We are in damage control here in Texas – “the oil and gas capital of the world” according to the Texans. It is a major blow to the proud people of this state that they could not keep the power grid working in the epic winter storm of Feb 2021. Having rolling blackouts and loss of power is something that happens in a California heat wave, not something that happens in Texas.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the flow of electric power to more than 26 million Texas customers — representing about 90 percent of the state’s electric load. As the independent system operator for the region, ERCOT schedules power on an electric grid that connects more than 46,500 miles of transmission lines and 680+ generation units. It also performs financial settlement for the competitive wholesale bulk-power market and administers retail switching for 8 million premises in competitive choice areas. ERCOT is a membership-based 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation, governed by a board of directors and subject to oversight by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Legislature. Its members include consumers, cooperatives, generators, power marketers, retail electric providers, investor-owned electric utilities, transmission and distribution providers and municipally owned electric utilities.
The supply in Texas – installed capacity as listed on ERCOT:
This is the list of power providers for McAllen and a large part of the Rio Grande Valley – https://shop.comparepower.com/enrollments/#/compare/78501/10/500/0/0/00///0/0
Hopefully, you can get this link open because the providers state the portion of their power that is from “green”. As you scroll through you notice that some providers are .12% green, some 6% green, some near 20% green and some 100% green. Would you like to tell me what happened to the households that are 100% dependent on “green” energy in the last ice storm? We are in McAllen, Texas and some of our neighbours 3 kilometers to the north have been without power for five days now and they expect that they might have power as early as Friday!
The people in these communities are struggling – struggling to stay warm, struggling to keep the taps from freezing, struggling to cook food and struggling to prevent the food in the freezers from going bad, struggling to communicate because the internet is down. Some are using their vehicles to provide warmth and recharge batteries and cell phones.
Because we have all been running our taps to prevent them from freezing, the water pressure is down and the city of Edinburg (482,000 people) is under a “boil water” advisory. Fire trucks are having difficulty because without water pressure they are restricted in putting out fires. The city of Donna (16,500 people) has lost water pressure and they will be under a “boil water” advisory as soon as the water supply returns.
Because we operate on a “just in time” delivery system some of the major food stores can not get food delivered. Their delivery tucks can not get fuel because the gas stations can not pump fuel when they have no power. And most people saw the 130 car pile up south of Houston on Feb. 11 – one week ago, so the roads are treacherous. With the delivery system affected stores are running out of milk, bread, eggs and meat. But we do have toilet paper this time!
The distributors are in damage control and everyone is blaming someone or something else. Rule #1 The chain breaks at the weakest link!
Power suppliers that counted on .12% ‘green’ energy kept the lights on, the water running and heat in the households. Power suppliers that counted on 100% ‘green’ failed as soon as the wind turbines iced over and were taken offline. These providers were left scrambling – looking for additional power supply as were most others.
Because they have independent power providers here in Texas, each little company runs their own system. They do not pay for spinning standby like we do in Ontario where we pay power generators to not produce. Here if you need more power for your company you have to find it. For the power producers that could actually increase their supply it was a bonanza! Charge what ever the market will pay and the cost per MW went form $25/MW in normal times to as high as $7,000 per MW. (A 28,000 % increase in cost – I saw one report of $9,000 per MW)
The demand exceeded the supply and simply put they could not keep the lights on. The providers could not find the power they required or could not pay the price – or chose not to pay $7-9,000 per MW for the power they required. This failure certainly has a component in the decision making that is economic.
This is what happens when you install an intermittent power system, eventually you reach a tipping point where you are not able to provide reliable power and the system collapses like a deck of cards. This is what happens in California in a heat wave or Texas in freezing conditions. The lesson to be learned is that if you destabilize the power grid with intermittent, unreliable power generation that fails in a summer heat wave or a winter polar vortex you will eventually have a catastrophic failure.
A Concerned Citizen
Texas and neighbors hit hard by a severe winter storm due to polar vortex conditions causing temperatures to plummet dangerously low. The States’ self contained electrical grid faces collapse as generators not properly winterized become frozen. A state of emergency is declared while residents and businesses are plunged into prolonged electricity blackouts. People being left to face the harsh winter conditions for days without electricity and for some it results in deadly consequences.
Wind turbines frozen and back up generation from natural gas hampered. The spot price of gas soars by thousands of percent in cost while the blame game and finger pointing reaches a fevered pitch.
“The problem is Texas’s overreliance on wind power that has left the grid more vulnerable to bad weather. Half of wind turbines froze last week, causing wind’s share of electricity to plunge to 8% from 42%. Power prices in the wholesale market spiked, and grid regulators on Friday warned of rolling blackouts. Natural gas and coal generators ramped up to cover the supply gap but couldn’t meet the surging demand for electricity—which half of households rely on for heating—even as many families powered up their gas furnaces. Then some gas wells and pipelines froze.”
The Political Making of a Texas Power Outage; How bad energy policy led to rolling blackouts in the freezing Lone Star State; WSJ Opinion, February 16, 2021
“ERCOT said the supply of natural gas to power plants is being limited and some wind turbines are frozen. So, keeping up with the amount of power being used across Texas is even more difficult.”
Rolling power blackouts turn into lengthy outages in Texas as energy demand reaches record high; Fox News February 15, 2021