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What went wrong with the Texas power grid?

What went wrong with the Texas power grid? thumbnail

Millions of Texans were without heat and electricity Monday as snow, ice and frigid temperatures caused a catastrophic failure of the state’s power grid.

The Texas power grid, powered largely by wind and natural gas, is relatively well equipped to handle the state’s hot and humid summers when demand for power soars. But unlike blistering summers, the severe winter weather delivered a crippling blow to power production, cutting supplies as the falling temperatures increased demand.

Natural gas shortages and frozen wind turbines were already curtailing power output when the Arctic blast began knocking generators offline early Monday morning.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which is responsible for scheduling power and ensuring the reliability of the electrical network, declared a statewide power generation shortfall emergency and asked electricity delivery companies to reduce load through controlled outages.

More than 4 million customers were without power in Texas, including 1.4  million in the Houston area, the worst power crisis in the state in a decade. The forced outages are expected to last at least through part of Tuesday, the state grid manager said.

CenterPoint Energy, the regulated utility that delivers electricity to Houston-area homes and provides natural gas service, started rolling blackouts in the Houston region at the order of state power regulators. It said customers experiencing outages should be prepared to be without power at least through Monday.

“How long is it going to be? I don’t know the answer,” said Kenny Mercado, executive vice president at the Houston utility. “The generators are doing everything they can to get back on. But their work takes time and I don’t know how long it will take. But for us to move forward, we have got to get generation back onto the grid. That is our primary need.”

Video: Houston Chronicle Photo Staff

Dan Woodfin, ERCOT’s senior director of system operations, said the rolling blackouts are taking more power offline for longer periods than ever before. An estimated 34,000 megawatts of power generation — more than a third of the system’s total generating capacity — had been knocked offline by the extreme winter weather amid soaring demand as residents crank up heating systems.

The U.S. Energy Department, in response to an ERCOT request, issued an order late Monday authorizing power plants throughout the state to run at maximum output levels, even if it results in exceeding pollution limits.

Ed Hirs, an energy fellow in the Department of Economics at the University of Houston, blamed the failures on the state’s deregulated power system, which doesn’t provide power generators with the returns needed to invest in maintaining and improving power plants.

“The ERCOT grid has collapsed in exactly the same manner as the old Soviet Union,” said Hirs. “It limped along on underinvestment and neglect until it finally broke under predictable circumstances.

“For more than a decade, generators have not been able to charge what it costs them to produce electricity,” said Hirs. “If you don’t make a return on your money, how can you keep it up? It’s like not taking care of your car. If you don’t change the oil and tires, you can’t expect your car to be ready to evacuate, let alone get you to work.”

Woodfin said ERCOT and generators followed best practices for winterization, but the severity of the weather was unprecedented — “well beyond the design parameters of an extreme Texas winter.”

The hit to power generation came as frigid weather froze wind turbines and forced outages among natural gas and other power plants. Most of the power knocked offline came from thermal sources, Woodfin said, particularly natural gas.

Natural gas supplies for electric generation are already strained in the winter, the peak season for gas used for heating, adding pressure to supplies used to generate electricity.

The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and natural gas in the state, said Monday afternoon that some producers, especially in the Permian Basin and Panhandle, were experiencing unprecedented freezing conditions, causing concern for employee safety and affecting production.

As part of its statewide response, the commissioners issued an emergency order on Friday evening to manage shortages of natural gas, requiring gas to first be delivered to residences, hospitals, schools, churches and other locations that meet human needs, then to power plants and then to industrial users.

The RRC also issued a notice asking oil and gas operators to monitor and maintain operations as safety permits.

ERCOT and utility officials called on Texans to do as much as they can to conserve energy.

“Every single watt of savings is one watt that we don’t have to go take out at somebody’s house,” Mercado said. “For those who still have power, whether it is commercial, a school, residential, if they can bring their demand for electricity down, that would help us. That is what we need for the rest of today. I want to emphasize this.”

With demand high and supplies short, wholesale electricity prices have spiked, and because of the nature of electric power contracts, those increases may be felt by consumers well after the region has thawed. Wholesale electricity sold are near the $9,000-per-megawatt hour maximum in power markets across the state Monday as the system struggled to meet demand, according to ERCOT.

The system hit a new record early Monday morning of more than 69,000 megawatt hours, well above the previous winter record of about 66,000 megawatt hours set in 2018.

ERCOT entered emergency conditions and initiated rotating outages at 1:25 a.m. Monday. As the regulator calls for reductions in demand, each supplier is responsible for reducing its share of the gap by its share of the market. In the case of CenterPoint, that’s about 25 percent, ERCOT’s Woodfin said.

