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Renewable energy in oil-intensive jurisdictions : a comparative study of wind energy growth in Texas and Alberta Amigo, Jorge


The state of Texas has experienced an enormous growth in its wind energy sector in recent years. By contrast, growth in Alberta’s wind sector has remained comparatively moderate. This study seeks to explain what has caused this relative lag in wind energy development. To do so, this thesis addresses two questions: first why did two similar sub-national jurisdictions adopt very different policies for wind energy development? Second, did these policies result in asymmetric growth of wind power capacity between Texas and Alberta? On the first question, this thesis argues that a combination of decades-old policy decisions and natural resource endowments played a central role in prompting Texas legislators, but not their counterparts in Alberta, to adopt renewable energy mandates. Specifically, a shortage of coal in Texas led to an increased reliance on imported coal in the 1990s, which became a source of concern for Texas officials who had long pursued a policy of energy independence. With near unanimous support from diverse sectors and on the recommendation of state officials, Texas legislators adopted a Renewable Portfolio Standard to mandate development of alternate sources of electricity. Although Alberta also has long pursued a policy of energy independence, the province’s coal industry supplies all of the coal needed for electricity production. Therefore, with weaker incentives to pursue renewable energy and stronger reasons to protect the local coal industry, Alberta politicians have not pursued strong policies to promote renewables. On the second question, this thesis argues that Texas benefited from both a Renewable Portfolio Standard and a generous federal tax credit for renewables. The renewables mandate served to initiate interest in wind energy by forcing utilities to produce energy from renewables, while the tax credit made wind more attractive to investors by making it more competitive with other sources of energy. In the case of Alberta, a weaker federal financial incentive together with a lack of a provincial renewables mandate has kept the wind industry from experiencing comparable growth.

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