about to go way up in Texas. This brutal summer has repeatedly sent energy costs into the stratosphere. To make matters more expensive, ERCOT (the state agency that manages the power grid) has implemented policies designed to increase electricity costs and make it more attractive for big power companies to build gas plants in Texas. As this Bloomberg story put it, ERCOT “has created an artificial scarcity of supply and likely raised wholesale costs by about $8 billion”; the agency’s CEO admitted as much to the Houston Chronicle.
All of those added costs haven’t shown up on Texans’ bills yet, but they’ll start appearing over the next few months. As energy costs rise, demand for solar will too.
Meanwhile, other market forces are poised to catalyze that demand. One is technological innovation: a ton of really, really smart people are innovating around solar technology right now, building on decades of work to bring down the costs of panels and increase their efficiency. Solar panels as good, and as affordable, as they’ve ever been. The extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit makes them an even more attractive investment.
In addition, pandemic-related challenges have whipsawed in ways that help consumers. Three years ago, our industry was staring down supply chain issues that created severe shortages of solar panels. So markets did what markets do, and manufacturers started creating more solar panels to sell. As a result, supply went way up, and prices came way down. As I said, solar panels were already on a path to affordability, but they’re especially affordable right now.
There are many other reasons to invest in solar power. It protects against blackouts, especially when backed up by battery storage — a critical issue after a summer of energy conservation alerts and in advance of another winter. It avoids greenhouse gas emissions that contributed to this year’s miserable summer. It even increases your home’s value.
Solar power makes sense for more people than it ever has. For the last year or so, economics have trumped those other benefits in Texas. But economics are cyclical, and the cycle is about to come back around.
Photo credit via Pete Alexopoulos on Unsplash.com