Assigning Blame for the Blackouts in Texas

Reposted from Dr. Judith Curry’s Climate Etc.

By Planning Engineer

The story from some media sources is that frozen wind turbines are responsible for the power shortfalls in Texas. Other media sources emphasize that fossil fuel resources should shoulder the blame because they have large cold induced outages as well and also some natural gas plants could not obtain fuel.

Extreme cold should be expected to cause significant outages of both renewable and fossil fuel based resources. Why would anyone expect that sufficient amounts of natural gas would be available and deliverable to supply much needed generation? Considering the extreme cold, nothing particularly surprising is happening within any resource class in Texas. The technologies and their performance were well within the expected bounds of what could have been foreseen for such weather conditions. While some degradation should be expected, what is happening in Texas is a departure from what they should be experiencing. Who or what then is responsible for the shocking consequences produced by Texas’s run in with this recent bout of extreme cold?

TRADITIONAL PLANNING

Traditionally, responsibility for ensuring adequate capacity during extreme conditions has fallen upon individual utility providers. A couple decades ago I was responsible for the load forecasting, transmission planning and generation planning efforts of an electric cooperative in the southeastern US. My group’s projections, studies and analysis supported our plans to meet customer demand under forecasted peak load conditions. We had seen considerable growth in residential and commercial heat pumps. At colder temperature these units stop producing heat efficiently and switch to resistance heating which causes a spike in demand. Our forecasts showed that we would need to plan for extra capacity to meet this potential demand under extreme conditions in upcoming winters.

I was raked over the coals and this forecast was strongly challenged. Providing extra generation capacity, ensuring committed (firm) deliveries of gas during the winter, upgrading transmission facilities are all expensive endeavors. Premiums are paid to ensure gas delivery and backup power and there is no refund if it’s not used. Such actions increased the annual budget and impact rates significantly for something that is not likely to occur most years, even if the extreme weather projections are appropriate. You certainly don’t want to over-estimate peak demand due to the increasing costs associated with meeting that demand. But back then we were obligated to provide for such “expected” loads. Our CEO, accountants and rate makers would ideally have liked a lower extreme demand projection as that would in most cases kept our cost down. It was challenging to hold firm and stand by the studies and force the extra costs on our Members.

Fortuitously for us, we were hit with extreme winter conditions just when the plan went in place. Demand soared and the planned capacity we had provided was needed. A neighboring entity was hit with the same conditions. Like us they had significant growth in heat pumps – but they had not forecasted their extreme weather peak to climb as we had. They had to go to the overburdened markets to find energy and make some curtailments. The cost of replacement power turned out to be significantly greater proportionately than we incurred by planning for the high demand. They suffered real consequences due to the shortcomings of their planning efforts.

However, if extreme winter had not occurred, our neighbor’s costs would have been lower than ours that year and that may have continued many years into the future as long as we didn’t see extreme winter conditions. Instead of the praise we eventually received, there would have at least been some annoyance directed at my groups for contributing to “un-needed expenditures”. That’s the way of the world. You can often do things a little cheaper, save some money and most of the time you can get away with it. But sometimes/eventually you cut it too close and the consequences can be extreme.

The Approach in Texas

Who is responsible for providing adequate capacity in Texas during extreme conditions? The short answer is no one. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) looks at potential forecasted peak conditions and expected available generation and if there is sufficient margin they assume everything will be all right. But unlike utilities under traditional models, they don’t ensure that the resources can deliver power under adverse conditions, they don’t require that generators have secured firm fuel supplies, and they don’t make sure the resources will be ready and available to operate. They count on enough resources being there because they assume that is in their owner’s best interests. Unlike all other US energy markets, Texas does not even have a capacity market. By design they rely solely upon the energy market. This means that entities profit only from the actual energy they sell into the system. They do not see any profit from having stand by capacity ready to help out in emergencies. The energy only market works well under normal conditions to keep prices down. While generally markets are often great things, providing needed energy during extreme conditions evidently is not their forte. Unlike the traditional approach where specific entities have responsibilities to meet peak levels, in Texas the responsibility is diffuse and unassigned. There is no significant long term motivation for entities to ensure extra capacity just in case it may be needed during extreme conditions. Entities that might make that gamble theoretically can profit when markets skyrocket, but such approaches require tremendous patience and the ability to weather many years of potential negative returns.

This article from GreenTech media praises energy only markets as do many green interests. Capacity markets are characterized as wasteful. Andrew Barlow, Head of the PUC in Texas is quoted as follows, “Legislators have shown strong support for the energy-only market that has fueled the diversification of the state’s electricity generation fleet and yielded significant benefits for customers while making Texas the national leader in installed wind generation. ”

Why has Capacity been devalued?

Traditional fossil fuel generation has (as does most hydro and nuclear) inherent capacity value. That means such resources generally can be operated with a high degree of reliability and dependability. With incentives they can be operated so that they will likely be there when needed. Wind and solar are intermittent resources, working only under good conditions for wind and sun, and as such do not have capacity value unless they are paired with costly battery systems.

If you want to achieve a higher level of penetration from renewables, dollars will have to be funneled away from traditional resources towards renewables. For high levels of renewable penetration, you need a system where the consumers’ dollars applied to renewable generators are maximized. Rewarding resources for offering capacity advantages effectively penalizes renewables. As noted by the head of the PUC in Texas, an energy only market can fuel diversification towards intermittent resources. It does this because it rewards only energy that is fed into the grid, not backup power. (Side note-it’s typical to provide “renewable” resources preference for feeding into the grid as well. Sometimes wind is compensated for feeding into the grid even during periods of excess generation when fossil fuel resources are penalized. But that’s another article. )

Traditional planning studies might recognize that wind needs to be backed up by fossil fuel (more so under extreme conditions) such that if you have these backup generators its much cheaper to use and fuel them, than to add wind farms with the accompanying significant investment for concrete, rare earth metals, vast swaths of land …. . Traditional planning approaches often have to go to get around this “bias” of favoring capacity providing resources over intermittent resources.

When capacity value is rewarded, this makes the economics of renewables much less competitive. Texas has stacked the deck to make wind and solar more competitive than they could be in a system that better recognizes the value of dependable resources which can supply capacity benefits. An energy only market helps accomplish the goal of making wind and solar more competitive. Except capacity value is a real value. Ignoring that, as Texas did, comes with real perils.

In Texas now we are seeing the extreme shortages and market price spikes that can result from devaluing capacity. The impacts are increased by both having more intermittent resources which do not provide capacity and also because owners and potential owners of resources which could provide capacity are not incentivized to have those units ready for backup with firm energy supplies.

Personal Observations

Wind and solar have value and can be added to power systems effectively in many instances. But seeking to attain excessive levels of wind and solar quickly becomes counterproductive. It is difficult to impossible to justify the significant amounts of wind and solar penetration desired by many policy makers today using principals of good cost allocation. Various rate schemes and market proposals have been developed to help wind and solar become more competitive. But they come with costs, often hidden. As I’ve written before, it may be because transmission providers have to assume the costs and build a more expensive system to accommodate them. It may be that rates and markets unfairly punish other alternatives to give wind and solar an advantage. It may be that they expose the system to greater risks than before. It may be that they eat away at established reliability levels and weaken system performance during adverse conditions. In a fair system with good price signals today’s wind and solar cannot achieve high penetration levels in a fair competition.

Having a strong technical knowledge of the power system along with some expertise in finance, rates and costs can help one see the folly of a variety of policies adopted to support many of today’s wind and solar projects. Very few policy makers possess anything close to the skill sets needed for such an evaluation. Furthermore, while policy makers could listen to experts, their voices are drowned out by those with vested interests in wind and solar technology who garner considerable support from those ideologically inclined to support renewables regardless of impacts.

A simpler approach to understanding the ineffectiveness of unbridled advocacy for wind and solar is to look at those areas which have heavily invested in these intermittent resources and achieved higher penetration levels of such resources. Typically electric users see significant overall increases in the cost of energy delivered to consumers. Emissions of CO2 do not uniformly decrease along with employment of renewables, but may instead increase due to how back up resources are operated. Additionally reliability problems tend to emerge in these systems. Texas, a leader in wind, once again is added to the experience gained in California, Germany and the UK showing that reliability concerns and outages increase along with greater employment of intermittent resources.

Anyone can look at Texas and observe that fossil fuel resources could have performed better in the cold. If those who owned the plants had secured guaranteed fuel, Texas would have been better off. More emergency peaking units would be a great thing to have on hand. Why would generators be inclined to do such a thing? Consider, what would be happening if the owners of gas generation had built sufficient generation to get through this emergency with some excess power? Instead of collecting $9,000 per MWH from existing functioning units, they would be receiving less than $100 per MWH for the output of those plants and their new plants. Why would anyone make tremendous infrastructure that would sit idle in normal years and serve to slash your revenue by orders of magnitudes in extreme conditions?

The incentive for gas generation to do the right thing was taken away by Texas’s deliberate energy only market strategy. The purpose of which was to aid the profitability of intermittent wind and solar resources and increase their penetration levels. I don’t believe anyone has ever advanced the notion that fossil fuel plants might operate based on altruism. Incentives and responsibility need to be paired.  Doing a post-mortem on the Texas situation ignoring incentives and responsibility is inappropriate and incomplete.

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February 19, 2021 10:18 am

Nor’easters would be disastrous to a Green America. Most of the country cannot survive and flourish with intermittent electricity.
https://www.eurasiareview.com/08022021-noreasters-would-be-disastrous-to-a-green-america-oped/
 
Summary: Most of the nation needs more than intermittent electricity from wind and solar, they need continuous and uninterruptible electricity from natural gas, nuclear, and coal to support the health and economy in their state to survive extreme weather conditions year-round. California, with its temperate climate conditions year-round, can survive dysfunctional energy policies that have resulted in the least reliable electrical power systems in the nation.
 

Scissor
Reply to  Ronald Stein
February 19, 2021 1:00 pm

No, it’s just a matter of applying the right models. https://www.cell.com/one-earth/pdf/S2590-3322(19)30225-8.pdf

yirgach
Reply to  Scissor
February 19, 2021 5:13 pm

I think you forgot the /sarc tag…
That paper was a real puker.

Last edited 5 months ago by yirgach
Ron Long
February 19, 2021 10:18 am

All through her report Judith Curry is making the case for the basic electricity generation being nuclear, but never says it. Gas makes great home heating/cooking, but you want electricity flowing irregardless of weather/climate/green energy pretentions. Why doesn’t Judith ever say nuclear is the solution? I’m guessing its too far out of her comfort zone.

Dale S
Reply to  Ron Long
February 19, 2021 10:31 am

This report is from Judith’s site, but not from her personally. The author is “Planning Engineer”.

Ron Long
Reply to  Dale S
February 19, 2021 10:59 am

OK, so I went to JC website and searched for “nuclear energy” and came up with only one report, on a talk by Admiral Gunn, where JC weighed in on the topic of energy dependability and sources. She never endorsed nuclear and even dismissed it due to a water (for cooling) demand. JC, and Planning Engineer, are in favor of working all of the renewable nonsense into the grid possible, and both lean toward CAGW themes.

Curious George
Reply to  Ron Long
February 19, 2021 4:37 pm

What a list of sins. Surely her soul will fry in hell. I hope to be near her.

Planning Engineer
Reply to  Ron Long
February 23, 2021 5:03 am

Try searching Peter Lang at Judith’s site. He has many posts and large amounts of comments promoting nuclear power. https://judithcurry.com/2016/01/19/is-nuclear-the-cheapest-way-to-decarbonize-electricity/

He’s commented on many of my post and I frequently agreed with him in the comments. The political realities make nuclear a tough investment at this time and I’ve seen good organizations burned by efforts at nuclear (Vogtle). Technically I love it, but my main focus is combatting the overhype of “renewables”. Tepid acknowledgment that there is some role wind and solar can play does seem to enrage some folks as does addressing what is the most effective way to address a goal (while being silent on the worthiness of that goal) without failing to weigh in and attack that goal.

I do think I have been softer with criticisms on renewables than I could have been at times, but if you think I have over endorsed the,, I’d love to see quotes.

David A
Reply to  Dale S
February 20, 2021 6:20 am

Dale, and the report has some very weak points.

Texas does not even have a capacity market. By design they rely solely upon the energy market. This means that entities profit only from the actual energy they sell into the system. They do not see any profit from having stand by capacity ready to help out in emergencies.”

Provided or not it is abundantly clear that N.G. not only load follows the grid, but it also production follows wind and solars daily failures. It clearly ramps up and ramps down to compensate for the daily failures of wind and solar.comment image
Spare capacity was not the problem.

Clearly NG increased their production throughout the crisis, and it increases and decreases daily, following hapless wind and solar, it does so at the cost of great lost revenue, ( in the absence of useless wind and solar they could operate at high capacity steady production all year. ) So they are staffed 24 – 7 to vary their load from maximum to minimum several times a day, losing revenue, increasing costs, stressing equipment.

However this “ready capacity” is in the base price of NG. T. Boone Pickens, who, like Warren Buffett, only built Wind because it was subsidized, also made a fortune on N.G.

So while Texas does not “pay people to sit around with ready capacity” the people pay N.G. companies to do exactly that!
( Dont the people always pay regardless. The idea that it’s free if the government pays it is false, dangerous and ludicrous.)
And NG would have zero need to do this if Wind and solar were not there. So they must be compensated. But that cost is due to the un-reliables, wind and solar!

Also NG lost very little production due to freezing valves. I understand that most production was lost because they had to divert NG generation to simply heating homes due to wind dropping to nothing. ( And that drop would have happened regardless, as durung the freeze, between midnight and 6 am on the most critical day, the wind dropped to 2 mph)

The diversion to heating only NG was the biggest reduction in NG ability to ramp up electrical generation. Also, one plant at least, on the worst day lost generation because the compressors required to move the gas were part of the electric grid that had to be blacked out to prevent full cascade failure. ( Oops that N.G. loss was a wind generation failure as well.) Winterization was a bit player in NG production throughout the crisis where NG prevented the problem from being 10 times worse. There was adequet back up power if wind had not dropped to about one percent of nameplate capacity.

President Donald Trump and Energy Secretary Rick Perry were absolutely correct when they asked the FERC to ensure that our coal-fired and nuclear power plant be kept in service. If coal generation had not been reduced, and compressors operated directly from NG production, and wind and solar never built, this cold would have been easily endured.

Even so, NG had adequet spare capacity if wind had not completely collapsed. ( Some of that capacity was not realised because of compressor design and wind failure requiring NG for heat.)

And even sans the cold, on the wee morning hours of the 16th, the wind dropped to two mph and all wind failed. This was NOT a spare capacity problem!

Reply to  David A
February 20, 2021 8:46 am

Sickly amusing is ‘Reliability’ in the title of TX’ bureaucracy.

BTW, I don’t agree that NG generation could keep running at constant output without the variation pushed by solar and wind, because demand varies (air conditioning in late afternoon and evening for example) and nuclear and thermal plants cannot be throttled quickly. Apart from price of input, NG-fueled gas turbine generators can start quickly (typically they are based on aircraft engines). [An intermediate response configuration is steam turbines using the hot exhaust from gas turbine generators, slower as thermal.] Yes, hot weather is forecast to substantial degree, and time of day predictable normally (an emergency that disrupts people less predictable).

Side note: wind energy is mostly good along coasts and in the Central Plains of North America where not reduced by big rock outcrops. There are locations near mountain passes, such as Snoqualmie Pass east of Seattle, and Dokie Ridge west of Dawson Creek BC (near the Pine Pass .through the Rocky Mountains)

David A
Reply to  Keith Sketchley
February 20, 2021 6:06 pm

Saying “they can”, is not the same as “they will”. Of course, clearly they load follow. Wind is a burden.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Ron Long
February 19, 2021 11:12 am

“Gas makes great home heating/cooking,”

Using natural gas in the home for cooking and heating, is even more efficient that using it in a natural gas-powered powerplant.

