This article is Part 1 of a four-part series demonstrating how the money in a lobby sector can impact state politics and legislation. We’ve selected the Green Energy sector due to a resurgence of interest in a behind-the-scenes look at renewables following the 2021 snowstorms, but you can follow the money in any industry of interest that is spending lobbying dollars in Austin.
Texas is currently in the midst of a heated debate regarding energy production and consumption in the state. Spurred on by a winter storm in February that left millions without power, lawmakers, pundits, and reporters have turned their attention to what took place during that storm and who and what was to blame.
Much of the debate has centered around green, or renewable, energy. Many Texas lawmakers have pointed their fingers at a failure of green energy production as a key component of why millions were left without power and hundreds died during the storm.
Here is a look at the debate so far, the green energy lobbying money flowing into Austin, and where Texans can expect this debate to go from here:
Beginning on February 10, a series of major winter storms rolled into Texas, bringing record snow, ice, and freezing temperatures across the state. The storms also brought along power outages for millions of Texans. According to NBC News, at the peak of the outages, nearly five million Texans were left without power, some for several days. A recent article from the Houston Chronicle estimated that nearly 200 Texans died in the aftermath of the storm.
After the storms left millions of Texans without power, many lawmakers and elected officials immediately began discussing who was to blame. Five members of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc. resigned in the aftermath of the storm and ERCOT’s CEO was fired by the board. Gov. Greg Abbott has also called on lawmakers to address power-related issues this year.
Fingers were immediately pointed in all directions, including at Texas’ “energy only” system that does not pay to hold power generators in reserve, the much-deteriorated state of coal and natural gas plants that failed to add power to the grid in freezing conditions, and the impact that reliance on green energy production had on the outages.
Conventional production (like natural gas or coal) is nothing new to the Texas energy conversation. But the efficacy of renewables, as the relative newcomer to the state’s energy market, has not been explored as extensively. When production in many renewable industries, including wind and solar energy, was effectively brought to a halt or significantly reduced by the storm, lawmakers and citizens debated whether green energy was to blame and whether the Texas energy grid should be less reliant on alternative forms of energy.
While the issue is decidedly complex, a part of that conversation includes conjecture on how much the interests of renewable companies that pay big money to lobby on behalf of their industry in Austin might play a role in the evolving makeup of the Texas energy marketplace.
That’s where our data comes in. We pulled all the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) reports submitted by lobbyists who took contracts from green energy companies. Here’s what the numbers show.
According to the TEC reports, companies who operate in the renewables sector have combined to spend between $35 and $71.1 million since 2015.
|Lobby Client Name||Minimum Amount||Maximum Amount|
|American Electric Power||$7,624,650.00||$11,949,299.23|
|Vistra Energy Corp||$4,416,807.00||$9,231,958.38|
|NextEra Energy Resources LLC||$3,592,369.00||$6,849,888.91|
|Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO)||$3,590,750.00||$5,631,499.63|
|Electric Transmission Texas||$2,965,750.00||$4,681,499.70|
|El Paso Electric Company||$1,539,741.00||$3,142,809.59|
|Xcel Energy / Southwestern Public Service Company||$1,457,897.00||$2,704,109.69|
|EON Climate & Renewables NA Inc||$943,150.00||$1,886,299.81|
|Texas Competitive Power Advocates||$1,064,730.00||$1,729,449.85|
|EDF Renewable Development Inc||$1,086,300.00||$1,629,449.90|
|Apex Clean Energy||$618,164.00||$1,366,459.62|
|Texas Solar Power Association||$558,152.00||$1,231,379.79|
|Lone Star Transmission a subsidiary of NextEra Energy||$436,598.00||$1,158,229.61|
|Advanced Energy Economy DBA Texas Advanced Energy Business Alliance||$385,080.00||$839,739.81|
|EDP Renewables North America LLC||$346,584.00||$751,509.88|
|Advanced Power Alliance||$339,731.00||$717,809.91|
|Invenergy Services LLC||$346,582.00||$713,149.91|
|First Solar Inc||$275,008.00||$629,999.81|
|Recurrent Energy LLC||$296,580.00||$593,149.94|
|Solar Energy Industries Association Inc||$271,580.00||$543,149.94|
|Avangrid Renewables Inc||$268,150.00||$536,299.94|
|Tri Global Energy||$246,580.00||$493,149.91|
|RWE Renewables Americas LLC||$239,730.00||$479,449.96|
|Broad Reach Power LLC||$193,150.00||$414,659.95|
|Cypress Creek Renewables LLC||$119,940.00||$368,169.87|
|Energy Solutions LLC||$175,000.00||$349,999.95|
|Wind Energy Transmission Texas||$193,150.00||$336,299.98|
|Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corporation||$150,000.00||$299,999.97|
|Nuclear Innovation North America LLC||$150,000.00||$299,999.97|
|Amshore US Wind LLC||$146,580.00||$293,149.95|
|Lincoln Clean Energy||$125,002.00||$269,999.93|
|Pattern Renewables LP||$75,012.00||$269,999.85|
|Clean Energy Technology Association Inc||$120,000.00||$249,999.94|
|Enel Green Power North America||$100,000.00||$199,999.98|
