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Overwhelming response to Texas Energy Fund Loan Program

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(The Center Square) – The state of Texas has begun implementing several programs created by the state legislature that were also approved by voters as constitutional amendments last November.

Among them is a new $5 billion Texas Energy Fund Loan Program.

On Nov. 7, voters approved Proposition 7 to create the Texas Energy Fund (TEF) by a vote of 65% to 35% “to support the construction, maintenance, modernization, and operation of electric generating facilities.” This includes authorizing grants and low-interest loans administered by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUTC) and financed through the fund to support expansion of such facilities. The PUCT oversees TEF and the regulatory agency managing Texas’ grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

Voters passed the amendment after the Texas legislature in 2021 passed a package of bills to strengthen the Texas grid. In 2023, the legislature passed a second round of bills focused on fortifying the grid, including creating new electricity generation fueled by natural gas. State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, filed SB 2627, the Powering Texas Forward Act, which created the TEF. The measures passed with bipartisan support and were signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.

This February, during a Texas Power Grid Investment Summit, state lawmakers encouraged the building of additional natural gas plants in Texas either through direct investment or by applying for loans through the TEF.

By May 31, the PUCT announced it had received 125 notices of intent to apply for a loan through TEF’s In-ERCOT Generation Loan Program. The In-ERCOT program is one of four TEF programs created by the Powering Texas Forward Act.

The 125 notices requested $38.9 billion in financing for 55,908 megawatts of proposed dispatchable power generation projects for the region.

“To ensure reliable, affordable electricity for the growing number of homes and businesses in Texas, we need more on-demand, dispatchable power generation,” PUCT Chairman Thomas Gleeson said. “Seeing such a strong initial response from industry to the In-ERCOT Loan Program is an encouraging sign that the Texas Energy Fund will be an effective tool and incentivize the investment needed to bring more on-demand power to the state.”

“Improving our grid is essential for the Texas Miracle to continue throughout the 21st century,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who leads the Texas Senate, said. “Texas’ economy is the 8th largest in the world, larger than most countries, and we must have reliable generation to meet ever-increasing demand.”

Creating the TEF “was a bipartisan effort by the Texas Senate, as we all recognize the need for reliable dispatchable generation to meet the ever-increasing demand,” he said.

Natural gas, which is among the cleanest and most energy efficient sources of energy, is abundant in Texas. Natural gas production helped keep the lights and heat on during winter months when less sunlight was available to power solar energy or wind turbines froze.

Last year was a record year for domestic natural gas consumption, a supply made largely possible by record U.S. production, led by Texas, The Center Square reported. Texas produced the equivalent of one-third of the natural gas consumed last year, with Texas producers breaking multiple records.

“The United States broke production records in 2023, producing 37 trillion cubic feet of natural gas with Texas also reaching new highs and delivering 12 trillion cubic feet of natural gas into the American and global supply chain,” Ed Longanecker, president of the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association, told The Center Square. “As TNG recently highlighted, a strong supply of U.S. natural gas, largely supplied by Texas, has kept domestic energy markets stabilized as the power sector increases its natural gas demand and our LNG market grows.

“It’s no secret that natural gas is and will remain a critical fuel source for our country and allies as we work towards a reliable and resilient lower-emission economy.”

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