Rise of clean energy staff mirrors Texas' renewable energy boom

Jim Marston

What made 2014 special? EDF staff share their best moments from the year.

At one point, not too many years ago, Environmental Defense Fund’s Austin office boasted just four employees total. In those days, I used to joke that if we ever reached 10, we’d be really big.

Well, this October, the Austin office surpassed 50 people, now making it the fourth largest EDF office.

It hit me one morning this summer when I walked into a staff meeting and realized I needed to introduce myself.

We’ve come a long way and I feel very proud to be a part of a team that’s not only talented and successful, but also increasingly diverse; the team is starting to look a lot more like America. We’re better staffed to handle environmental challenges and opportunities than at any point in our history.

The growth of the Clean Energy staff - of which 12 are housed in Austin - mirrors the explosion in solar and wind power in Texas and across the United States.

Nationally, solar power has grown more than 400 percent in the past four years, and Texas is the nation’s leader in wind energy generation. This progress is impressive.

It might surprise those of you with a stereotypic view of Texas, but there were many good moments for environmentalists here in 2014. Of course, one of the things about stereotypes is that there is often some truth in them

And our regulators are definitely not environmentalists. So if we can’t convince them, then at least we can have fun exposing the truth about them.

One of my personal favorites of the past year was the time I had some fun telling the truth about the chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Bryan Shaw, at the annual Texas Tribune Festival this fall.

compared Shaw to a “dog that chases cats” for his repeated, unsuccessful efforts to fight common-sense federal environmental regulations: Even when he gets hurt doing so, he keeps chasing those cats. It’s in his DNA.  

We still have a long way to go if we’re ever to convince Texas environmental regulators, and some members of Congress, to stop fighting smart environmental policy, such as the Clean Power Plan.

Fortunately, we now have a robust team of clean energy warriors in Texas who can get the job done.