Farmer Ch E retired
Reply to  Tom Abbott
February 19, 2021 4:05 pm

I prefer induction cooking to gas because of it’s efficiency and precision. In warm weather, waste heat from gas cooking must be removed by the AC so you’re paying to heat the house and paying again to cool it back down.

RelPerm
Reply to  Farmer Ch E retired
February 20, 2021 12:33 pm

In warm weather, use the back door bbq grill and don’t warm up your house, silly.

Curious George
Reply to  Tom Abbott
February 19, 2021 4:44 pm

The problem with natural gas, CH4, is that it creates a lot of water when burnt:
CH4 + 4 O2 -> CO2 + 2 H2O. Water is, quite naturally, created as a water vapor. It is not so easy to extract the last bits of heat by condensing the water.

RelPerm
Reply to  Curious George
February 20, 2021 12:37 pm

And water vapor is a greenhouse gas. I know it generally has a short cycle time in atmosphere, but where gas plants increase regional humidity, it must also impact GHG effect.

ralfellis
Reply to  Ron Long
February 19, 2021 11:46 am

Ordinary nuclear is not the answer – Thorium is.

We already have 1,000 years of thorium supplies.
All the waste products have short half-lives.
Thorium cannot be used in bombs.
Salt reactors cannot runaway.

Ralph

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  ralfellis
February 19, 2021 12:09 pm

There are no commercial thorium plants in operation. The economics of thorium plants is unknown.

Tsk Tsk
Reply to  ralfellis
February 19, 2021 12:23 pm

We have thousands of years of Uranium supplies.
Thorium requires reprocessing or worse neutron economies/higher fissile loads
Nor can it be burned in reactors, but it can be bred into weapons grade material. Reprocessing of 232Pa is a wonderful way to make weapons grade 233U

MSRs look very promising. Thorium only adds to the technical risk and cost for a meaningless increase in fuel supplies.

Nigel in California
Reply to  Ron Long
February 19, 2021 12:30 pm

“irregardless” -> regardless

I agree with your main points.

Graemethecat
Reply to  Ron Long
February 19, 2021 12:37 pm

“Regardless”

Larry in Texas
Reply to  Ron Long
February 19, 2021 2:08 pm

I think the implication is quite clear – nuclear power, in one form or another (properly designed plants can be accomplished these days, France has a lot of them, still), must become a bigger part of our power generation mix in the United States. How much of a percentage of the mix, of course, will depend upon how much people are willing to invest in these facilities. And how much the U.S. Government can be convinced that its nuclear regulatory policies are currently far more of a hindrance than a help.

Last edited 5 months ago by Larry in Texas
Iain Reid
Reply to  Ron Long
February 20, 2021 12:30 am

Ron,

the simple answer is that nuclear is a very good genertaor but large nuclear rectors always run at full available capacity, they cannot be run at varying loads like a conventional coal plant for instance. Reducing output causes a too high increase in reactor temperature due to the amount of heat generated and as throttling the reaction poisons the fuel.
It is essential to have plant that can what is called load follow to keep the sytem in balance.
(Wind and solar cannot load follow either)
Apparently the newer small modular reactors can load follow but they have not, as far as I know actually been built and connected to prove them? It does, however, seem a reasonable solution?

James Miller
Reply to  Iain Reid
February 22, 2021 8:28 pm

The sentence “Reducing output causes a too high increase in reactor temperature due to the amount of heat generated and as throttling the reaction poisons the fuel.” is not true. Reducing power in a LWR (light water reactor) reduces the fission rate which in turn reduces the fuel temperature and the rate of fission poison production. Reactor power follows demand.

A j Cross
Reply to  Ron Long
February 20, 2021 3:55 am
2hotel9
Reply to  A j Cross
February 21, 2021 4:22 am

So there is a silver lining! Ethanol is a piss poor fuel, the less produced the better.

Kevin kilty
February 19, 2021 10:24 am

Good analysis. The capacity market has been devalued relative to an energy only market for the same reason that savings is devalued relative to consumption, or employment relative to welfare as an anti-poverty program. It is a sort of adolescent mindset that has gripped much of the world, especially the West since WWII.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Kevin kilty
February 19, 2021 11:15 am

The “social safety net” has expanded to a cradle to grave government promise to make your life easy. Votes are easy to buy, you just have to promise enough people enough stuff.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Jim Gorman
February 19, 2021 1:19 pm

Well I very much like my two dogs.

Dog-pillow Bernie.png
Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
February 19, 2021 1:46 pm

They were having Three Dog Nights in Texas. Perhaps even Three Samoyed Nights.

Solar Mutant Ninjaneer
Reply to  Jim Gorman
February 19, 2021 1:59 pm

I asked my daughter if she knew what socialism is. She smiled and sent me this.

IMG954920.jpg
Reply to  Solar Mutant Ninjaneer
February 19, 2021 11:03 pm

Add another “+” for your daughter…

Notanacademic
Reply to  Solar Mutant Ninjaneer
February 20, 2021 6:33 am

Brilliant. If only the public in Europe and America were as savvy as your daughter.

Reply to  Solar Mutant Ninjaneer
February 20, 2021 8:48 am

That’s a tr__hy post, gummint can be soundly criticized on principle.

Reply to  Kevin kilty
February 19, 2021 11:46 am

From Wiki, I know 🙁

“Electricity market experience
In the main, experience in the introduction of wholesale and retail competition has been mixed. Many regional markets have achieved some success and the ongoing trend continues to be towards deregulation and introduction of competition. However, in 2000/2001[34] major failures such as the California electricity crisis and the Enron debacle caused a slow down in the pace of change and in some regions an increase in market regulation and reduction in competition. However, this trend is widely regarded as a temporary one against the longer term trend towards more open and competitive markets.[35]
Notwithstanding the favorable light in which market solutions are viewed conceptually, the “missing money” problem has to date proved intractable. If electricity prices were to move to the levels needed to incentivize new merchant (i.e., market-based) transmission and generation, the costs to consumers would be politically difficult.
The increase in annual costs to consumers in New England alone were calculated at $3 billion during the recent FERC hearings on the NEPOOL market structure. Several mechanisms that are intended to incent new investment where it is most needed by offering enhanced capacity payments (but only in zones where generation is projected to be short) have been proposed for NEPOOL, PJM and NYPOOL, and go under the generic heading of “locational capacity” or LICAP (the PJM version is called the “Reliability Pricing Model”, or “RPM”).[36] There is substantial doubt as to whether any of these mechanisms will in fact incent new investment, given the regulatory risk and chronic instability of the market rules in US systems, and there are substantial concerns that the result will instead be to increase revenues to incumbent generators, and costs to consumers, in the constrained areas.[citation needed]
Capacity markeThis section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it(November 2019)
This section needs to be updated. internal-electricity-market-glossary/420-electricity-capacity-markets. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available
information. (November 2019)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_market

Tim Gorman
February 19, 2021 10:41 am

According to the ERCOT web site:

“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is a nonprofit organization that ensures reliable electric service for 90 percent of the state of Texas. The grid operator is regulated by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Legislature.”

“ERCOT has four primary responsibilities:
• Maintain system reliability.
• Facilitate a competitive wholesale market.
• Facilitate a competitive retail market.
• Ensure open access to transmission.

———————————–

Who is responsible for providing adequate capacity in Texas during extreme conditions? The short answer is no one.”

This article is wrong from the beginning. ERCOT is assigned the responsibility for maintaining system reliability in Texas.

They have shirked their duty for over a decade, spending money to add wind/solar instead of winterizing infrastructure. The winterizing of infrastructure was one of the main recommendations to come out after the 2011 weather fiasco. ERCOT is the *only* one to blame for the conditions in TX currently.

ResourceGuy
Reply to  Tim Gorman
February 19, 2021 11:25 am

The White Star Line under J. Bruce Ismay offered up the RMS Titanic as the unsinkable profit machine for the company and its investors with luxury (renewables) and cabin count. During construction, Ismay authorized the projected number of lifeboats reduced from 48 to 16 as authorized by the Board of Trade (ERCOT).

Ismay occasionally accompanied his ships on their maiden voyages, and this was the case with the Titanic. During the voyage, Ismay talked with either (or possibly both) chief engineer Joseph Bell or Captain Edward J. Smith about a possible test of speed if time permitted. After the ship collided with an iceberg (winter) 400 miles south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland on the night of 14 April 1912, it became clear that it would sink long before any rescue ships could arrive (TX thawing). Ismay stepped aboard Collapsible C, which was launched less than 20 minutes before the ship went down.

Ismay announced during the United States Inquiry that all the vessels of the International Mercantile Marine Company would be equipped with lifeboats in sufficient numbers for all passengers. Following the inquiry, Ismay and the surviving officers of the ship returned to England aboard RMS Adriatic.

J. Bruce Ismay – Wikipedia

There are many possible takeaways from this true story but planning only for global warming (capacity) while ignoring cooling is dangerous. See the ERCOT webpage that predicts a warm winter season for example. And if regulators are concerned about costs of reliability and redundancy in the system they are doing a terrible job of broadcasting those concerns. Trying to manage the Titanic when you are being pushed into a speed test into an ice field with warnings is criminal for all parties. The same is true for grid operators being told to follow political whims to extremes.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  ResourceGuy
February 19, 2021 2:08 pm

The early launched lifeboats were only partially filled because the passengers believed the hype and thought they’d be safe on board the Titanic on a cold night.

Being a sceptic can save your life.

John
Reply to  Tim Gorman
February 19, 2021 12:01 pm

As a lifelong Texan living through this mess, actually you are both right. The problem is that ERCOT does not designate which generators are responsible for emergency generation -ergo “no one is responsible”. They rely on the conglomerate of generators to supply varying loads in various areas based on demand. One report I read said they had planned only for 10% excess of forecast from the whole of the system then 26% of the system went down (25% wind, 1% solar) and the actual peak demand was double forecast. (We have LOTS of Peoples Republik of Kalifornia transplants) The result was that most generators were overloaded and failed in a cascade throughout the grid. Like doubling the load of your house and cutting the available power by half, you cant keep the main breaker on.

If 100% of the power generation were traditional, there still would have been outages due to forecast deficiency and poor safety margins but the outages would not have been nearly as severe or long. There are still a huge number of people without power and may not get it back for weeks.

It should also be noted that most members of the board of ERCOT do not even reside in Texas.

Of course there will be an investigation and lots of finger pointing.

Me, I live in hurricane alley so I have my own generator because I know from experience to be self sufficient.

John

John Dilks
Reply to  John
February 19, 2021 7:13 pm

I agree. My family was kept comfortable in our house for two weeks after “Laura” and one week after “Delta” by our small generator. We only needed it for two hours after ice took out a few lines in our area during this storm. It could have been worse, but “Laura” and “Delta” took out most of the trees that were near power lines. Now the problem is that most of our stores and gas stations get supplies from Texas. They are a little slow in coming, but not to worry, we have plenty of MRE’s if we need them.

RelPerm
Reply to  Tim Gorman
February 19, 2021 12:21 pm

Tim, I agree that “no one is responsible” is a BS answer. This mindset makes organizations/bureaucracies inefficient and slow to make needed changes. I agree that ERCOT is to blame directly and Utility Commission indirectly.

The Texas Comptroller states ERCOT is responsible for:

– Dispatch (scheduling and managing how electricity will flow through the network – telling producers how much to generate and utilities if necessary how much to cut demand)
– Planning new power plant additions and ensuring that the mix of generation technologies is suitable for Texas, 
– Operates the electricity market in Texas, performing financial settlements for sellers and buyers

What is their primary obligation with these responsibilities? MAINTAIN SYSTEM RELIABILITY. 

It’s the second bullet above where they have screwed up the whole interconnect system by not planning power plant additions properly to maintain a reliable system. This Planning Engineer author type would be first on my list to axe if involved in the ERCOT planning new power additions over the last decade.

Larry in Texas
Reply to  RelPerm
February 19, 2021 2:34 pm

As I said to Tim above, the ERCOT board is right now comprised mostly of officials from the utility companies themselves. The self-serving descriptions of ERCOT and the Texas Comptroller are just that: self-serving and designed to support and maintain the current deregulated system and its mythology. They mean little or nothing in terms of actual day-to-day operations. And there is, in a system that is an “energy-only market” (generators get paid for only what power they actually generate, not for facilities to provide built-in reserve or excess capacity) by law, this is what you get. ERCOT didn’t create the system, the Legislature did. And it is the Legislature who will have to fix it. Whether or not they have the stones to change or fundamentally alter ERCOT’s role is another question entirely.

Art
Reply to  Larry in Texas
February 19, 2021 8:20 pm

Board Chair is Sally Talberg….lives in Michigan….her bio has this to say “she co-led the development of Michigan Saves, a nonprofit green bank that has financed over $200 million in energy efficiency projects, while also helping staff the state’s wind zone board and offshore wind council.”

Gregory Brou
Reply to  Larry in Texas
February 19, 2021 8:57 pm

Look behind the titles of the board and you may find that the individuals represent large consumers more so than producers. With a focus on cheap at any cost.

David A
Reply to  Larry in Texas
February 20, 2021 6:36 am
Art
Reply to  RelPerm
February 19, 2021 8:18 pm

“No one is responsible” IS a BS answer. The ERCOT mission is “We serve the public by ensuring a reliable grid, efficient electricity markets, open access and retail choice.” They didn’t ensure a reliable grid. THEY are responsible and should all be fired.

Gregory Brou
Reply to  RelPerm
February 19, 2021 8:50 pm

ERCOT has the responsibility…. but read the monthly meeting agendas for both the board of directors and the operating committee. there is no mention of reliability, adverse weather or spinning reserve for the last 8 months. the agenda focus is special interest commercial issues 80% and tech relay coordination 15%. ERCOT needs to be reconstituted before it will include reliability.

David A
Reply to  Gregory Brou
February 20, 2021 6:39 am

I agree ERCOT blew it, yet spinning reserve was not the problem…
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/02/19/assigning-blame-for-the-blackouts-in-texas/#comment-3188743

Gregory Brou
Reply to  David A
February 21, 2021 8:07 am

my 1970 definition of spinning reserve was online capacity held in reserve for unplanned failures. your graph shows only consumption distributed by source. The state of Texas is a huge market and there will be nodes that also have to be planned for individually

Gregory Brou
Reply to  Gregory Brou
February 21, 2021 8:12 am

graph does not display consumer demand that went unfilled due to statewide outages

TonyG
Reply to  RelPerm
February 21, 2021 8:39 am

“No one is responsible” may be a BS answer, but it’s the truth – no one is responsible because (a) nobody takes responsibility and (b) nobody gets held responsible.

Scissor
Reply to  Tim Gorman
February 19, 2021 1:05 pm

With the Green New Deal implemented everywhere, they can change their name to ERCON (Electric Reliability Council of Nowhere).

czechlist
Reply to  Tim Gorman
February 19, 2021 1:07 pm

ERCOT is a scapegoat. It manages the distribution of available power to and around the electrical grid. It can make recommendations but has no control over production. They can only distribute what is provided.
I recall reading at least 4 years ago they reported that renewables were absorbing revenue which would normally be used for traditional power station maintenance and fuel storage resources.
It’s like blaming your local grocer when bad weather strikes and their shelves are bare.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  czechlist
February 19, 2021 2:07 pm

Malarky! The BOD of ERCOT determines where investment in the grid is going to be made. They are *not* just dispatch control – that is the function of the executive staff of ERCOT, not the BOD.

