Denton announced a lofty plan Tuesday that aims to make the North Texas city one of the cleanest energy providers in the state.
Mayor Chris Watts announced a Denton Municipal Electric plan to have 70 percent of the city's electricity generated from renewable sources like wind and solar power by 2019, up from 40 percent.
“The renewable Denton plan is our proposed answer to the citizens' requests of how can we increase that number,” Watts said at a news conference Tuesday.
Seventy percent is a high rate in a state where renewable energy fuels roughly 10 percent of electric generation on the grid. Denton’s plan follows in the footsteps of other cities across the state that are relying less on traditional electricity sources like coal and gas power plants. For example, Austin and San Antonio are working to expand their use of solar power, and Georgetown is planning to cut out non-renewable energy sources altogether.
To help meet its goal, Denton will create the Denton Energy Center, which will use standards set by the federal Clean Air Act to limit pollutants.
The facility will “be one of the cleanest energy generation facilities in ERCOT”– the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees Texas’ electric grid, according to a statement from Mike Grim, Denton Municipal Electric's executive manager in charge of power supply.
This is not Denton’s first attempt at an environmental overhaul. The city already had a similar plan in place, aiming to use 70 percent renewable energy by 2030. The new plan accelerates that timeline.
Watts said using 100 percent renewable energy is not realistic in Texas, where weather can be unpredictable. To compensate, Denton’s plan includes a quick-start plant, fueled by natural gas, designed to power the city when the elements aren’t favorable to renewable energy generation.
“One of the challenges of renewable energy is that it’s so hard to predict,” Watts said. “You don’t know exactly when the sun is going to shine or when the wind is going to blow. To maintain that reliable power, you must have backup power.”
Denton's current renewable energy use is almost entirely from wind power. The new plan will increase that and add solar power to the renewable energy mix. Solar energy now makes up a tiny fraction of the state’s energy supply, but experts say the market is poised to grow.
Denton officials estimate the plan will save residents $500 million over 20 years. They did not immediately provide information on how much the plan will cost the city.
Denton operates using a municipal electric utility, which is less common since the state’s decision to deregulate the power market more than a decade ago. Often, municipalities are seen as more apt for setting ambitious environmental initiatives given their ability to think long term about cost and environmental impact.
Correction: A previous version of this story gave an incorrect share of renewable energy fueling Texas' electric grid.