Per the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Texas both produces and uses more energy than any other state. Operating from its own unique state power grid, the state tends to be something of a power pioneer. But what are the resources behind this massive amount of energy consumption?
Texas uses a wide variety of energy resources, the main contributor being natural gas. But the state is also a renewable energy trendsetter and has produced and used more energy from renewable sources (i.e., wind power) than other states in recent years.
- Texas gets its energy from a variety of resources, including natural gas, wind, coal, nuclear, and solar. Natural gas makes up the majority of Texas’s power (about 47.4%).
- Unlike any other continental state, Texas operates on its own power grid, which comes with unique pros and cons.
- While Texas produces and uses significant amounts of energy from traditional sources, the state is also a renewable energy leader and projected to become even more sustainable in the future.
Where Does Texas Get Its Energy From?
Texas gets its energy from a variety of sources, with the majority coming from natural gas. In recent years, the Texas fuel mix has undergone a major overhaul. While early power plants relied primarily on coal, steam, and hydroelectric energy, the push towards sustainable energy in recent years has caused some impactful changes.
Now, renewable energy sources like wind and solar are becoming commonplace. For instance, the use of wind power in particular has quadrupled in the past decade while many coal-based power plants have closed. This is striking compared to 2009, when wind comprised just 6% of Texas’s power and coal was used nearly twice as much as it is today.
It’s crucial for Texans to conserve energy when possible. There’s a large supply but an even larger demand–in recent years, the state’s energy reserves have hit record low capacities. Texans use particularly large amounts of power due to extreme weather conditions–about half of the state’s energy use during peak times can be accredited to air conditioners battling extreme heat. But in order to prevent power outages and malfunctions, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) must sometimes issue Energy Emergency Alerts advising Texans to cut down on their electricity use despite peak demand.
According to ERCOT, the following resources supply the majority of modern Texas’s power.
Natural gas comprises about 47.4% of all of Texas’s power, meaning it’s the most-used resource as of 2019. Texas ranks above all other states in terms of producing its own natural gas and provides 24.6% of the rest of the U.S.’s supply.
Coal comprises 20.3% of Texas’s total power. Three of Texas’s largest coal-based power plants shut down in the past decade. 63% of the coal used in electricity production in Texas is imported from elsewhere (primarily Wyoming and Montana).
Nuclear power provides 10.8% of Texas’s total. This nuclear power comes from two Texan nuclear plants, one in Glen Rose and one near Bay City.
Solar energy comprises 1.1% of Texas’s energy resources. The state is a national leader for solar power as well, with San Antonio being a solar capital of sorts. 532 different Texan solar companies get their solar power from nearly 100 manufacturers.
Texas Has Its Own Power Grid. What Does That Mean?
Since electricity became commonplace a century ago, Texas has operated on its own power grid separate from the rest of the continental United States and is the only state to have been able to do so successfully. (The reason Texas is the only state to pull this off has to do with sheer size—no other continental state is large enough to sustain its own grid.)
This phenomenon began largely for political reasons. With the New Deal came regulations on federally produced power, and in order to circumvent those restrictions, Texas stuck to its own separate power grid called the Texas Interconnection. This was (and still is) perfectly legal, so long as Texas agreed not to buy or sell electricity across state lines. There are many pros and cons to Texas’s separate power grid. For instance, utility prices are kept relatively low, but malfunctions like blackouts are more common than in other states (and therefore crises like the 2021 Texas power crisis can be exacerbated).
What Is the Future of Energy in Texas?
We’ve already seen the trend of increasingly renewable energy in Texas, and that positive change is projected to continue in the coming years. Texan solar power in particular is predicted to double in capacity by the end of 2022. While Texas is a national leader in wind power, this source is a bit less practical since it’s so difficult to ship over long distances. Nevertheless, the future seems to consist of even more wind energy for Texas, including one proposed offshore wind farm that could power 2.3 million homes.
Texas is a national leader in terms of sustainable energy. Despite 90% of its energy still coming from fossil fuels, the state has made significant progress in the past decade and is projected to continue cutting down on carbon emissions.
Questions Others Are Asking
Who uses the most energy in Texas?
The industrial sector consumes the most energy in Texas, accounting for more than half of the state’s energy use.
What percentage of U.S. energy comes from Texas?
Last year, Texas was responsible for nearly 12% of the U.S.’s net energy generation.
Does Texas have coal power plants?
While many of Texas’s major coal power plants have shut down in recent years, Texas still has seven coal power plants.