Bill Parsons
Reply to  czechlist
February 19, 2021 3:49 pm

Was PG&E a scapegoat in the Paradise fire? Enviro’s love their forests and hate to see them cut, but if PG&E contracts to deliver power into the forest where there’s going to be Santa Ana winds annually, they have to cut back some trees. Otherwise they are just gambling that the worst case scenario won’t happen – or that they can blame it on Climate Change. They are responsible. Don’t want to let us cut your trees to a safe distance? No power. Don’t want to pay for proper winterizing? No can do.

AndyHce
Reply to  Bill Parsons
February 20, 2021 5:15 am

I am not a follower of the politics but I have read that PG&E was prevented, by legislation or by regulation, from trimming to a safe distance, at least in a great many instances.

David A
Reply to  Bill Parsons
February 20, 2021 6:42 am

Far more NG was lost to wind induced cascade blackouts and diversion of NG generation to NG heating ( necessary because wind failed) then was due to poor winterization affecting NG generation.

Rpercifield
Reply to  Tim Gorman
February 19, 2021 1:17 pm

I agree with the assertion that “no one” is functionally responsible for providing adequate capacity. While they can say that on the “website states the responsibilities” obviously running a energy only instead of having a capacity option in the market was intentional. They do not reward capacity, and thus rely upon the suppliers to give them the energy they need. I do not care what they say they are doing or their responsibility in their documents. What they do and how they react are what defines them. They do not guarantee a stable system by their actions, and thus no one is responsible.

Should they be using sound engineering practices and planning around having capacity? Yes, of course, but their politically correct and green credentials will not allow them. Until that changes no one will be responsible to make sure that there is capacity to deliver power in times of need.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Rpercifield
February 19, 2021 2:10 pm

ERCOT, especially the BOD, *is* responsible for:

“Facilitate a competitive wholesale market.”

That includes having a market that provides proper capacity, including reserve capacity in the case of a situation.

I agree they will be defined by what they do now. But I have absolutely no hope of the right thing happening unless every member of the existing BOD is replaced.

David A
Reply to  Rpercifield
February 20, 2021 6:46 am

Capacity was there. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/02/19/assigning-blame-for-the-blackouts-in-texas/#comment-3188686

This was an engineering failure, inherent to the non suitability of wind and solar to the grid, not a spare capacity failure.
I do however agree that ERCOT is and was responsible.

Larry in Texas
Reply to  Tim Gorman
February 19, 2021 2:21 pm

Tim, you don’t understand – those four responsibilities have precious little to do with creating system reserve capacity, a “readiness to serve.” The Legislature gave ERCOT absolutely no teeth to enable them to do what you are describing; on the contrary, the Legislature assumed that there would be little need at the time of ERCOT’s creation to do the kinds of things that the notion of “ready to serve” entails. The Legislature is the one who created the current deregulated system. When deregulated generation companies only get paid for the actual amount of electricity they produce, without any concept of compensation for insuring capacity to cover excesses in existing peak demand, they will do only what the market encourages them to do and no more. ERCOT is not the one encouraging and spending money on wind/solar power – the Legislature and the other governing regulatory bodies in Texas who oversee utilities, and the electric utilities themselves, are the ones encouraging and doing that. ERCOT is far more guilty of propagandizing and sitting on their hands when they were in a position to see that Texas was heading down a bad road. But the ERCOT governing board itself is full of officials from electric utilities themselves. Not a very good prospect for saying that the emperor has no clothes.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Larry in Texas
February 19, 2021 2:30 pm

Larry,

I just don’t agree. ERCOT is assigned the responsibility for a reliable grid in Texas. They can do this by controlling the wholesale market, i.e. what is capitalized and what isn’t plus what is incentivized and what isn’t. ERCOT controls where capital is applied in the grid – and that includes providing capital for needed reserve power when intermittent, unreliable energy generation falls by the wayside.

The legislature didn’t deregulate anything. They assigned responsibilities to ERCOT and ERCOT reports to the TX Public Utility Commission.

The ERCOT Executive Committee is full of officials from electric utilities, not the ERCOT Board of Directors. You can’t find out who is on the Board or what their profiles are any longer because they deleted all that from their web site on Wednesday morning. A sure admission of guilt!

David A
Reply to  Larry in Texas
February 20, 2021 6:52 am

When deregulated generation companies only get paid for the actual amount of electricity they produce, without any concept of compensation for insuring capacity to cover excesses in existing peak demand, they will do only what the market encourages them to do and no more.”

That is simply not what happened. Spare capacity was present and N G gets paid for it, although really it is a cost NG endures and passes to consumers to band aid winds failures.

https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/02/19/assigning-blame-for-the-blackouts-in-texas/#comment-3188743

Bill Parsons
Reply to  Tim Gorman
February 19, 2021 3:19 pm

Agree with Tim Gorman. All else is smoke and mirrors. Feels like the “Planning Engineer” of the OP is doing a familiar tapdance he might do for his own power company when there’s a delivery problem. It was an engineer’s wheelhouse to see that the infrastructure is capable of getting the power from generators all the way into people’s homes.

Hedging their bets with the “unreliables” to please political constituents is something they could have refused to do.

old engineer
Reply to  Bill Parsons
February 19, 2021 6:55 pm

It was an engineer’s wheelhouse to see that the infrastructure is capable of getting the power from generators all the way into people’s homes.”

Not anymore. The problem was explained in a previous post on this subject. In the old days, you had a local electric company who generated the electricity, sold it to you, and then delivered it to you over it’s distribution system. Everything was local, they “lived’ in the local community, and were answerable to them.

That is no longer the case. The electrical generation is done by a separate company whose owners may even be in a foreign country. The company that sells you the electricity is a separate company, that again, may be a company far away from your local community. (In lots of areas you have a choice of what company you buy your electricity from). The company you buy your electricity from, then pays the distribution company (the “wire guys”. Which is probably all that is left of your old local electric company) to deliver the electricity to you.

So you see, it’s nobody’s job to plan. The generation company just generates the electricity, and does not care about anything but meeting it contractual obligations to generate a certain amount of power. The company that sells you the power just cares that it has contracts with the suppliers to deliver so much electricity to the grid. The distribution company just has to maintain the wires to get the electricity to your house.

We need to go back to the old days.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  old engineer
February 20, 2021 5:48 am

Those companies, be they generators or retailers operate, in the marketplace dictated by the ERCOT. It is the ERCOT that determines the rules for playing in the TX market. ERCOT can lay out rules for reserve power capacity to be able to compete in the TX market. And the bottom line is that ERCOT was more interested in incentivizing the addition of intermittent, unreliable wind/solar than in ensuring the reliability of the TX power grid.

Every member of the BOD of ERCOT should be fired and replaced with people more interested in reliability than in being green. Then the TX PUC should be investigated to find out why they let ERCOT cause this debacle, ERCOT reports to them and apparently there was insufficient oversight of ERCOT by the PUC.

David A
Reply to  Tim Gorman
February 20, 2021 6:32 am

Good post Tim, yet the post has even more flaws…
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/02/19/assigning-blame-for-the-blackouts-in-texas/#comment-3188743

“Spare capacity” was not the problem.

commieBob
February 19, 2021 10:48 am

Nary a word about interconnections to other grids.

Reply to  commieBob
February 19, 2021 11:11 am

I read there are no interconnections to other grids out of TX

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  Krishna Gans
February 19, 2021 12:11 pm
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 2:20 pm

Out of your source:

By not crossing state lines, the power grid is in most respects not subject to federal (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) regulation”

Last edited 5 months ago by Krishna Gans
bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  Krishna Gans
February 19, 2021 3:09 pm

Read the whole thing:

“The Texas Interconnection is tied to the Eastern Interconnection with two DC ties, and has a DC tie and a VFT to non-NERC systems in Mexico

LdB
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 5:23 pm

The issue is there is no agreement to guarantee any supply power when needed (its a trading mechanism) and correctly labelled in power engineering it is a tie-line.

In an emergency it’s about as useful as a politician.

Jim Whelan
Reply to  LdB
February 20, 2021 10:44 am

“In an emergency it’s about as useful as a politician.”

That was exactly my thought when a fuss was made over Ted Cruz leaving Texas. What would/could he do anyway? And besides he’s a US senator with no state authority.

Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 20, 2021 10:22 am

The Texas Interconnection is all within the state of Texas, per the map on the Wikipedia article to which you linked.

Larry in Texas
Reply to  Krishna Gans
February 19, 2021 2:38 pm

No, there are three interconnects: one to Southwest Power Plan, which operates in the states north of Texas up to North Dakota, I believe; one to the Central U.S. grid operators; and one to Mexico (although I understand Gov. Abbott some time ago prohibited any power to be sent to Mexico through that interconnect). The U.S. electric operating grid map on EIA’s beta website (which you can find at a link on EIA’s web page, via.gov) can illustrate for you how this works.

al in kansas
Reply to  Larry in Texas
February 19, 2021 7:38 pm

We had rolling blackouts in Kansas Monday and Tuesday to support Texas, we were told anyway.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  commieBob
February 19, 2021 11:25 am

Texas in not part of a multi-state pact/grid. It operates its own stand-alone grid. I’m not sure they could have gotten enough capacity anyway from other states.

I suspect we will find that a lot of the black outs were due to load shedding to maintain frequency and phase. Sub-stations overloads were probably a problem too.

Losing 15% – 20% of load capacity would be difficult to cover in any case. I am surprised they didn’t lose the whole shebang back to ground zero. Relying on gas with just in time delivery was a disaster in and of itself.

Now that they know it is possible to lose massive parts of the system they should include reserve sources with local stored fuel, namely nuclear and coal.

Reply to  Jim Gorman
February 19, 2021 2:09 pm

Now that they know it is possible to lose massive parts of the system they should include reserve sources with local stored fuel, namely nuclear and coal.

Yes, they should consult with the ratepayers in South Carolina and Georgia to learn about what a great deal nuclear power is.

Reply to  Mark Bahner
February 19, 2021 2:42 pm

As posted here and elsewhere and in essay ‘Going Nuclear’ in ebook Blowing Smoke, third gen nuclear is still a very bad deal, as Vogtle 3 and 4 show.

IMO, the correct approach almost everywhere given present cost of LNG is to invest in efficient CCGT, and simultaneously invest in the engineering of 4th gen nuclear, for which there are surprising many candidates, from TWR to modular to molten salt thorium (to the dismay of some here, the best Molten Salt analysis concludes start with uranium using spent fuel rods). Maybe a decade or two from now, chose the best designs and build a couple pf prototypes to work out the bugs. Only then start going nuclear.
Thanks to fracking, the world will not peak natural gas for many, many decades—unlike crude oil. For that, see several early essays in the energy section of Ebook Blowing Smoke.

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 19, 2021 3:13 pm

Fracking contributed to the Texas outage. Gas produced from fracked wells have a higher moisture content than standard natural gas wells. As a result of this moisture many of the collection pipelines froze, and cut off their production. Of course they could have insulated these pipes, but that costs too much for a once in a decade event.

Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 20, 2021 12:07 am

Beth, if you knew anything about natgas and pipelines, you would not have posted what you just did. Pipeline natgas is always dry—meaning stripped of any ‘water’, condensate, Co2, and whatever else. If there were freeze problems, they arose prepipeline.

bigoilbob
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 20, 2021 6:19 am

You’re both wrong. The gas from EVERY gas well with even a trace of reservoir water (i.e. just about all of them) is H2O saturated. And yes, within that mostly all inclusive well fraction, higher condensate fraction wells are even more susceptible to tubular/line freezes. But that can be avoided with minimal equipment add ins and maintenance. Texas producers know how the rest of the US does it. However, since producers are so strapped, well equipment/maintenance in Texas is minimal. They’ve gotten away with it 99+% of the time, and can make the case that it was a good biz decision. The only way to get them to rethink is for them to salivate at the bountiful high spot prices reaped by those thoughtful producers.

The **** is going to hit the fan when rate payers are told that their 4 figure monthly utility bills are part of Texas’s wonderful, better than the rest of them plan, to libertarianize their energy delivery infrastructure…

Last edited 5 months ago by bigoilbob
Bill Rocks
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 20, 2021 8:33 am

Betha,

You are full of it.

Water vapor is removed from produced natural gas reqardless of the type of production well. The gas is dehydrated to meet pipeline specifications. The specification is about 7 lbs. water vapor per 1 million std cubic feet of natural gas. This is about 99.75% natural gas and 0.25% water vapor by mass.

Larry in Texas
Reply to  Jim Gorman
February 19, 2021 2:42 pm

What ERCOT received was enough power interchange, when there became deficits between actual demand and actual net generation, to ensure that the Texas grid did not collapse in its entirety. That is not quite the same thing as buying extra power (which yes, no other state would probably not have had to sell, anyway), but I am sure ERCOT has to be paying something for the interchanges they make with the two other power grids they dealt with (they probably net out and true up all of the interchanges at the end of whatever accounting period they are dealing with).

fred250
Reply to  commieBob
February 19, 2021 11:42 am
Art
Reply to  fred250
February 19, 2021 8:23 pm

Would have pulled the interconnected grids down as well….just like the scenario in the Quebec/Northeastern U.S. a number of years ago.

TonyG
Reply to  Art
February 21, 2021 8:41 am

That’s what I was thinking – the other grids were stressed too.

Mike Lowe
Reply to  commieBob
February 19, 2021 12:01 pm

I think there should never be any reliance on interconnecting supplies, because that possibility relies on a catastrophic weather event not affecting adjacent areas as well as the preparedness of the neighbours to help you in an emergency when their own circumstances may be approaching a critical stage. Relying on interconnectors merely gives politicians an “easy way out” to avoid essential expenditure. The answer, as usual, is more coal-fired generation.

Larry in Texas
Reply to  Mike Lowe
February 19, 2021 2:45 pm

Yes to more coal-fired generation, but no, you must continue to rely on interconnecting supplies sometimes, just to insure the balancing out of the electric grid. Especially when you have more demand than generation in a given hour of the day. Even a 50 MWh deficit/imbalance could seriously compromise the grid.

Art
Reply to  commieBob
February 19, 2021 2:48 pm

It is just as likely that interconnections to other grids may well have pulled them down as well in a cascading grid failure…..much like the Quebec, north east U.S. years ago.

The fault lies with ERCOT, pure and simple. Their mission is “We serve the public by ensuring a reliable grid, efficient electricity markets, open access and retail choice.” They did NOT ensure a reliable grid. End of story. No more B.S. By the way, the Board Chair is Sally Talberg…..in her bio, it says “she co-led the development of Michigan Saves, a nonprofit green bank that has financed over $200 million in energy efficiency projects, while also helping staff the state’s wind zone board and offshore wind council.”

Getting the picture?

Art
Reply to  commieBob
February 19, 2021 8:22 pm

Interconnects would have likely brought other grids down as they were all at capacity. So instead of just Texas, much of the Southern U.S. would be out. Red Herring argument.

commieBob
Reply to  Art
February 20, 2021 8:13 am

Not an argument at all. I merely observed that the article didn’t mention interconnects.

MatrixTransform
February 19, 2021 10:55 am

LCOE == Less Carbon OR Electricity

*pick one

Tom Abbott
February 19, 2021 10:57 am

Good article.

markl
February 19, 2021 11:04 am

Excellent explanation of consequences. It boils down to without backup and good planning that doesn’t put cost ahead of reliance means gambling on nature to provide. In this case money saved cost more in the long run.

Stevecsd
Reply to  markl
February 19, 2021 1:49 pm

I have heard estimates of around $50 BILLION in damages. That would have built a lot of capacity.

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  Stevecsd
February 19, 2021 3:14 pm

The 24 people that died would not have built any capacity.

John Dilks
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 7:26 pm

What is your problem?
You keep throwing out weird and stupid statements. They just don’t make sense.