Oncor, which serves the Dallas area and beyond, is responsible for 36 percent.

Rotating outages could be initiated until this weather emergency ends, with Monday and Tuesday mornings at the highest risk periods for rlling blackouts, Mayor Sylvester Turner said. Blackouts could last between 15 minutes and an hour and could happen more than once.

“These are not rolling blackouts. We are dealing with system-wide power outages across the state,” Turner tweeted at 8:11 a.m.

Downed power lines caused by icing could keep some customers in the cold and dark for an extended time.

Hirs said Houston residents can expect more power outages in the future.

“The year 2011 was a miserable cold snap and there were blackouts,” said Hirs. “It happened before and will continue to happen until Texas restructures its electricity market.”


72 Comments on "What went wrong with the Texas power grid?"

  1. Cloggie on Fri, 19th Feb 2021 2:58 am 

    Scottish independence probably postponed because of a toxic internal row within the SNP:

    “SNP’s day of reckoning: Explosive evidence that ‘could force Nicola Sturgeon to QUIT’ WILL be published by the Alex Salmond inquiry – as party civil war erupts”

    “Bloody civil war that could save union: They almost won Scottish independence – before crashing amid acrimony and sex assault claims – now final battle between Sturgeon and Salmond is unfolding… and repercussions could keep the ‘Great’ in Britain”

    Brexiteers shouldn’t cry victory too soon though, because the real cause for Scottish independence, namely Brexit and its devastating economic consequences, will only increase in significance with every passing month. Sooner or later, the SNP will sort itself out and will refocus on independence and their arguments will become stronger and stronger, like a good wine that needs time to ripen.

  2. Cloggie on Fri, 19th Feb 2021 3:33 am 

    The Dutch Borssele offshore wind farm I-IV of 1.5 GW is now completely operational and will be briefly the largest offshore wind farm in the world.

    Much larger offshore wind farms are in the works:

    “Preparations 4 GW IJmuiden Ver Offshore Wind Park Begins”

    “Hollandse Kust” will be 7 GW and installed before this decade is over. The production line is in place, as well as the installation vessels. Money isn’t a problem anyway (thank you, Norway!). Together with the wind and solar we have onshore, the Netherlands will have replaced most of its fossil electricity generating capacity before 2030. Then we have 20 years left to double that output and replace fossil completely.

    By 2025 green hydrogen will be break-even with fossil:

    “Nel Pushes for Hydrogen Price of $1.5/kg by 2025”

    More good news from the Netherlands and my hometown Eindhoven in particular: color screens of 5 Watt/m2 coming up after 2 decades of R&D:

    “Next-gen Color Electrowetting Display”

  3. FamousDrScanlon on Fri, 19th Feb 2021 12:01 pm 

    clog’s on a roll. How many Red Bulls did you drink today?

    Roll clog roll.

  4. FamousDrScanlon on Fri, 19th Feb 2021 12:07 pm 

    Texas trip

    “Once again, the moral and intellectual degeneracy of the failing US Empire has resulted in science being subordinated to politics. This time it is the freak freezing weather and its aftermath in Texas which has provided the pretext for division. First came the knuckle-dragging wing of climate change denial; asking the infantile question, “If global warming is real, how come it’s so cold?” (the answer, by the way, is because the polar vortex which used to contain extreme cold within the Arctic Circle, has broken down in recent years; causing extreme cold weather to drift much further south). Then there was the viral photograph of the – Canadian as it turned out – helicopter de-icing a wind turbine. Those on the right responded with videos – which, this time really were from Texas – showing – older – frozen wind turbines standing idle. Those on the green new deal left quickly countered with the claim that power outages were the fault of fossil fuel and nuclear power plants, whose water intakes had frozen in the cold. In any case, according to the primarily neoliberal mainstream media, anyone who found fault with wind turbines was clearly a climate change denier and probably a racist, sexist or transphobe to boot.”

    “The physics behind what happened in Texas this week are almost identical to those which caused Britain’s power outage in August 2019 – only the type of bad weather was different. ”

  5. Cloggie on Fri, 19th Feb 2021 12:21 pm 

    “Then there was the viral photograph of the – Canadian as it turned out – helicopter de-icing a wind turbine.”

    This picture went viral:

    It was actually from Sweden, 2014. North-Americans and geography, roll-eyes.

    But what is your beef with de-icing? I once flew from NYC to Europe via Iceland, by Christmas. The plane needed to be deiced in Reykjavík before it could continue its journey. So what? Need all planes to be abolished?

