Here’s Why Texas Is Giving Away Wind Energy

The state’s grid has so much extra wind energy that it’s giving it away. But why?

By Alain StephensNovember 10, 2015 1:41 pm

So much electricity is being wind-generated in West Texas these days, they’re giving it away for free.

For real.

Clifford Krauss, the national energy correspondent for New York Times at their Houston Bureau, has looked at why Texas would give away electricity.

“You’ve got about 50 unregulated retail providers that are trying to get your dime every month, especially in the summer,” Krauss says. “Many of the plans would give you free or discounted electricity certain hours, usually late at night and early in the morning.”

These rates, available through ERCOT, apply to times of the day when wind is the strongest, typically late nights and early mornings, so in-state wind energy producers are generating more electricity than the grid requires.

“If you’re clever about how you use your electricity, you can save quite a bit of money,” Krauss says. One example he gave is a couple who turns off all of their appliances when they leave in the morning and turns everything on when they get home, taking advantage of off-peak rates.

“Wind power is very, very cheap because of the tax breaks it gets,” Krauss says. “These companies, when they buy the wind power, they buy it for virtually nothing and the provider is making money because it’s getting a tax credit for every kilowatt-hour it’s selling.”

Since Texas has its own electric grid it can’t send the extra electricity anywhere, like you could do in other grids across the country. For the state, Krauss says free wind power is sustainable. Whether it’s a plan for the whole country is a different story. “ERCOT in Texas is a very different animal than the electric grid outside of Texas in the United States,” Krauss says.

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.