John Sandhofner
February 19, 2021 11:13 am

It is becoming more apparent that people in charge of making energy decisions are not up to the task. They are caught up in the hype of going green and don’t understand how they are setting themselves up for failure. And I suspect, that more and more, they don’t care if there are failures. They have little regard for the average citizen. We are just people they have to put up with. They are definitely not interested in making America great again.

starzmom
Reply to  John Sandhofner
February 19, 2021 12:51 pm

I would submit that the people who are really in charge of making energy decisions know little about where energy comes from and how it is transformed into the forms we actually use. They don’t understand any of the limitations of the system, and they don’t care if those limitations create problems. So, yeah, we the little people are on our own.

starzmom
Reply to  John Sandhofner
February 19, 2021 1:12 pm

In fact the single most influential decision maker on energy in the US is none other than Joe Biden. It is apparent that he knows very little, except how to turn a light switch on, and even then, he may not be able to handle a new-fangled switch. And his son is no better.

Paul C
February 19, 2021 11:13 am

Good article, probably the main thing it misses out is that gas supply is normally (at least in the UK) the responsibility of the gas network operator. Storage of gas (regionally) to supply such peaks in demand is just another of those overheads incurred to maintain continuity of supply in exceptional circumstances. Similar to the energy only electric market in Texas not supporting reserve capacity, if there is no incentive to store gas, it ain’t going to happen.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Paul C
February 19, 2021 2:31 pm

A few years ago the UK had little gas storage. In the days of North Gas storage wasn’t really required. As production fell storage wasn’t increased to cover the short fall. The UK has 4bcm of storage capacity,
According to the National Grid

Supply margin
The margin between peak supply and demand for winter 2020/21 is 79 mcm/d, virtually unchanged from winter 2019/20. The 2020/21 peak 1-in-20 demand has increased by 30 mcm/d compared to last year, due to both a change in methodology which now does not use a climate adjuster, alongside an increase in power generation demand. Each change has increased the demand by approximately 15 mcm/d.
Cold day demand 426 mcm/d.
1-in-20 peak demand 531 mcm/d.

So covered for 10 cold days, not sure about 10 cold windless days

Paul C
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
February 19, 2021 4:15 pm

As many of the storage facilities cannot withdraw gas at such a high rate, there would have to be early industrial load shedding in the worst case scenario.
https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/system/files/docs/2019/01/181207_storage_update_website.pdf
Whilst that early impact is bad in some respects, it forces early intervention which has the effect of reserving the available gas for the more critical uses, and stretching out the storage. UK weather rarely stays consistent for a week anyway, so demand is likely to fluctuate, giving a better chance of the reserves softening the impact.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
February 19, 2021 4:53 pm

In practice the UK relies on floating LNG as additional storage when it gets cold. That isn’t included in the statistics, but they can unload at close to 50% of total cold day demand. The capability is there in part as a security against e.g. loss of the Langeled pipeline imports from Norway..

Paul Johnson
February 19, 2021 11:23 am

It has also been suggested that ERCOT waited too long to order short-duration rolling blackouts. The grid became overloaded and generators dropped offline to protect their equipment, generating a cascade failure. Perhaps utilities need to “war game” this scenario or even conduct an annual drill to assure readiness.

February 19, 2021 11:38 am

I know Planning Engineer well; at Judith’s request we co-authored several guest posts a few years back.

I do think he insufficiently touched on one point. The ERCOT electricity peak load is summer AC, met by seasonal natgas peakers. It appears they did not plan for a winter peak when there is additional natgas heating demand. Therefore the gas reserve capacity was inadequate.

The ‘crime’ is that this was foreseeable. There were rolling ERCOT blackouts Super Bowl week 2011 for the same weather reasons as this week. Every ten years is something that should have been planned for. The reason 2011 did not end in complete disaster like this week is simple: there was much less unreliable wind on the grid, and much more baseload coal that has since been retired.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 19, 2021 12:30 pm

Yep. ERCOT had a dress rehearsal for this in 2011. The causes were very similar. However, it was over a much shorter duration and not nearly as cold as 2021. Wind had a much smaller share of our capacity and coal had a much larger share. The overall grid was more resilient.

Most of us shared in the rolling blackouts. It was annoying, but not a “crisis.” Many were enraged by the fact that the Super Bowl week activities were exempted from the blackouts… But AT&T (Cowboys) Stadium, the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center and other venues were on redundant circuits. So that wasn’t special treatment for Jerry Jones.

Larry in Texas
Reply to  David Middleton
February 19, 2021 2:51 pm

Once again, David, you provide the example of the complacency and shortsightedness that occurs from thinking that wind power provides all of the answers. Along with the failure to learn from the lessons of history.

Larry in Texas
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 19, 2021 2:50 pm

Their planning and projected demand numbers – not sure how they get those, but those sure look screwy sometimes. ERCOT needs to review both how they plan and how they communicate these things to the utilities and generators affected.

Curious George
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 19, 2021 5:05 pm

Every ten years is something that should have been planned for.”
Unfortunately, elections only happen every two years – presidential, every four years. Mother Nature wins.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 20, 2021 3:55 am

Rud correctly wrote: The ‘crime’ is that this was foreseeable.” 

Correct Rud – not only foreseeable but foreseen:

In 2002: TOLD YOU SO 19 YEARS AGO.
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/02/15/texas-frozen-wind-power-outages-ensue-electricity-now-at-unheard-of-9000-per-megawatt-hour/#comment-3186577

in 2013: This open letter was written in 2013, after Britain invested in too much wind power, but before Texans “blew their brains out”. SSDD.
“Wind power – it doesn’t just blow, it sucks!”
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/02/15/texas-frozen-wind-power-outages-ensue-electricity-now-at-unheard-of-9000-per-megawatt-hour/#comment-3186694

A friend sent me the above article earlier today. I replied:

This guy is correct but very long-winded. The following was explained to me by the VP Finance of Enbridge, a large wind power generator, more than a decade ago 

 

In Alberta, wind power gets “first access” to the grid and is paid a preferential high rate vs other generation. Natural gas and hydro generation are shut in to make room for wind. When wind dies, natural gas and hydro generation are ramped up. This is an enormous hidden subsidy for wind power. Ratepayers would pay much less for power if we simply never built the wind power in the first place. 

I expect Alberta rules have changed since then, but wind still gets first access to the grid – a huge hidden subsidy that makes no sense.

Reply to  ALLAN MACRAE
February 20, 2021 4:26 am

I nailed the current global cold Winter forecast in August 2020 below. The hard part is forecasting where the polar vortex is going next – but those who forecast a warm winter were delusional.
Regarding the warmist loons who claimed “Global Warming caused this extreme cold” – their lies are not even credible enough to be specious.

From previous posts on wattsup:
CO2, GLOBAL WARMING, CLIMATE AND ENERGY
by Allan M.R. MacRae, B.A.Sc., M.Eng., June 15, 2019
[excerpts]
 
This formula works reasonably well back to 1982, which is the limit of my data availability.
 
5. UAH LT Global Temperatures can be predicted ~4 months in the future with just two parameters:
UAHLT (+4 months) = 0.2*Nino34Anomaly + 0.15 – 5*SatoGlobalAerosolOpticalDepth (Figs. 5a and 5b)
 
6. The sequence is Nino34 Area SST warms, seawater evaporates, Tropical atmospheric humidity increases, Tropical atmospheric temperature warms, Global atmospheric temperature warms, atmospheric CO2 increases (Figs.6a and 6b).
 
I wrote in August 2020:
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/08/23/solar-plasma-temperature-is-plunging-should-we-worry/#comment-3068819
Check out NIno34 temperatures, again down to Minus 0.6C – winter will be cold.comment image
 
Nino34 SST anom’s hit minimums of minus1.4C-1.3C in Oct2020 and Nov2020 – so global coldest temperatures (+4 months) should be Feb2021 and Mar2021.* 
[* Looking at the data – I’d have to go with Yankee Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil (predicts six more weeks of winter), not Canuck’s Wiarton Willie, Shubenacadie Sam and Fred La Marmotte (call early spring). The Rite of Spring, like science, is not a democracy – it’s not about consensus – it is what it is! Attaboy Phil! Hi Four!]
 
Check the beautiful La Nina in the equatorial Pacific Ocean – the blue stuff.comment image

Last edited 5 months ago by ALLAN MACRAE
Planning Engineer
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 23, 2021 4:43 am

Rud – I might have overlooked differences between summer and winter focus. To me it seems essential you plan for both. It if the focus is energy only that difference is lost. For much of the south the median summer peak is quite a bit larger than the winter median peak. Since most ratings increase with colder temperatures there was a period of time when winter could be largely assumed as a non problem. However in the south those days are gone, The upper decile peak (one out of ten years) for winter is way above the decile summer peak in many places. Both require and demand attention. According to what I’ve read Texas only looked back ten years to come up with an extreme. I seems to me that you should at least give some consideration to extremes of the last 50 years.

As far as bulk grid improvements go, we saw very few updates in Georgia driven by winter peak conditions. But we did separate winter and summer assessments for delivery point transformers and updates here were frequently due to winter conditions. For generation winter and summer planning are typically different. In summer some say firm gas delivery charges by relaying on non firm deliveries (because there is not competition from home heating) but in the winter outside Texas firm reservations for gas delivery are a must.

Robert of Texas
February 19, 2021 11:39 am

Great article. Reserve power for emergencies is critical – just ask those people who spent two or three days without any power during an epic cold streak in Texas.

Wind and solar really have no place in large scale energy grids – they are niche technologies that make sense in unusual circumstances. Stop the subsidies for wind and solar (and electric cars while we are at it). Fix the dang problems with fuel delivery and cooling, but base-load power plants, and let’s get on with our lives.

ralfellis
February 19, 2021 11:39 am

BIackout reasons.

It was falsely reported that only 5 gw of wind went offline, leaving 5 gw remaining. That is a fiddled figure – a typical MSM fiddle.

Texas installed wind capacity is 30 gw, which COULD have all operated given the right conditions. So in reality 25 gw of wind was offline – which demonstrates the complete unreliability of wind. And wind suppliers have done NOTHING to build in backup storage facilities. If Texas went all renewable, it would require 6,000 gwh of backup energy – just for electricity, not including transport or heating. At present Texas has less than 10 gwh of storage facilities.

What happened is that there was a lack of storage – for both renewables and gas. Wind was offline due a lack of wind and and lots of blade icing. Gas went offline due to everyone turning on their gas heaters, so no gas was available for the power stations. As far as I can see the Texas electrical mix totals went something like this – for the 15th Feb…

Wind ……. 30 gw installed – 10 gw expected – 5 gw online .
Solar ……… 2 gw installed – 0.5 gw expected – 0 gw online (day only)
Gas ..……. 35 gw installed – 35 gw expected – 15 gw online
Coal ……… 15 gw installed – 15 gw expected – 15 gw online
Nuclear … 11 gw installed – 11 gw expected – 10 gw online
(Note: a total of 25 gw dropped off the grid during the freeze.)

So wind and solar COULD have alleviated this situation, if they were remotely reliable. But they are not reliable, so Texans froze.

Note that coal and nuclear were doing fine, because they have sufficient fuel storage facilities. While gas does not have so much storage, as it is expensive. And domestic gas usage went through the roof, depleting supplies to the power stations. But if gas had any incentive to invest in storage, it could. Meanwhile wind and solar make no effort whatsoever to construct backup storage systems, because they are hugely expensive and would make them totally uneconomic.

So wind and solar only remain sort-of economic, because they are wholly dependent upon fossil and nuclear fuels to back them up. Were they to construct sufficient backups, they would be 10x more expensive. This is NOT a sustainable electricity production system.

And we have not even begun to look at enough renewable energy to cover transport and space-heating requirements.

Addendum:

Another problem is that gas suppliers CANNOT allow the domestic gas system to lower in pressure, otherwise air will get into the pipes. This is a MAJOR deal, and can take weeks to rectify.

So what they did is to call the gas power stations and told them to close down – to reduce demand.
So gas-fired power reduced by 30%.

Ralph

ralfellis
Reply to  ralfellis
February 19, 2021 12:06 pm

Note:
The Texas grid is about the same size as the UK grid. The UK would need 3,500 gwh of backup energy, if it ever went 100% renewable, and at present we only have 10 gwh of backup – Dinorwig. But Dinorwig was the most expensive power station ever constructed in the world, so expanding that model would be completely uneconomic.

But that is only a fraction of the problem. If the UK (or Texas) went totally renewable (including transport and heating) they would require 8x their current renewable generation capacity. Plus they would also need some 14,000 gwh of backup supplies to allow for renewable outages. And that is simply uneconomic.

The alternative is to maintain a parallel fossil fuel backup system which, as we have just seen, would need to be able to supply 95% of required consumption. So running two energy systems, to provide the energy of one system. The whole thing is madness.

I wrote about these problems back in 2004
WUWT – Renewable Energy, Our Downfall.
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/05/25/renewable-energy-our-downfall/

P.S.
The media excuses for the lack of wind power during this Texan freeze, are the equivalent of having very poor expectations for your car’s efficiency.

a. The manufacturer says my car should do 50 mpg.**
b. But I only expect it to do 20 mpg on average.
c. And now it is only doing 10 mpg.
d. So its efficiency has reduced by 10 mpg
e. Err – No – it is currently missing 40 mpg…!
.
** About normal for European diesel cars

R.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  ralfellis
February 19, 2021 3:02 pm

The UK would need a lot more storage backup than that if it ever went fully renewable. Using 30 years of weather data, I calculated to supply current levels of demand (averaging about 35GW) would require over 30TWh of storage from a wind and solar grid. With the much higher levels of demand envisaged from electrification you are almost certainly looking in excess of 50TWh. Or having backup generation, which is clearly a much cheaper option.

Reply to  ralfellis
February 19, 2021 5:05 pm

Dinorwig was not the most expensive power station in the world. At the time it saved an extra nuclear power staion at half the cost.

ralfellis
Reply to  Leo Smith
February 19, 2021 11:42 pm

Placing a power station INSIDE a mountain was NOT half the cost of a nuclear plant. Do you have the costings?
R

Reply to  ralfellis
February 20, 2021 9:19 am

look at wiki. it isnt inside a mountain, £600m if memory erves

Paul C
Reply to  ralfellis
February 19, 2021 1:25 pm

Seems like a good analysis here.
https://talkmarkets.com/content/commodities/how-wind-power-caused-the-great-texas-blackout-of-2021?post=298668&page=3
The reduction in output of wind by 93% (from close to it’s average production – which itself is quarter of nameplate capacity) was initially handled by other generators ramping up, but demand for electricity and gas was skyrocketing. While all the generators appear to have had problems from not being sufficiently weather hardened, the massive drop in wind output put extra strain on the gas supply just as it was already being stretched.

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  ralfellis
February 19, 2021 1:38 pm

You say: “ 30 gw, which COULD have all operated given the right conditions.”

ERCOT knows you don’t get that much out of turbines in winter in Texas.

Paul C
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 1:48 pm

And we all know that you can NOT rely on getting any output at any time it is needed, so there is no point in connecting the whirlygigs to the grid in the first place if you actually want a reliable electrical supply.

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  Paul C
February 19, 2021 2:00 pm

The coastal turbines worked better than expected.
.
“…the storm’s gusty winds are spinning the state’s unfrozen coastal turbines at a higher rate than expected, helping to offset some of the power generation losses because of the icy conditions.”
.
Reference: https://www.statesman.com/story/news/2021/02/14/historic-winter-storm-freezes-texas-wind-turbines-hampering-electric-generation/4483230001/

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 2:32 pm

Simple solution: install deicing systems on the turbines.

ralfellis
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 2:44 pm

Not that easy.
If you want hot-air deicing, you need to make the blades from high temperature resins – using higher temperature ovens, and making construction more expensive.

That is why turbine blades are white – to keep them from overheating in summer sunlight.

