Palo Alto, California and Georgetown, Texas do not have many things in common. One is situated on the rugged coast of Northern California, the latter located in the heart of the Longhorn state. While Northern California has obtained the reputation for being the liberal home of Americans, preaching openness, progress, and innovation, Texas has maintained its position as one of the more conservative states in the United States, boasting an allegiance to religious devotion, family values and the right to bear arms. Palo Alto has democrats serving in all major government positions, whereas Georgetown is represented entirely by Republicans. What these two cities now have in common is their commitment to renewable energy.
Earlier this year (about 2 years later than Palo Alto). Georgetown committed to soon receive 100 percent of their electricity from renewables. The city of Georgetown made a deal with EDF Renewable Energy to acquire 75% of the output of the 194 Megawatt Spinning Spur 3 wind farm in West Texas, which should account for about half of the utility’s needs. To cover the remaining half of the load, the city purchased the output of two large solar plants, with a combined capacity of 150 Megawatts in West Texas. This will ensure the city at least 20 years of emission free electricity. This is a noteworthy decision for a variety of reasons. For one, Georgetown is located in the middle of a fossil-fuel-dependant and climate change-skeptical state that is typically resistant to movements of this kind. This leads to the inference that this must be a little liberal colony within Texas that is attempting to escape from the backwardness of its surroundings. That isn’t the case. The real reasoning behind this is that the new renewable power contacts signed by Georgetown provide electricity at a lower overall cost than its previous wholesale power contacts signed with power plants. This symbolizes that as renewable energy technologies continue to progress, and the prices continue to lower, one of their biggest criticisms-higher comparative costs- is evaporating.
With parallels forming between Texas and California, there is hope north of the border that some Canadian provinces will follow the steps of the conservative and liberal states alike and further adopt policies favoring renewable energy sources. With the microFIT programme in Ontario offering significant incentives for those willing to install solar on their properties, it dawns clearly that renewables are not only possible in Canada, but as well economically feasible. But, this statement is only true when renewables are given the same incentives that the oil and gas companies have been afforded for the last several decades. Within the United States, due to their population density, and increased industry the need to phase away from oil and gas has become amplified by the astonishing lack of water. The record setting drought in the southwest United States has put every use of water into scrutiny, which is furthering the demand for waterless processes. Technologies such as solar and wind fulfill this requirement, adding one more significant benefit to moving away from oil and gas. Not only do these technologies assist the consumer in avoiding fluctuating energy prices but will also avoid any increase in water prices that will not be avoidable in processes common in the oil and gas industry such as fracking and mining coal. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory underwent a study that broke down the median amount of water used to create a Megawatt-hour of energy through various power methods. The results illustrate PV solar using only 26 gallons of water, and wind using zero gallons, whereas generating energy through natural gas or coal requires several hundred gallons of water. This waste of water may not seem significant to Canadians, as the general population has not felt the effects of water scarcity. But, is it wise for Canadians to ignore the drought and ignorantly waste such a precious resource because we are excessively endowed with it? Or would it be wiser to conserve the said resource in acknowledgement of its growing value? The answer appears relatively simple, as even the most conservative folks are seeing the benefits of renewables begin to outweigh the limited consequences. Alberta has always been referred to as the Texas of Canada, and although there is not a whole lot of truth to this statement, our energy policies have always been in line. Let’s hope that can continue in this instance.