Select Page

As many Texans approach their second or third day without power, with no end in sight, some are left to wonder how such a massive breakdown could occur.

The issue with Texas’s electricity infrastructure.

CNN - Image of Oil pumps in snow, supplying NLG to gas network

As a result, Texas was long the only state with its own isolated electricity grid separate from the rest of the country.

Because they must balance lower prices (to attract consumers and grow market share) with higher pricing (needed to reinvest in new power plants), the less-regulated suppliers undercut the prices by a tiny margin.

This is to circumvent federal regulations, but federal government regulations also require the majority of the country’s power producers to be more prepared to deal with circumstances such as this.

This implies that power plants in Texas may not have taken the precautions required by power plants in other states, such as Minnesota, Maine, or even Arizona, to guarantee they can continue operating in cold temperatures like those experienced in Texas.

While other states with linked networks may effectively borrow electricity from one another at times of peak demand, Texas’ ‘go it alone’ strategy left Texans with nowhere to borrow it from. There are no other suppliers – Texas has no backup bank of suppliers. – Australia is trialing a VPP (Virtual Power Plant) Learn more about it from Origin Energy – which is a network of solar batteries that can assist the grid when required.

While this gives Texas more control over energy in the state, it also means the state must depend on fewer power plants to provide power when needed.

Texas does not have the luxury of a Federal reserve pool to tap into when required.

This was an exceptionally big winter storm, and it has revealed some of the weaknesses of this single-player platform with its unregulated systems – as it tries to deal with the wind and ice.

Rather than that, natural gas, which supplies more than half of the state’s electrical production and is by far the most abundant source, is being used by residential furnaces and certain power plants. “During the winter, it’s more difficult to get natural gas supplies, since they’re considerably more in demand for house heating and similar purposes,” he said.

Around half of the state’s electricity is generated by liquid natural gas (LNG), which means that some of the state’s natural gas producers have experienced significant interruptions in supplying power plants. This storm has resulted in significant supply interruptions, particularly affecting demand for the state’s power grid.

The Panhandle of the Permian Basin

The Panhandle of the Permian Basin

Freezing temperatures have:

Reduced output and delays caused by gale winds resulted in the closure of many LNG suppliers out of concern for staff safety.

Simultaneously, wind turbines throughout the state are frozen due to a lack of winterization, while the cloudy weather makes some solar panels inoperable.

Leading to rolling blackouts and power outages.

All of these issues add up to significant shortages.

The emphasis on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar by some, such as Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, should consider the way in which they present the ‘green new deal’ to the whole country.

Considering what has occurred in Texas.

This, however, does not tell the entire story, as only about a quarter (1/4) of the electricity generated in Texas comes from wind and solar, and of all the power that went offline (approximately a third of it was due to wind supply failures, according to Ercot, the firm responsible for managing Texas’s energy grid.) Ercot stands for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas; in layman’s terms, they are the air traffic controllers for the state’s power grid and power providers.

They handle about 90% of the state’s electricity, but have had to deal with interruptions caused by scheduled ‘rolling outages’ in order to preserve the state’s limited power supply for necessities such as hospitals.

In a recent interview, ERCOT’s CEO explained why this is necessary, saying that they recognized the difficulty in controlling supply and demand and believed they might need to use rotational outages to do so. They asked that utilities in various areas of Texas decrease demand by, say, 1,000 Megawatts; this is accomplished by temporarily shutting off home electricity. ERCOT is able to maintain a safe power balance as a result of this demand control.

Twenty-five years later, a bitter debate has erupted over whether deregulation of the Texas electricity (Electricity Deregulation) market contributed to the most calamitous week in recent Texas history, one that left millions of Texans destitute and shell-shocked as they sought the most basic comforts of modern civilization: food, water, and heat.

Impact on renewable energy sources Due to the increasing use of natural gas immediately after deregulation, new energy technologies such as wind energy and smart grid technology benefited significantly.

CIBC Private Wealth’s senior equity trader “Grid-level storage increases resilience when power production capabilities are reduced,” according to research company Baird. Additionally, solar and storage technologies enable grid operators to perform additional functions such as peak power shedding and/or shifting. Demand response systems are another method for businesses to monitor the grid, particularly as renewable energy usage increases and the available supply decreases.

On the contrary, “the primary purpose of enacting the electricity deregulation act in 1999 was to prevent blackouts and brownouts,” he stated. The purpose was to incentivize investment in the new generation in order to prevent the outages that have occurred in other areas of the nation, he said. “The controlled market’s fixed rate of return was uncertain, discouraging private investment in the new generation,” Wolens said. “And restructuring was accomplished via increased investments in gas-fired power facilities and renewable energy sources like solar and wind, as well as the retirement of polluting coal facilities.” Wolens told the Statesman that “it is critical for the Legislature to ascertain the origins” of the problem. “If they were foreseen, then we are to blame for allowing them. 

Along with a unfortunate fatalities, the effect on Texans has been devastating:

  • Individuals are experiencing extreme cold in their own houses, food shortages, lengthy lineups at grocery shops, and broken pipes resulting in floods.
  • Experts warn that extreme weather events such as these may become more frequent in a world affected by climate change.
  • Ercot cut electricity to millions of consumers after multiple power facilities went down owing to the state’s sub-freezing weather.

While natural gas can withstand the state’s high summer temperatures, the extreme cold makes it difficult for the gas to reach power plants and homes.

We should see this as an opportunity; the Texas electricity sector is undergoing significant changes, and the new administration has an ambitious strategy for decarbonizing our electric utility system.

We know that in order to create a ‘fair and equitable society’ without experiencing significant climate change or with very little climate impact, we must make significant adjustments to our economy and consumption patterns, both industrial and consumers’.

Abbott takes responsibility for Texas power issue

These changes to our networks and administration will occur concurrently with the possibility of severe climate change.

Therefore, while we make these significant changes to our energy system, we must consider how they will fare in the face of climate change.