R

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 8:00 pm

I cannot find details of power consumption
One states it uses 2% of the turbine annual production
But that is as weasel as it gets as the system only runs occasionally

It’s pretty suspicious that they don’t publish the kw rating of the heating circuit as it must really trash the turbine output

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 8:09 pm

So a 3.6mw vesta that runs 35% of the time generates 11,000mwhr a year

2% is 220mwhr, but the trick is how many hours is that operating?

And since they have to stop to deice that means the power has to come from elsewhere.

Much simpler not to have them at all and just pay for reliable power

John
February 19, 2021 11:48 am

It seems ironic that the Trump administration tried to slow the demise of coal and nuclear by placing a value on plants that could store 90 days of energy on-site. The plan was opposed by both the natural gas lobby and the green energy lobby, the same people who failed in Texas.

Reply to  John
February 19, 2021 12:44 pm

It was opposed by almost everyone except the coal and nuclear lobbies. However, the past week has demonstrated that grid resiliency is essential and it is critical to maintain a fleet of coal-fired and nuclear power plants.

Perhaps the most galling thing, is that they expected the wind turbines to fail.

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  David Middleton
February 19, 2021 1:45 pm

Sweden and Norway do not have problems with their turbines, and they operate them in much colder environments. The problem with Texas operators is that they were dedicated to cutting costs instead of focusing on reliability: https://www.iqpc.com/media/1001147/37957.pdf

So if they “expected” them to fail, they must have calculated the cost/benefit of de-icing systems and choose not to have them installed so that their bottom line didn’t suffer.

Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 2:30 pm

It depens on the design of the turbines, in a colder region you need an other design than in usualy warmer regions.You can’t have both.

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  Krishna Gans
February 19, 2021 3:34 pm

Yes you can have both, Texas didn’t install de-icing systems because the expense doesn’t contribute to their bottom line.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 2:57 pm

On the contrary. Sweden and Norway do have problems with their turbines despite the heavy investment in heaters for turbine blades, nacelles, bearings and gearboxes, and motors. The added costs, reduced performance and extra maintenance all figure in to decisions about including cold weather protections into wind turbines. Danish turbine manufacturer Vestas has produced over 132GW of turbine capacity – of which just over 1GW has the cold weather options installed.

Fortunately neither Sweden nor Norway have much dependence on wind as yet, although Sweden is considering the foolish route of shutting nuclear capacity and replacing it with wind.

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  John
February 19, 2021 1:41 pm

Natural gas can be stored on-site. The problem is that the natural gas operators didn’t want to spend their capital on this: https://www.mcdermott.com/Markets-Served/LNG/LNG-Storage
….
Had LNG storage facilities been constructed, the gas turbines would have not been shut off.

Paul C
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 2:13 pm

And electrical power (batteries) could be stored on site by the windfarm operators, but they chose not to because there is no incentive for them to provide even an approximation of reliable power. Had battery storage held even a single day’s worth of average wind output – let alone a week, the power dropout from wind could have been eased. However the batteries would have probably frozen in Texas, so this would have just been another expensive failure.

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  Paul C
February 19, 2021 3:35 pm

A less expensive solution would be for the turbines to have de-icing systems installed.

LdB
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 5:32 pm

Which means the whole generation governance is flawed … generators only do what they are required to do. They aren’t a not for profit organization.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 7:47 pm

Why do you keep going on about de-icing?
It doesn’t matter
When the wind doesn’t blow they don’t turn.
On Monday I was using my Weather Channel app looking at different locations in Texas
No wind

Same as we had here in Alberta for 9 days from the exact same weather system.
Our turbines are rigged out for cold weather
And we had between 0-10% of nameplate for over a week.

Utterly useless in a cold winter system like that

Beyond useless as they are drawing power from the grid to keep warm until the wind blows again

So they were a negative for over a week!!

So useful right?

Lrp
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 20, 2021 12:09 am

Why bother? Just get coal power plants.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 2:38 pm

LNG storage is not the economic way to provide supply security. You lose the round trip energy cost in making and regasifying the LNG, and you must invest in the plant, and you must pay to keep the LNG cold. There were several LNG storage operations in the UK gas grid that have all been abandoned: they make do with the storage in salt caverns, depleted fields and LNG import terminals, along with linepack these days. Of course, you need heat and power to regasify LNG.

I suspect the first thing that ERCOT needed was an understanding of what power cuts would have what effects: cutting supply to gas pipeline compressors means no gas and no power.

David A
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 20, 2021 6:18 pm

As far as I know they were not cut off be sure of a NG shortage.

Gary Grubbs
February 19, 2021 11:55 am

A great analysis. I have been in the power industry for over 40 years and have seen the evolution (de-evolution?) of the industry. Before deregulation occurred in the 90s each state had a Public Utilities Committee (PUC) that would oversee the electric utilities in that state. In their analyses the utility committed to having a reserve over the maximum anticipated load. This would help in overcoming the extreme conditions that could be experienced. The utility that I worked for had a standard 20% reserve.

Also built into each fossil fuel power plant was spare equipment to make sure that outages from equipment failure was limited. The failure of one pump would result in a decrease in load until the spare pump would be started up. The repair of the damaged pump would then take place with the unit still on line at full load.

The plants were designed for a 30 year life, which meant robust equipment. A lot of plants built during that time have exceeded that design life with many operating over 50 years.
All of this cost money and the movement to deregulate caught on and the power of the PUCs decreased. Supposedly to reduce electric rates. Well to reduce rates you have to reduce costs. Plants being built after that time period were not designed for the long life or with the spare capacity of equipment. Why spend money on freeze protection for an event that will occur only every 10, 20 or 30 years and is temporary condition as an appropriate example? There is no payback. And, of course you could not have much reserve, it would be too expensive to have spare plants sitting around not generating electricity but every few years.

Over time the older plants have been shut down and the more modern plants that were less robust became the standard bearer for power production. Of course the plants that were extremely old also became less reliable. Resulting in more shut downs and trips.

Now add wind and solar and those fossil fueled power plants have to vary load, sometimes hourly, to meet the intermittent loads of the wind and solar plants. This is extremely hard on plants that have not been designed to have this fluctuating load. Making them even less reliable.

Texas and California are not alone in making their electric grid less reliable. This is occurring throughout the U.S. and the World.

mcswell
Reply to  Gary Grubbs
February 19, 2021 12:23 pm

Your description reminds me of when I was the Main Propulsion Assistant (under the Chief Engineer) on an Adams class guided missile destroyer (the USS Goldsborough, may peace be upon it). Steam powered. Nearly every piece of equipment in each of the two enginerooms and two firerooms, save the main turbines and reduction gears, was duplicated: pumps, blowers, generators, boilers. You couldn’t make full power without some of them (you needed all four boilers, for example), but the loss of a single pump wouldn’t slow you down, and you could still make way at a decent 15 knots with just one boiler. In contrast, the Knox class destroyer escorts had a single fireroom and engineroom, and nearly any engineering plant malfunction put them DIW.

That said, the Adams class were too complicated for warships (and the control equipment didn’t stay in calibration under pounding and wild demand swings), so the next generation of DDGs used gas turbines.

Chuck no longer in Houston
Reply to  mcswell
February 22, 2021 1:41 pm

Hey mcswell,

I spent a number of years on the USS Berkeley, DDG-15, another Adams class DD. Electricians Mate, my GQ station was the switchboard in the forward engine room. With a three-section watch, I spent thousands of hours down there.

Last edited 5 months ago by Chuck no longer in Houston
bonbon
Reply to  Gary Grubbs
February 19, 2021 1:35 pm

Exactly!!!
And who pushed dereg. why Dick Cheney. the architect of the greatest US mistake evah. as Trump said about Iraq.
ENRON. the Ranch at the Crooked E being the titanic flagship of WallSteets dereg.
BOTH parties are rabid dereg “free marked” ideologues. CA”s roasting last summer is about to hit TX soon..
Time to get back to9 FDR’s Public Utility Holding Company Act.
And you are right on the ball- this lethal dereg is seeping into the EU. not known exactly what BoJo is doing , for sure dereg as it came from Mad Maggie Thatcher of Britain.

Eisenhower
Reply to  Gary Grubbs
February 19, 2021 1:56 pm

Excellent points. I agree with most everything you wrote. As someone involved in energy industry and regulatory affairs I see another issue responsible for the state of our rotting infrastructure.
 
For decades the people in government understood the value of maintaining and expanding
infrastructure to meet our needs. But keeping the lights on or maintaining
roads, etc has become boring. People in public service want to change the
world, I call it the Avenger Syndrome, so they are cajoled and flattered into
climate issues or eliminating poverty.
 
What is more exciting saving the world or keeping the sewage plant operating? Politicians
must always be marketing themselves to keep their jobs. Unfortunately being an
Avenger is much sexier than making sure the things that make daily life better
for all of us work efficiently.

Larry in Texas
Reply to  Gary Grubbs
February 19, 2021 2:59 pm

This hits the nail right on the head, Gary. I’ve heard stories like that from similar utility employees as well as some of my colleagues involved in utility regulation here in Texas over the years. If you don’t pay someone to maintain a reserve capacity, they are not going to maintain it.

bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 12:03 pm

A significant unmentioned problem in Texas is that they don’t learn from the mistakes they have made. This is not the first time this has happened: https://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/tag/2011-blackouts/

They didn’t have a frozen wind turbine issue in 2011.

Tsk Tsk
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 12:27 pm

They didn’t have 25% wind penetration either.

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  Tsk Tsk
February 19, 2021 1:19 pm

It was winter in Texas, they knew wind would provide less. The problem Texas had (as in 2011) is that it’s natural gas supply failed.

Steven F
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 6:21 pm

It wasn’t just natural gas supply failed.

Power plants need water for cooling. The water lines in the power plants coal nuclear and natural gas all had freezing issues at the power plants.

The water companies didn’t barry the mains deep enough. There are also numerous water main breaks. Throughout the state.

A lot of power lines were damaged due to snow and ice. Withe power line and distrutionline failure any power they had couldn’t be delivered.

Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 12:39 pm

See my comment above. Actually they did have a 2011 frozen wind turbine problem. The difference was that wind penetration was lower (it reached 10% in 2014 (approximate reserve stability threshold) and was over 20% in 2021), and at least 4GW of coal was available that has since been retired. So the rolling blackouts of 2011 were of short duration, an inconvenience rather than this weeks disaster.

A report was generated in 2011. None of its recommendations, including no higher wind penetration, were implemented.

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 19, 2021 1:16 pm

There is no profit in winterizing their infrastructure. That was the most important recomendation they didn’t implement . Since it was winter, the expected output from wind was small, and at times the remaining turbines (especially coastal ones) exceeded expectations during this “event.”

Last edited 5 months ago by bethan456@gmail.com
bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 2:18 pm

Had they installed de-icing systems in the turbines, they would not have had a problem, so as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for.”

Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 2:57 pm

B, I know of NO wind turbine deicing system except a warm front. The turbine blades are very big and long, constructed of composite carbon fiber to be as light and strong as possible. Even so, the axial bearings fail to to ‘wobble’ since wind speed at apex is higher than at nadir. See essay True Cost of Wind over at Judiths.
Adding deicing equipment weight is an engineering non-starter.

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 19, 2021 3:38 pm
Pat from kerbob
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 7:34 pm

It says they have to shut them off to de-ice
No power generated when they are off

Based on the size of them I bet it takes more power to run the de-ice heaters than the turbine can produce, even a small induction motor space heater takes 1200-1400w, driving heaters for those massive blades has to be a lot of power.

So they detect ice, shut them down, draw power from “reliable” energy somewhere to melt the ice off but I doubt they can run again until the ice weather passes.
I guess they could run and use the power it generates to keep the ice off but what would be the point?

I drove by a lot of shutdown turbines on a windy day in Saskatchewan last week when it was -36 and lots of ice crystals in the air.

Last edited 5 months ago by Pat from kerbob
Larry in Texas
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 19, 2021 3:01 pm

As usual. Just as typical of utility bureaucracies as well as government bureaucracies. Never learn from the lessons of history.

LdB
Reply to  Larry in Texas
February 19, 2021 5:34 pm

Correct and they needed to implement rules and regulations that all generators should have had to meet.

Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 9:46 pm

They didn’t have many windmills in 2011 — perhaps one quarter of the number in 2021

John Pickens
February 19, 2021 12:22 pm

“Wind and solar have value and can be added to power systems effectively in many instances.”

It is? A statement like this needs backup with an authoritative citation of a technical, peer reviewed study.

I have NEVER seen an assessment of wind and solar PV true value to an electric supply network. Wind and solar PV are subsidy farms, taking $0.10 per kwh Chinese coal and hydro power, and turning it into $0.15 per kwh.

When the energy of production and backup baseload power necessary to keep a stabilized grid running are taken into account, I’m guessing you’ll find that wind and solar PV are net energy consumers. Otherwise, they would cost less.

Prove me wrong.
I know I have not cited any studies which state my case, but do the math. My energy cost breakdown is real, and agrees with my case, but the burden of proof should be on the shoulders of those selling the wind and PV “revolution”.

Paul Johnson
Reply to  John Pickens
February 19, 2021 12:55 pm

How about this thought experiment:

Assume a fossil fuel/nuclear power grid that fully meets demand. Add a unicorn intermittently providing 20% to 50% of demand for free with semi-predicable outages of minute, hours, or days.

What happens to costs? In the real world, all the existing equipment would still be needed to cover unicorn shortfall/outages. Capital, operating, and maintenance costs remain the same or increase due to cycling. Only fuel costs are reduced.

Thus, the value of non-dispatchable power is at most the avoided fuel cost for the back-up systems.

Reply to  John Pickens
February 19, 2021 1:51 pm

JP, you cannot be proven wrong because you are right.
Planning Engineer and I wrote detailed technical and economic analyses of wind, grid solar (both PV and CS) and grid storage at Judith’s request over at Climate Etc. The titles were, IIRC, True Cost of Wind, Grid Solar, and for storage ‘California Dreaming’ because of CPUC’s absurd storage definition and metric. We were able to use mostly California examples to work out the math for that guest post.

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 19, 2021 2:22 pm

How come the energy companies in Texas invested in wind instead of maintaining their coal plants? Because installing new wind capacity was cheaper than running/maintaining their coal plants. Texans ditch unprofitable stuff rather quickly. Guess investors in Texas know more about energy than you.

Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 3:03 pm

Not quite true.

  1. Ercot coal was old, and mostly local lignite (a poorer heat value, therefore ‘dirtier’ fuel. Average life of a conventional (non-supercritical) coal plant is 42 years.
  2. Wind is only cheaper when subsidized and backup isn’t fully required. See ‘True Cost of Wind’ over at Judith’s for the details EIA ‘cheated on’.
  3. The electricity generating companies mostly did not invest in wind. It was newbies ‘subsidy farming’.
bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 19, 2021 3:44 pm

Number 2 is incorrect, wind in Texas is cheaper than coal without subsidies.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesellsmoor/2019/06/15/renewable-energy-is-now-the-cheapest-option-even-without-subsidies/

https://http://www.factcheck.org/2019/07/does-wind-work-without-subsidies

.
Also as a percentage of predicted capacity, wind out performed the backup (natural gas) in this event.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 4:43 pm

Wind dropped to just 649MW at one point (8 p.m. 15th). Care to do the sums?

Curious George
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 5:15 pm

Did James Ellsmoor make sense to you?

LdB
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 5:36 pm

Which is the same as saying you have the fastest/cheapest car in the world although sometimes the break fail and it will kill you.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 7:26 pm

Any such analysis comparing Mw to Mw cost is false due to intermittency.

I’ll even allow that 100mw of wind power is cheaper than 100mw of coal

But to get 100mw of power from coal I need to build 105

To get 100mw of wind over the year I have to build 250-300 and I must widely space them out to get even that, so more grid connection.