|LS Power Associates LP||$78,360.00||$196,579.93|
|Golden Spread Electric Cooperative Inc.||$96,580.00||$193,149.98|
|Pattern Energy Group 2 LP||$96,580.00||$193,149.97|
|Conservative Texans for Energy Innovation Foundation||$71,720.00||$168,159.96|
|Cross Texas Transmission LLC||$50,004.00||$164,999.91|
|Cielo Wind Power LP||$60,001.00||$159,999.93|
|Iberdrola Renewables Inc||$70,000.00||$149,999.96|
|Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance||$68,360.00||$146,579.97|
|Enel North America Inc||$71,580.00||$143,149.98|
|Dallas Clean Energy LLC||$50,004.00||$139,999.94|
|GDF Suez Energy North America Inc ENGIE||$50,001.00||$109,999.98|
|Clean Carbon Technology Foundation of Texas||$50,001.00||$109,999.98|
|Francis Energy LLC||$ –||$103,439.93|
|Green Mountain Energy||$50,000.00||$99,999.99|
|Berkshire Hathaway Energy Company||$50,000.00||$99,999.99|
|American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)||$50,000.00||$99,999.99|
|Castleman Power Development LLC||$50,000.00||$99,999.99|
|GH America Energy LLC||$46,580.00||$93,149.99|
|ClearPath Action for Conservative Clean Energy Inc||$10,001.00||$53,359.97|
|PowerFin Partners LLC||$25,000.00||$49,999.99|
|Encore Green Environmental LLC||$25,000.00||$49,999.99|
|Waterside Energy Inc||$10,000.00||$24,999.99|
The numbers reported for these organizations come from disclosures filed by the lobbyists with the Texas Ethics Commission.
To determine which of the thousands of entities lobbying in Texas are green energy companies, we began by using North American Industry Classification System codes, commonly known as NAICS codes. These are standardized codes used by the government and other agencies to classify businesses. When a business did not have a classification, we researched the relevant organization to determine the appropriate industry.
For more on how lobbying is reported, including why the numbers are shown in varying ranges, read “How Lobbying Works.”
There are, without a doubt, many other businesses and groups lobbying in favor of benefits for green energy. We did not include energy companies whose primary source of income was traditional energy such as oil and gas, but many of those organizations also produce green energy and spend many millions lobbying in Austin. For example, Shell Oil is generally considered a fossil fuel company and is not included on this list. They have, however, already invested billions in green energy and recently announced their intention to increase green energy investments to $6 billion per year. Shell has spent as much as $1.3 million lobbying Texas lawmakers since 2015.
Likewise, many companies not typically associated with the energy industry have invested heavily in green energy products. AT&T boasts that they are one of the largest purchasers of green energy in the United States. They are also the largest lobbying client in Texas, having spent as much as $12.6 million to persuade Texas lawmakers since 2015.
While some of those entities could technically fall within the “green energy lobby” category, the reality is that no one outside of the lobbyists and the politicians themselves know what is discussed when they meet. Maybe AT&T’s lobbyists advocate for green energy all the time. Maybe they don’t. We don’t know. So we’ve elected to only include those lobbyist clients with renewable energy as a prominent component of their business. If you feel we have made a mistake about a company we did include, please let us know.
In the wake of the February storm, many were surprised to find that as much as 25 percent of Texas energy comes from wind and solar sources, particularly in a state considered to be the oil and gas capital of the nation. While many observers believe green energy was not to blame, others decried the reliance on and failure of these alternate energy sources.
With more than $71 million spent on lobbying by green energy companies in recent years, it is undeniable that these companies have made large investments in Austin lawmakers.
This session, bills have been proposed in both the Texas House and the Texas Senate in an attempt to prevent future power outages resulting from extreme weather conditions. In the House, a series of bills that were approved addressed the definition of extreme weather conditions, called for a reform of governance over the power grid operator, called for the development of an emergency alert system, and mandated power plants to be ready for extreme weather, among other proposals. The state Senate also unanimously approved SB3, which called for similar measures to the standalone House bills, including the mandated preparedness of power plants, and an overhaul of Texas’ electric infrastructure.
As lawmakers continue to face decisions about the future of the Texas power grid (more on how bills become Texas laws here), it is important to note who has been and is spending money to influence their decisions.
Want to see other companies related to this conversation that are lobbying in Austin? Enter keywords of your choice (like “oil and gas” or “electric”) in our advanced transaction search to see other lobbyist clients spending big money to influence Texas lawmakers. For a full look at all entities hiring lobbyists in Texas, please visit this link.
The TEC’s next round of lobbyist reports will be available this month. It will be interesting to see how those lobbying compensation numbers may have changed since new power grid-focused legislation has been introduced. Subscribe to be informed when the latest lobbying numbers are released.