And then even though you built the 300mw you still need the 105mw of coal as the wind will be zero much of the time.

Show me the saving in there compared to just building the 105mw of coal needed for reliable power?

Poof goes the ridiculous myth once again

Last edited 5 months ago by Pat from kerbob
Deuce
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 21, 2021 8:27 am

Market price is not net cost after deducting installation costs. Semantic games from for-profit ‘fact check’ sites notwithstanding you will never see a case where a windmill produced enough energy to pay back it’s installation and material costs. By nature it’s inefficient because of all the power you would have gotten by diverting all the petroleum that went into the windmill directly to fuel. People smarter than you have already tried and failed. Thats why they had to call in the fact checkers to play semantics in the first place. Nobody just discovered this this week as a result of the events in Texas. It’s a known and proven reality that has been fully documented for over a decade, Johnny Come Lately.

Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 11:47 pm

Beth @ phishing trap

You can’t compare the price of wind power to that from coal or nuclear or gas because they produce different things. Wind can’t make electricity in a useable load-following way. It makes it in a useless whimsical random way unconnected with demand. A true unbiased cost analysis will show the intermittents to always a crease the price of electricity and decrease its reliability. That’s what happens to electricity bills.

Anyway “ERCOT”, “Electric reliability” has now provided the whole world with a good laugh during this dark pandemic period so we should thank those not-so-bright Khmer Vert idealists for that at least. Not to mention Tim Boyd…

Deuce
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 21, 2021 8:19 am

Nonsense. No windmill in use in Texas has or ever will return it’s cost of installation. Rather than passing off speculation about the attitudes of Texans as some sort of factual argument, I challenge to to present a single data point that disputes my claim. Sure 100 of them may return the cost of 50 of them but there is no single ONE that has returned the cost of itself.

2hotel9
Reply to  Deuce
February 21, 2021 9:01 am

And there in lies the rub, add to it the fact they have to be replaced at a far faster rate than any other source and this is all just a scam. Use the power generation system that provides the longest use time, in descending order, and wind does not even make it on the list.

Maureen from Regina
February 19, 2021 12:37 pm

I had to read the article three times but I think I have it figured out. Essentially when traditional energy sources (oil, gas, coal hydroelectric) are devalued (which includes condemning them for something, reducing their ability to produce, adding more and more requirements on them to exist, taxing them for carbon etc) and non-traditional sources (such as wind and solar) are promoted including providing lots and lots of subsidies, don’t be surprised when the electrical grid fails. Because suppliers will have gone where the money is and the subsidies given to wind and solar is where the money is. At the same time, pay no nevermind to the fact that wind and solar are inefficient and unreliable in emergency circumstances.
So a perfect storm was created in Texas – traditional energy sources were reduced (because of increased costs) in favour of renewables (because of increased subsidies which gave the appearance renewables were stable and just the bestest thing ever) and in the end Mother Nature is a bitch and doesn’t really care what havoc she causes.

bonbon
Reply to  Maureen from Regina
February 19, 2021 1:38 pm

Wrong, the British Queen .and her son the Prince of Great Reset . Charles. are laughing outright at the chaos they have in store for us all.
Why have Americans become Gaia worshipers?

Indefatigable
Reply to  bonbon
February 20, 2021 5:52 pm

Charles really is a simpleton.

Reply to  Maureen from Regina
February 19, 2021 9:19 pm

Maureen
Your comment is correct.

the fact that wind and solar are inefficient and unreliable in emergency circumstances.

Wind and solar are unreliable in all circumstances. They simply don’t do reliable.

Joel O'Bryan
February 19, 2021 12:48 pm

“In a fair system with good price signals today’s wind and solar cannot achieve high penetration levels in a fair competition.”

Fair competition is capitalism. The push by Democrats is of course to diminish capitalism, because capitalism has placed most political power in the diffuse middle class. To concentrate power into the hands of the elites means by definition taking it away from the middle class by destroying the middle class and in doing so create a command economy controlled by bureacrats that transfers political power to central authorities. You and I are the problem in their minds. They want (need) to break us.

I can only hope this ERCOT fiasco wakes people up to the stupidity of more wind and solar. It is not only more expensive, it destabilizes grids and increases the likelihood of black-outs. And in the bigger picture of what the Democrats are intent on bringing, it is a central part of eliminating affordable energy for the middle class.

Last edited 5 months ago by joelobryan
bonbon
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
February 19, 2021 1:40 pm

Dereg gives you a choice, freeze in TX now. roast in TX in summer as compatriots in CA well know about.
Charming, the free choice, what?

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
February 19, 2021 2:09 pm

JB, wind and solar actually destabilize the grid in two different ways, both bad.
First is intermittency, which requires backup. Depending on grid details, renewable penetration less than 10% of normal capacity isn’t destabilizing, because normal grid reserve capacity can cover with no extra cost. Higher penetration means additional underutilized backup cost to the grid, NOT the renewable operator, as things now stand.

Second, renewables by definition provide no grid inertia (frequency control) that is provided free by the kinetic energy in large heavy rotating generators.
There is a solution that again the renewable operators do not provide: synchronous condensers. These are ‘just’ large generators without the driving turbine. Almost as e pensive as backup power.

Why, given these unavoidable electrical engineering deficiencies, renewables are subsidized is climate madness.

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 19, 2021 2:24 pm

The “backup” (natural gas) failed in Texas. Maybe Texas should backup their backup?

Curious George
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 5:19 pm

Maybe they relied on their backup too much. Would you prefer five layers of backup?

H. D. Hoese
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 19, 2021 2:58 pm

True Rud. Good article and comments. I live on the Texas coast and watched turbines offloaded at Harbor Island, 16 per ship in pieces at a time consistent with their installation north of Corpus Christi and doubled capacity in the last five years. I said Uh-Oh, as I was taught and read about solar and wind physical limitations around 4 decades ago. Statements I remember were like without hydrocarbons we will starve. Besides the technical aspects there is now a mindset that many entities were responsible for. 1899 was two 60 year cycles ago, look it up, coincidence?

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 19, 2021 4:04 pm

Rud, you say: “renewables by definition provide no grid inertia (frequency control) ” ….. This is true but ignores this fact:
.
First, it’s true that these resources decrease the amount of inertia available on the system. But second, these resources can reduce the amount of inertia actually needed—and thus address the first effect.”
..
Ref: https://www.nrel.gov/news/program/2020/inertia-and-the-power-grid-a-guide-without-the-spin.html

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 4:09 pm

Additionally Rud, with regard to wind turbines:
.
“Developments by several suppliers have enabled the rotating mass of the blades to be used to create synthetic inertia and feed additional power into the grid to support loss of generation.
Latest versions of many wind turbines carry this feature as standard but older machines remain problematic.”

.
Ref: https://www.ee.co.za/article/synthetic-inertia-grids-high-renewable-energy-content.html

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 4:40 pm

If you do the sums – can you do them? you will find that the inertia contribution is trivial.

Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 5:01 pm

B,
Rud gave two reasons why wind and solar had unavoidable electrical engineering deficiencies. How do you propose to deal with intermittency? Given your references to a Syracuse.com article you might be from New York. Check out my post CLCPA Initial Thoughts on Texas Energy Debacle on the implications of the Texas situation to New York. I looked at New York’s onshore wind output during the period when Texas was having problems and there was a 17-hour period with a capacity factor of 2.6% and fossil plants generated 1,424,942 MWH. If you do the energy storage requirements math the costs will be astounding if some kind of energy storage with renewables solution is even possible.

LdB
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 5:41 pm

Your article is a theoretical white paper which has one case on a small 3rd world install in Chile which has no follow out. Give us an actual true evaluation where it is used in any real first world grid.

AndyHce
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
February 20, 2021 7:01 am

Since the major media are telling the opposite story with great energy, those people you are depending upon to awaken are very unlikely to get the message.

Indefatigable
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
February 20, 2021 5:37 pm

We can talk pros and cons of different sources of energy, but frankly that is not here or there. You have stated the crux of the situation. The big picture. The Texas situation, as awful as it is, is just a source of advancement for the destruction of the middle class. The dems are using any disaster, real or created, to bring forth their hellish vision of utopia. They don’t care if you freeze or starve to death. The fewer of us(middle class) the better for them politically. The globalist, elitist dems are helping to deliberately create a food shortage worldwide which is already being felt in the US. Now they want us to eat mealworms. Really. Remember the 1973 movie with Charlton Heston, Soylent Green? Take heed.

Last edited 5 months ago by Indefatigable
BobM
February 19, 2021 1:13 pm

Looks like the answer must be more Solar…

Referring to the announced closure of the Coleto Creek coal power plant by 2027
https://ieefa.org/vistra-to-close-648mw-coleto-creek-coal-plant-in-texas-by-2027/ this article by the “Energy Collective Group”, part of Energy and Sustainability Network, proposes an all-solar replacement for 17 GW of retiring coal capacity…

https://energycentral.com/c/ec/can-texas-shut-down-its-remaining-coal-2030

“With this announcement the list of TX coal closures continues to grow. Currently there is still about 17.4 GW of coal capacity left in TX and half of this capacity now has an announced closure date.
What would it take to shutdown all of the remaining coal capacity in TX by 2030 and replace the current coal generation without adding new NG plants? 40 GW of new solar capacity in TX or about 4GW/year.
Current capacity of solar in TX is about 4GW and another 4 GW will be added next year. Can this pace be maintained for the full decade?
comment image
Plants highlighted in yellow have already retired…”

Yeah, I really want to live where these guys have anything to do with electricity generation.

starzmom
February 19, 2021 1:14 pm

While the midwest freezes–and I live here–Joe Biden and his merry band of nincompoops are planning the future without energy for us.

bonbon
Reply to  starzmom
February 19, 2021 1:42 pm

Viceroy Biden is doing Prince Charles’ bidding. Welcome back to the British Commonwealth, squire.

Tim Spence
February 19, 2021 1:33 pm

Enough already, I’ve heard every excuse from failure to ‘winterize’ and the ‘mix’. There’s no place for intermittent energy in a reliable grid, fin, end punto.

February 19, 2021 1:41 pm

Superb analysis of the energy policy problems. I hope everyone reads this!

I just blogged an analysis showing why natural climate change dictates that wise energy policy must include capacity markets.

Cold Snaps Expose Climate Science Fragility 

http://landscapesandcycles.net/cold-snaps-expose-climate-science-fragillity.html

It will be cross-blogged here too

Pflashgordon
February 19, 2021 1:44 pm

Because of intermittency, ERCOT has always calculated a very low capacity factor for wind (i.e., fraction of nameplate capacity that can be relied upon). On their generation webpage, ERCOT even calls them what they are, Intermittent Renewable Resources. Coal and nuclear on the other hand usually run reliably with capacity factors of about 90% or better. Most gas units could achieve nearly the same, except they must ramp up and down to compensate for the variability of intermittent renewables. If gas shows capacity factors substantially below coal and nuclear, it is largely artificial due to renewables, not because of inherent technology deficiencies.
At best, they only expected about 33% of nameplate from wind on that fateful day, but actually got about half of that, a small fraction of demand. During the week afterward, wind varied tremendously, but never made a significant difference in the load recovery. Coal and nuclear kept churning out power reliably, and gas slowly ramped up to make up the shortfall. In a disaster, intermittent renewables are just that, intermittent and unreliable.

Aside from poor real-time performance in this crisis, this article rightly holds intermittent renewables indirectly to blame for their negative impact on the overall generation portfolio that set up this disaster.

Aside from inconvenience, when the toll in damages to infrastructure, economy and human life are counted, Austin is going to hear about this. You can’t just scapegoat the ERCOT board, even if they are accountable and should be fired (and sued personally?) Our legislature and executive branch, yes even Republicans, have failed their constituents by bowing to the Green Dragon.

bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 1:52 pm
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 2:36 pm

The 0.99MW wind farm is the southern-most wind farm in the world.

comment image

Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 3:15 pm

B, you forget that Antarctica is also VERY cold and therefore VERY dry. So the token Ross Island wind farm ‘never’ encounters icing. Powder snow skiing thing.

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 19, 2021 3:50 pm

Ever live in New York? https://www.syracuse.com/business/2021/02/why-wind-turbines-in-new-york-state-keep-working-in-bitter-cold-weather-unlike-the-ones-in-texas.html
….
Seriously Rud, Texans made a bad decision not installing de-icing equipment. The turbines on the coast performed admirably throughout this entire mess.

goldminor
February 19, 2021 1:55 pm

Look at this amazing video by WION news, … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAA5G1SNSkU

They are seeing record breaking snows across the Middle East, and Northern Africa.

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  goldminor
February 19, 2021 2:25 pm

The climate scientists predicted more extreme weather didn’t they?

BobM
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 2:39 pm

As far as I can tell, they predict more of everything bad and less of anything good. And their predictions fall into the “always wrong” category.

Curious George
Reply to  BobM
February 19, 2021 5:28 pm

“Always wrong”. I would not go that far. 97% wrong.

Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 3:29 pm

B, you just cannot stop, so neither will I. Been at this game for a decade, parts of three ebooks, and many guest posts here and at Judiths.
You may not realize it yet, but you are informationally overmatched. Or, as the little girl says on the annual Harvard Ig Nobel awards program when a recipient goes over the allotted acceptance speech time, ‘Please Stop’.

The extremes your favs predicted were floods, droughts, and heat waves. Go review AR4, AR5, and the many PIK papers. NOT more snow. As UK’s David Viner infamously opined in 2000, ‘Children will not know snow’. Snow is why your warmies changed global warming to ‘climate change’; it wasn’t warming (pause) and weather always changes.

Except they forgot that weather per se isn’t climate. Climate is the weather metrics envelope over at least 30 years, by IPCC and AMO definition.

So particular to this thread and your comments therein, a severe winter freeze in Texas that recurs every 10 years CANNOT be climate change. By your sides definition.

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 19, 2021 6:21 pm

“but you are informationally overmatched. ”
..
As a graduate of the same school as Cancun Cruz, your immense ego is a great target.
.
For example, you post ” NOT more snow.” ….. Hint: This event was due to cold, not snow.

You post: “Snow is why your warmies changed global warming to ‘climate change’;” This is factually incorrect. “Global warming” was changed to “climate change” by Frank Lutntz: https://grist.org/article/the-gops-most-famous-messaging-strategist-calls-for-climate-action/
..

The polar vortex made an impressive excursion south due to the meandering jet stream. Not just impressive but exceptional. Obviously this spate of cold was outside of the envelope. You post ” Climate is the weather metrics envelope over at least 30 years, ” and you hit the nail on it’s head. This extreme has impacted the “envelope.” Do you want to wait for more data for confirmation? If not please provide me with an explanation as to why it is not a result of “climate change.”

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 6:35 pm

How can we trust anything you say when you are informationally deficient with regards to the origin of the term “climate change?”

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 6:52 pm

Here is another example of your “informational deficiency”……. “B, I know of NO wind turbine deicing system except a warm front. “

Here ya go: https://www.iqpc.com/media/1001147/37957.pdf

Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 20, 2021 1:00 am

Beth @ phishing trap

Who cares what bullshyt name alarmists choose for the scam of manufacturing alarm from naturally chaotic weather and climate?

Correlation may not be causation, but in countries like Germany and Australia, electricity bills go up and grid reliability goes down in direct proportion to the percent of intermittents “supplying” the grid. How spectacularly stupid do you need to be to imagine that adding intermittent supply unrelated to demand will have any positive effect on either price or reliability?

Your Khmer Vert mob rule the media and politics so you and your thug friends can fiddle the numbers and re-write the rules all you like. Then go a-gaslighting to tell us all how right and wonderful this ecofascism really is.

But this Texas fiasco is a dose of reality that you wont be able to gaslight your way out of. Citizens are now receiving electricity bills 30 times higher than normal.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Hatter Eggburn
February 20, 2021 8:47 am

HE

Here in the UK 23% of every domestic electricity bill is for ‘environmental and social obligations.’ and environmental levies are forecast to be £11.2 billion in 2020/21 and £12.5 billion in 2024/25.

goldminor
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 7:24 pm

The polar vortex was exceptional for us, but it would not be exceptional when placed alongside any of the historical deep cold snaps which we label as grand solar minima. The century class cold snaps are also related to what the NH is now going through.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 9:12 pm

So carbon dioxide now also controls the jet stream?

Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 19, 2021 10:01 pm

You know, Beth, I am going to stop responding. The reason is an ancient pig wrestling anecdote that is totally a propos.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 3:42 pm

Got any evidence that this particular extreme weather is connected to CO2? That is what you are implying, isn’t it?

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Tom Abbott
February 19, 2021 6:35 pm

My forecast is for silence.

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
February 19, 2021 7:36 pm

It happens in summer, so why not winter?
.
https://www.nature.com/articles/srep45242

bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 7:39 pm

Failed forecast Monte

Pflashgordon
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 8:39 pm

Bethan, clearly you are a child or young adult. Many on this blog have lived long enough to have seen multiple extreme weather events. Being from Texas, this week’s weather was rare but not “unprecedented” nor unexpected. I have lived through at least two such events long before anyone was talking about alleged manmade climate change.

If you would calm down, listen and learn, you would frequently find people on this blog repudiating, with ACTUAL DATA, the many false claims of the climatariate and their media mouthpieces.

Live, learn and gain some wisdom and humility. I am an environmental professional (a meteorologist and soil scientist by degrees) with over 40 years in the field, yet one learns humility when faced with the sheer magnitude and complexity of this blessed world in which we live and one’s own inability to fully measure, explain, understand and model it.

Maybe you have grown accustomed to the ugly world of social media and want to play those childish games, but that will not get you far on this site. People here are on a journey of learning and discovery, with input from some of the world’s best scientists, engineers, economists, business people and thoughtful laypersons. We tackle important issues with grace and humor, and we have some fun along the way. So why don’t you set your preconceived notions aside and have a mature conversation?

John Dilks
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
February 19, 2021 8:24 pm

As long as Bethan has internet access, that forecast is a failure.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  John Dilks
February 19, 2021 9:09 pm

Sad but true.

LdB
Reply to  John Dilks
February 20, 2021 6:02 am

But with spates of dribble 🙂

February 19, 2021 1:59 pm

Considering the extreme cold, nothing particularly surprising is happening within any resource class in Texas.

There are wind turbines in Antarctica. There are natural gas power plants in Siberia.

Who or what then is responsible for the shocking consequences produced by Texas’s run in with this recent bout of extreme cold?

How can the consequences of the “extreme cold” be simultaneously “nothing particularly surprising” and “shocking”?

Itdoesn't add up...
February 19, 2021 2:00 pm

Some interesting observations from Roger Pielke:

https://rogerpielkejr.substack.com/p/the-texas-blackout-and-preparing

They were not planning adequately for cold weather. Are climate models to blame?

Larry in Texas
February 19, 2021 2:04 pm

One of the things that few people understand, whether in Texas or outside, is that no matter how much we try to plan things out carefully, nature does not always follow the game plan and bites us hard in the butt. All you have to do is look what happened during the East Tohoku earthquake in Japan on March 11, 2011. The Japanese were probably the most prepared people on earth for a big earthquake and tsunami (and I give them credit, too: if they had not been prepared as they were, the death toll would have been more like 219,000 or more instead of 19,000). But the tsunami in question overtopped almost all of their sea walls and caused frightening damage and chaos for months thereafter, despite their best-laid plans.

These historical lessons, along with the observations in the article above, explain why it is so important to provide a sufficient reserve/excess capacity in all of our utility systems. While there is never any guarantee that some disaster may come along that destroys everything anyway, if responsible public utilities provide a way to be “ready to serve” when the vast number of crises come along, you will not see the number of problems that come along like the ones we in Texas are having right now.

Unfortunately, this means that the State of Texas and its Legislature are going to have to take steps to make sure that public electric utilities/electric generation companies provide that “readiness to serve” I am talking about. Because they will not do it on their own without some regulation in that regard – there is no immediate return in doing it right now – and without some guarantees from the law in return. Yes, by all means, public electric utilities/electric generation companies will need to be additionally compensated in some way to stand ready to serve with a much bigger reserve generation capacity than Texas has right now.

As a former municipal utility attorney, I know that the compensation, regardless of who it hits first, will be passed on to the ultimate consumer. But I know how that stuff works, too, and public input will be needed into how this gets compensated for, so that the public is not gouged and abused.

This time, I was lucky I did not lose my electric power this time around. But when I owned my own home, I lost my power due to storms, brownouts, blackouts, and allocated outages a number of times (not just in the winter, either). Far too many times – it reminded me sometimes of a stinking third world country.

This must end.

rah
February 19, 2021 2:05 pm

This is OT but I thought I should bring it up.
Facebook will begin censoring the news to remove anything that challenges the Cult of Global Warming:”
http://ace.mu.nu/archives/facebookglobalwarming.png

Reply to  rah
February 19, 2021 2:45 pm

We live in 2021 not in 1984, wait…

rah
Reply to  Krishna Gans
February 19, 2021 3:13 pm

Is that the best you can do?

Reply to  rah
February 19, 2021 3:32 pm

They also just censored all ‘news’ from Australia, including all official government websites including, but not limited to, BOM. That will not end well for Facebook.

goldminor
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 19, 2021 7:16 pm

The Hill censored this comment of mine the other day ”
goldminor austinandjusin a day ago
Removed

“One thing that happened was the false story of global warming diverted over 1 trillion dollars of money that could have been spent on resolving real problems.”

February 19, 2021 2:19 pm

It should be said that solar and wind are valid power sources, not to be rejected entirely. As Roger Sowell correctly points out, they reduce demand for fossil fuels such as gas, decreasing fossil prices.

But their intermittency problem destabilising grids and their bird and bat 🦇 ki11ing, mean that they should rationally be kept below an upper limit of 10-20% of grid capacity.

Nuclear is a far better solution than intermittents – if carbon reduction is a politically necessary measure even if of no real environmental or biosphere impact. There is a mutual exclusivity between internittents and nuclear since nuclear is not intermittent. It is best for baseload. Although new nuclear technology allows load following also.

In short, nuclear must increase, and intermittents must decrease. There will be unending punishment, Texas-style, until this lesson is learned. Rationally, most electricity should come from nuclear.

Last edited 5 months ago by Hatter Eggburn
Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Hatter Eggburn
February 19, 2021 6:38 pm

“But what about all the shovel-ready green energy JOBS?!!??”

February 19, 2021 2:28 pm

[An investigation by NBC found that ERCOT “did not conduct any on-site inspections of the state’s power plants to see if they were ready for this winter season. Due to COVID-19 they conducted virtual tabletop exercises instead – but only with 16% of th…
See More

https://www.aier.org/article/lockdowns-and-the-texas-power-disaster/?fbclid=IwAR3nw_x838jirWQ8mVmaRR4jGFK5uUfrvFIGOmSqQHoLxxsc7EykQUEuyDs

RickWill
February 19, 2021 2:51 pm

Texas gets 20% of its energy from intermittent sources. Usually that is where the indigestion is noticeable. Other grids with higher penetration of intermittents rely on interconnections with other grids to hold them up.

The costs of integrating intermittents skyrockets once penetration goes above 20%. There needs to be a sophisticated market in what is known in Australia as FCAS – Frequency Control and Ancillary Services.

When South Australia was islanded this time last year due to an interconnector outage, the FCAS charges went sky high. So much so that wind and solar generators, that bear a portion of the FCAS costs, just voluntarily curtailed (they were initially ordered off so the system could be kept in control). For the two week period that the line was out, the FCAS charges were as much as the wholesale price. Over that two week period, the Hornsdale battery recovered its entire capital cost by serving a good portion of the short term FCAS market, much more significant than the price arbitrage it makes its daily income from.

The political recognition of FCAS followed the blackout in South Australia in 2016 although there was an existing market. But the blackout made the need “real” not just something that electrical engineers think about. I expect ERCOT will be looking closely at its market design. Of further note is The Australian grid operator’s administration costs have increased 30% year-on-year for the last three years as managing the FCAS market is getting increasingly complex.

Australia regularly goes through a period of warm days each summer that stretches the grid with air-conditioning demand – probably not as bad as freezing to death in Texas but still tough on people who normally live in air-conditioned rooms.

Bill Parsons
February 19, 2021 2:53 pm

There are two facets to the Texas energy catastrophe that I’ve seen on this site: the delivery problem and the capacity problem.

The “Planning Engineer” dismisses delivery problems in Texas thusly:

“Considering the extreme cold, nothing particularly surprising is happening within any resource class in Texas. The technologies and their performance were well within the expected bounds of what could have been foreseen for such weather conditions.”

With that issue resolved, he proceeds to ask, “Who is responsible for providing adequate capacity in Texas during extreme conditions? The short answer is no one.” He turns the rest of his discussion solely to questions of capacity and market forces. 

From all that we’ve seen of the Texas emergency, it appears that they had more problems with delivery than capacity. It doesn’t matter how much fuel you have in reserve if your turbines or water cooling systems freeze up, or your power lines go down. Systems set up to shed heat in a Texas summer need a whole different approach to handle cold. Generators failed because of the way they were housed and winterized.

The problems in Texas began with infrastructure weaknesses and cascaded outward from there.

I’m not sure what a “planning engineer” does, but I wonder if he ever goes out in the field and actually fixes things.

Reply to  Bill Parsons
February 19, 2021 5:11 pm

He showed why they guys out in the field were not prepared to fix things and handle the conditions that caused the problem not the specifics why things failed the way they did. Short answer – they only pay for energy and not capacity so there is no payoff for being ready to handle really cold weather.

February 19, 2021 2:54 pm

Texas was prepared for global warming but not the return of the cold
But the awful truth is, that it costs more to add these “heat and de-icing” features and with everyone planning for Global Warming, well, who needs ’em? It’s almost like ERCOT in Texas assumed the weather would never get that cold again. Like perhaps they were afraid of endless droughts, more cyclones, and deadly heatwaves, but not Arctic ice storms?

All said

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Krishna Gans
February 19, 2021 4:23 pm

As I’ve been saying.
Show me one renewable advocate who was warning of freezing?

February 19, 2021 3:00 pm

Texas power grid was ‘seconds or minutes’ from a total blackout that could have lasted months, ERCOT says
Texas’ electrical system was “seconds or minutes” from collapsing and plunging the state into the dark for months, the power grid’s operators said Thursday while defending their decision to initiate controlled outages.
“Our frequency went to a level that, if operators had not acted very rapidly … it could have very quickly changed,” said Bill Magness, CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the agency that oversees the grid.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  Krishna Gans
February 19, 2021 4:34 pm

I think that is ERCOT getting their retaliation in first, or putting up a smokescreen. My guess (looking at the EIA hourly generation data) is that events went something like this:

On the afternoon of the 14th, with demand forecast to hit records in the evening, the ERCOT control room was manned by the most experienced team, and they succeeded in meeting the demand peak (8 p.m.) by cranking up the available gas generation pretty much to maximum and with the aid of still about 8GW of wind generation. There will have been a shift change, and with the expectation that overnight demand would fall back, but the following daytime would again be very challenging, it’s likely a less experienced team took over.

To begin with demand did ease off slightly, and dropping wind generation still allowed a small easing of gas generation as well. Then sometime after midnight the first gas generator tripped out – a plant failure of some kind, perhaps due to a problem with inadequate water feed for cooling. No problem in the control room: they rustled up some hydro and asked for a bit more coal burn. Between 1 and 2 a.m. they lost almost 2 GW of gas generation, and they ran out of spare coal capacity which they maxed. It’s already possible that these were cascading trips and at least partly motivated by underfrequency.

Just after 2 a.m. all hell broke loose, with 9.2GW lost including 7.3GW of gas and 1.75GW of coal. That was almost certainly mainly caused by cascading trips for underfrequency. Underfrequency occurs when supply is less than demand, and when the frequency drops too far plants start tripping out for safety reasons: they are not designed to operate at full load at rotation speeds that can set up mechanical instabilities and lead to the plant destroying itself. There are two ways to deal with underfrequency: find some spare generation capacity PDQ to restore balance – or start instituting blackouts to curb demand below the available supply. A bit like flying a large aircraft or piloting a large vessel, system response is lagged, so it can be difficult to guess whether you have done enough or not, especially with the risk of other trips worsening the situation.

My guess therefore is that the inexperienced team did not impose blackouts fast enough to restore grid balance, and that in consequence more plants were tripped out, requiring even more blackouts to restore balance. I suspect they may not have been helped by there not really being a plan in place to dictate where blackouts should be imposed when they suddenly had to run much deeper. Grid management software normally operates to have contingency set for the loss of the single largest element on the system, and to cater for any individual loss whether of transmission, generation or demand. Although there were clearly some plans to maintain power to critical users (e.g. hospitals), it is doubtful that anyone had really considered the effects of knocking off over 10GW in short order.

What we see in the hours after that are mostly more sporadic losses, including one of the nuclear plants (known to be a frozen water feed problem), some coal and another 5GW+ of gas. This is where there is a combination of plant failures and gas supply problems, likely caused by loss of power to gas pipelines. Some of these losses might not have occurred had earlier losses been stemmed more quickly.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 4:21 pm

No
Cold is one thing
Freezing rain and ice are another thing completely

Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 11:52 pm

Beth @ phishing trap

Texans could learn from Russians, or Canadians, who operate coal, gas and nuclear plants near the Arctic and know how to keep them running. Oh I forgot – not the Russians since they’re officially subhuman untermenschen and our dear leaders won’t allow us to interact with them.

sendergreen
February 19, 2021 3:31 pm

I’m just an average retired guy, but with just one fav YouTube channel focused on weather, I had almost two weeks notice of the potential track and power of this storm. The forecast reports became more detailed, and confident every 2-3 days. I read today a 61 year old Texas man was found frozen to death in his living room chair. His wife found in the chair next to him was at last report alive in critical condition. Emergency services said the temperature in the house was equal to that outside. It got down to zero degrees fahrenheit during this storm.

No power/fuel = no heat = no life.

February 19, 2021 3:47 pm

Now the food’s running out in Texas. Not good.

https://www.rt.com/usa/516079-texas-cold-food-shortages/

Can we still call it “food”?
Or do we have to call it “carbon” now?

Last edited 5 months ago by Hatter Eggburn
bethan456@gmail.com
Reply to  Hatter Eggburn
February 19, 2021 4:27 pm

The Senator from Texas went to Cancun during this blackout, meanwhile, the Rep from New York: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/alexandria-ocascio-cortez-ted-cruz-texas-storm_n_602ff8bec5b67c32961d5f86
,
,
Why is it the blue states have to bail out the red ones all the time?

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 6:42 pm

HAHAHHAHAHAHAHA! bethan is an AOC-ite. Explains so much.

John Dilks
Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 8:39 pm

He took his family to Cancun and then he came back. Also, US Senators do not manage anything in their state. They just legislate in Washington, DC.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  John Dilks
February 19, 2021 9:16 pm

And he probably had it booked weeks in advance based on the Senate schedule.

Reply to  bethan456@gmail.com
February 19, 2021 9:36 pm

beth @ phishing trap virus

No-one has to bail out anyone.
As local Texas mayor Tim Boyd tweeted, “Asking for help makes you a despicable lazy socialist. You are on your own. Only the strong survive. The weak perish.”

These words resonate so perfectly with everything the USA is and stands for that they should be the country’s national anthem. Or maybe just of a breakaway Texas / Boydland.

https://www.rt.com/usa/515834-colorado-city-mayor-resigns/

Stevek
February 19, 2021 4:43 pm

Well I would rather pay low electricity bills and buy a back up generator than pay double for electricity because the utilities clam the extra cost is needed to keep great d reliable.

February 19, 2021 4:56 pm

Coal plants typically have weeks/months of coal on hand, making them somewhat immune to supply interruptions. Why can’t gas plants do the same – my city previously had giant storage tanks for gas. They were at least 200 feet in diameter and several stories high. Appeared to move up and down, probably low pressure and floating on water.

Teewee
February 19, 2021 5:10 pm

I don’t believe we can trust government utilities to deliver the promised energy. The failure in Texas should be a wake up call for all of us. We have an 8K generator that will power much of our household. I recommend now that people visit harbor tools, northern tool, Home Depot and Menards and look at the Portable generators that can be used to keep your family safe when government utilities fail.

Loren C. Wilson
February 19, 2021 5:25 pm

The author asserts: “Extreme cold should be expected to cause significant outages of both renewable and fossil fuel based resources”. Hundreds of coal-fired power plants in far colder areas beg to differ. Plus you can pile up a two month supply of coal quite easily. It requires a few acres of land and a couple of dozers to push it to the conveyer.

Waza
February 19, 2021 5:40 pm

The law.
I’m Australian so not sure this is correct.

My take on this, is that ERCOT is not responsible for ALL the multitude of “players” in the generation, distribution, and supply of electricity to the people of Texas. The PUC has the responsibility.

Public Utility Regulatory Act section 11.011 is the the appropriate law.

Sec. 11.002. PURPOSE AND FINDINGS.
(a) This title is enacted to protect the public interest inherent in the rates and services of public utilities. The purpose of this title is to establish a comprehensive and adequate regulatory system for public utilities to assure rates, operations, and services that are just and reasonable to the consumers and to the utilities.
(b) Public utilities traditionally are by definition monopolies in the areas they serve. As a result, the normal forces of competition that regulate prices in a free enterprise society do not operate. Public agencies regulate utility rates, operations, and services as a substitute for competition.
(c) Significant changes have occurred in the telecommunications and electric power industries since the Public Utility Regulatory Act was originally adopted. Changes in technology and market structure have increased the need for minimum standards of service quality, customer service, and fair business practices to ensure high-quality service to customers and a healthy marketplace where competition is permitted by law. It is the purpose of this title to grant the Public Utility Commission of Texas authority to make and enforce rules necessary to protect customers of telecommunications and electric services consistent with the public interest.

Waza
Reply to  Waza
February 19, 2021 10:17 pm

Section 12 of the Texas Public Utilities And Regulatory Act discuses the responsibility and requirements of the PUC.
It appears to me that responsibility for electricity supply is:-
1. Texas Legislature
2. PUC commissioners in general with the executive director responsible for day to day.
3. ERCOT.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Waza
February 20, 2021 10:04 am

The PUC farmed out their responsibility to the ERCOT. They should have exercised significant oversight of ERCOT but didn’t. So the PUC doesn’t get off scott free. Neither does the legislature.

Observer
February 19, 2021 6:15 pm

I read somewhere that one of the reasons they were unable to pump the gas was because they’d replaced gas-powered pumps with electrical ones for “Green” reasons.

Does anyone know if this is true?

February 19, 2021 7:42 pm

Reading the article, and then reading the comments depressed me enough to put pen to paper – or arthritic fingers to keyboard, anyway.

We would all like it to be a problem caused by one simple thing – renewable energy – and with one simple answer – e.g. coal. Or nuclear power. But the reality is more complicated than that, and it behoves us to look closely at our political philosophy to understand how such a thing could happen and what are the options to prevent its re-occurrence.

Firstly what is becoming apparent to the ordinary person, as opposed to electrical and other engineers, is that the sort of reliability that accrued from conventional thermal power stations running off local stores of e.g. coal and uranium with nice large spinning masses giving a decent measure of short term frequency stability on a grid, costs extra when applied to a renewable grid.

This is the dilemma between energy markets and capacity markets: Capacity markets are a way of pricing and selling reliability. More on that later.

Now it is a general axiom of engineering that is so basic no one ever bothered to quote it or give it a name but it goes like this. As an engineering service the income derives from the average usage case, but the cost derives from the worst case.

For example, most income from running an airline comes from boring uneventful three quarters full aircraft flights, or thereabouts. But nearly all the cost in the aircraft business comes from ensuring that it can take 2g positive and 1 g negative loading – the sort of turbulence that can kill passengers – the duplication of flight controls and instruments in case one set goes wrong, the excessively conservative maintenance schedules that are supposed to guarantee nothing breaks in flight and indeed the extra fuel carried to allow contingency routing. Add in the pilot hours on simulators to ensure that the pilots are trained on that one in a thousand freak event….What your airplane ticket buys you is not just a flight, it is a safe flight.

In the context of the current crop of near failures on the grid, irrespective of causes, ultimately any solution is going to cost money, and add to the cost of electricity.

So that is the first fundamental point that cannot be gotten around – how much (more) is the US consumer willing to pay for a more resilient electricity supply?

Again, having had that political debate, the question arises of how – should the answer be ‘enough to do the job’ – are the changes to be implemented? Irrespective of blame or causes.

Now there are a range of solutions on offer, and no doubt I will get downvoted for advocating them when in fact I am not.

Firstly the way the Texas grid seems to operate is a very free market in energy. Free markets work very well when there is potential diversity of supply, and no natural monopoly, and the customer is free to pick any supplier in an emergency who can meet his demands – albeit at a higher price.

The United States loves its free markets. So do I, but I am a pragmatist and a realist, and with certain sorts of product a free market doesn’t work as it should.

First of all the electricity grid itself – the distribution mechanism for the product, electricity, is a natural monopoly. Free market ideology cannot get around that simple fact. Secondly, the way electricity is sold people do not have a trading platform attached to their electricity meters so they can switch suppliers when the one they are contracted to cannot deliver.. the way they could with e.g. domestic coal for heating.

Those facts stop a free market process from operating effectively.

In the UK, during WWII, we nationalised everything as a matter of wartime expediency. Roads, railways, coal mining, power generation and distribution, telephone services, the post office. That meant that central planning and control could deliver what were considered to be essential services for the nation, reliably.

The inevitable downside to that was that investment became politicised, and so too did the work forces. To the point where the coal miners union – essentially run by hard left agitators – became more powerful than government. It was into that context that Margaret Thatcher was elected, to essentially restore the reliability of power generation and the authority of government from the political instability with which it had become burdened.

Her solution – hated then and now, by the Left – was to privatise what were, in effect, in many cases natural monopolies.

Privatisation removed the politics from investment and allowed modernisation to occur without argument over funding it. But it also raised a serious problem. These were in many cases natural monopolies – not coal mining, but railways, the national power grid, the telephone system, the post office and so on. These were still regarded as critical national infrastructure and couldn’t be allowed to exploit their natural monopolies to gouge consumers.

What happened in effect was the the boards of these nationalised industries morphed into politically controlled regulatory authorities. OFCOM for telecoms, OFWAT for water, OFGEN for electrical power and so on. These were given serious teeth. And their job was to act as a sort of proxy shareholder and customer in the monopolistic areas. So that they could set standards of delivery and fine the agencies responsible if they failed to deliver.

Having thus set a level playing field for any or all participants – there are for example many water companies, regionally split – in effect the government both set a standard for delivery and additionally set a cap on profits. That is an ongoing process – at regular intervals commercial companies sit down with official regulators and argue the case for price rises while the regulators negotiate expected standards for public utility delivery.

Now that is, for better or for worse, how it’s done here. It looks like ERCOT is an attempt to do the same thing in Texas, that has singularly failed.

So a partial resumé: Resilience costs money, and it is a political decision ultimately whether or not people are prepared to pay for it. In the case of natural monopolies or arm’s length commercial contracts between suppliers and customers, the free market mechanism is inefficient in delivering the desired result, and nationalisation places far too much power with both unions and central government. The awkward compromise that has worked reasonably well – I will say no more than that – in the UK is to bring these natural monopolies under state oversight, but not state ownership. To make this work, the regulatory authorities need teeth, and they need competence. They acquire both by statute. Staff can be fired politically, and laws can be passed giving them powers of retribution against commercial companies.

Now it has to be said that in the case of electrical power, in the UK, the mechanism is close to failing because the political goalposts have been changed from the supply of the lowest cost most reliable electricity, to meeting spurious ‘renewable obligations’ designed to favour renewables over conventional generation, even though no carbon dioxide emissions are reduced as a result.

This ultimately cannot be blamed on the regulatory authorities – they are only doing what their political masters have instructed them to. In fact my long road to being an ardent Brexit supporter started with trying to establish who in fact was responsible for what was clearly a policy leading to disaster … well I suppose here we would call it the green blob. A cadre of profit making crony capitalists who have marketed a myth so powerful that governments and in particular the EU, cower in its face. But I am preaching to the converted. Accept my apologies.

To return to Texas, as the case in point. Clearly ERCOT has failed to deliver what people have suddenly discovered they need. Reliable electricity in a winter freeze.

What ‘planning engineer’ is saying, and I can’t offer an opinion on the veracity of that, is that they were not tasked with that, ultimately. Well if not, then it is a political decision as to whether they should be.

What he is also saying is that by implementing an energy market and not a capacity market, there is no financial incentive to invest in plant that would cover extreme situations, or more gas storage, or the ‘winterisation’ of conventional power stations. The UK has increasingly had to run a capacity market for precisely these reasons. Because OFGEN is tasked with maintaining sufficient capacity as well as planting windmills. In fact what has happened is that strictly adhering to ‘renewable obligations’ and resilience constraints has led to huge numbers of fossil powered inefficient backup plants being deployed to the extent that – as in Germany – emissions have not really reduced at all!

And this brings me to the causes. Not cause, but causes. Looking at the graphs it is clear that although the frozen wind power was a joke, it was not the biggest problem. And indeed ERCOT was merely being a tad economical with the truth when they pointed out that gas, coal and nuclear had taken hits as well.

The dominant failure was gas. And let’s not twat on about fracked gas having high moisture content and freezing. That’s just spin. The serious issue is that gas is what people use to heat their homes with as well as generate electricity with, and there wasn’t enough put by.

Why not?

Because there is no money to be made in supplying over capacity in an energy, as opposed to a capacity, market. Power comaines lose less by failing to supply than they would have lost by building excess capacity for a once in a decade event.

Why is there an energy, as opposed to a capacity, market?

Because windmills and solar panels have no capacity to sell. That is a point being made here. capacity means you get paid for reliable ability to supply.

And that seems to me to be the salient point. In order to incentivise renewables, ERCOT and whoever else is involved, have disincentivised maintaining adequate capacity. Even of gas.

In short it wasn’t the windmills per se that were the problem, it was the whole political and commercial framework designed to put the windmills there, that disrupted the market enough to cause the problem.

That’s how it seems to me. The UK has had to patch a capacity market on the side of the renewable energy market to guarantee continuity of supply, and its not working that great, but so far it is working. And the regulator has the teeth to do it. It isn’t the solution, but it is a solution.

Ultimately, irrespective of carbon dioxide affecting the climate, (even if it were true), we have somehow been suckered into ‘renewable energy‘ when we ought to be focussing (if the warmunistas are right) on emission reductions. The bland assumption that renewable energy reduces emissions overall must be challenged, and we must start to recognise that there is cash value in reliability as well as megawatt hours.

But please, dont get sidetracked into making simplistic claims that are clearly false. Windmills per se were not really the problem, it was the whole policy framework and the mind set that put them there that was the problem.

And there I will stop. I am not competent to pronounce on the intricacies of US or Texas regularity law. Or its politics.

Pflashgordon
Reply to  Leo Smith
February 19, 2021 9:11 pm

Leo, that was an interesting analysis that, using different words and examples, pretty much repeats what the lead article said. Wind power was in part a proximal cause and a minor player in the recovery in Texas since it could not provide reliable, dispatchable base load, but policies favoring intermittent renewables were a major indirect cause. The question for Texas in coming months and years is how to repair the damage to grid reliability in the face of massive misinformation and lobbying by activists and special interests.

Reply to  Leo Smith
February 19, 2021 9:42 pm

Pflash

The question for Texas in coming months and years is how to repair the damage to grid reliability in the face of massive misinformation and lobbying by activists and special interests.

That question had universality.
The question for the USA is how to do anything at all, “ in the face of massive misinformation and lobbying by activists and special interests.”

The man’s too big, the man’s too strong”
Dire Straits

Last edited 5 months ago by Hatter Eggburn
Reply to  Leo Smith
February 20, 2021 5:31 am

I think you nailed it. Thanks for the context relative to the U.K.

February 19, 2021 8:32 pm

Last words:

There is nothing a fleet of dispatchable nuclear power plants cannot do that cannot be done worse and more expensively and with higher carbon emissions and more adverse environmental impact by adding intermittent renewable energy.

February 19, 2021 9:33 pm

I was surprised this article included no data — no numbers.

Energy capacity, use, and availability before the blackout, all require numbers.

Texas showed us every source of energy can be harmed by unusually cold weather, if not designed / prepared for unusually cold weather.

In 2011 Texas had rolling blackouts for 3.2 million electricity customers due to extremely cold weather.

The August 2011 official report said the Texas energy infrastructure was not ‘winterized’. A choice was made to ignore the advice. After all, with global warming, how could another 2011 event happen?

For the rest of 2011, through 2020, that looked like a smart decision.
Then in 2021 it became a dumb decision.

February 19, 2021 10:00 pm

Thinking about this disaster for awhile, it becomes obvious the root cause was global warming.

After the 2011 incident, where 3.2 million people faced rolling blackouts from unusually cold weather, the August 2011 official report said the Texas energy infrastructure needed to be ‘winterized’.

Assuming some people read the report, they probably decided that with global warming, another “2011 event” was unlikely, so they spent their money on more windmills instead (global warming virtue signalling).

The number of windmills quadrupled by 2021. The new windmills could have been equipped for unusually cold weather, at a higher expense. But why ‘waste money’? The post-2011 decision looked smart for about ten years.

For one hour, about a week before the blackout, wind power accounted for 58% of all ERCOT electricity generation. During the blackout, down to about 5% (of course half the windmills were frozen, but the wind happened to be weak for those windmills not frozen). Windmills are highly variable sources of electricity. One day, when batteries cost about 10% of the current price, windmills may be very useful.

griff
February 20, 2021 1:06 am

Anyone can look at Texas and observe that fossil fuel resources could have performed better in the cold.’ And it isn’t as if they weren’t warned after 2011, is it?

ERCOT needs to connect to other grids and winterise as recommended.

If you want to address peak demand then grid scale storage and demand response will help you as much if not more than more gas peaker plant, which will usually sit idle.

another disaster from extreme weather meeting an incompetent power company… see also California (and South Australia also was down to weather and incompetent management of wind, not ‘because renewables’)

Chuck no longer in Houston
Reply to  griff
February 22, 2021 2:02 pm

As you’ve already been reminded, all adjacent grids had their own problems at the time.

2hotel9
February 20, 2021 3:38 am

“ERCOT” set the Texas power grid up to fail and it has done so, spectacularly. They will now screech for more money to be pissed away on wind mills and solar panels, all while blaming everyone else for what they created, a disaster.

Ferdberple
February 20, 2021 7:47 am

Well worth reading. Especially Capacity Market vs Energy Market.

Adding a simple label to a complex subject is what is needed for apples to apples comparison.

SUV vs compact. Capacity vs mileage. Unless you can afford 2 cars you get the SUV for those time you need the extra room.