    Throughout my life I regularly needed to de-ice the window-shield of my car. Now what? Abolish all cars? My fridges, same story, not to mention one of my former girlfriends… deicing is a fact of life, deal with it!

  6. FamousDrScanlon on Fri, 19th Feb 2021 12:23 pm 

    It must be bad if they needed to roll ole Rockman out of retirement to perform his industry apologetics act.

    It might be freezing in Texas, but I’ll wager some ‘important’ people are sweating their asses off.

  7. Cloggie on Fri, 19th Feb 2021 12:38 pm 

    Style tip: you are using the word “roll” too often.

  8. Cloggie on Fri, 19th Feb 2021 12:44 pm 

    Every now and then, even the Guardian hits a nerve…

    “Scottish independence Boris Johnson can’t rely on internal feuds to derail Scottish independence”

    Anglo-Scottish relations are heading for an almighty crash… Sturgeon’s approval ratings are near unassailable. Last week they were +21 against Salmond’s -60 – and Johnson’s -54… The nationalist bug is now embedded in the UK… Even in England only 46% of people want Scotland to stay. Reunion with Ireland is teetering on the edge of popularity in Northern Ireland and nationalists are even winning support in Wales. If, as seems certain, this May’s elections deliver a thumping victory for the SNP in Scotland, London must have a sympathetic answer ready, or it will face a Catalan crisis.

    What a wonderful time to live for a hobby geopolitician!

  9. YouAreTooStupidToBeKeepAlive on Fri, 19th Feb 2021 1:52 pm 

    StarvingLion » Fri 19 Feb 2021, 14:51:39
    10-Yr is skyrocketing. Gold miners are collapsing. TSLA and AAPL draining. Oil stocks moving up.

    I saw that. chaos destruction and death are coming. finally real changes I can believe in.

    LIVE: World leaders speak at Munich Security Conference special edition

    You don’t have to watch the full video. Just scroll through the video to see who is there. These are the parasites of the world that live off labor and skills of other people. These so called stupids leaders still have not come up with a way to tell people about peak oil. They are totally useless pieces of shits, all politicians are. No savior will come to save your sorry ass. You wanted to be politicians, solve the peak oil problems yourself, don’t expect a savior to cover your stupidity and lack of intelligence and wisdom. Don’t worry the conference had a negro in it but no people in wheel chair, these people are not woke enough I am disappointed.

    I would like to know how many negro dick retard lego suck this morning.

    I would like to know how many negro dick guidoune Guibault suck this morning.

  10. YouAreTooStupidToBeKeepAlive on Fri, 19th Feb 2021 3:21 pm 

    The maximum price of gasoline this morning in Montreal reach 128.99. We must be a month away from gasoline shortage in Quebec. Yet the most important things, for the useless piece of shit and human trash that is retard lego, are useless projects that will never happen. You have to be mentally challenged to think like that.

    Le PM du Québec annonce un projet de fabrication de satellites de 1,8 G$ – 18 février 2021

    The main retard lego should be working on is how to tell people about peak oil. But no, reartd lego wants only the easy part of being a politician. He does not want to lead or nor is he a natural leader . A real leader will have never appointed guidound GuilBault as VP. She just does not have the skills for that. There is no other choices that to let this shit show collapse and let nature remoce weak and pathetic man like retard lego. TurdDope, Jason Kenney, Horgan of BC and son on.

  11. makati1 on Fri, 19th Feb 2021 3:57 pm 

    Another day in Cloggie’s fantasy land. Mother Nature shows the techie dreamers why solar and wind is NOT going to power the world…ever. Surprises like the cold Texas wind is going to be more and more common as the climate changes all over the world. If you heat the Arctic, the cold goes south.,84.22,656

  12. HaveANiceEveningSir on Fri, 19th Feb 2021 8:54 pm 

    Hi StarvingLion. I want to cut down on my internet surfing time that include YouTube3. I will post less comment on Too much internet is unhealthy for me mental state. I will post comments here and there on Have a nice evening

  13. SomeThingToEntertainYou on Fri, 19th Feb 2021 10:09 pm 

    Interresting stuff. For entertainment. It will help killed a couple

  14. SomeThingToEntertainYou on Fri, 19th Feb 2021 10:25 pm 

    Interesting stuff. For entertainment. It will help killed a couple minutes

    Francois Legault(premier of Quebec) is even on the list so is Trudeau. Entertaining conspiracies theories

  15. SomeThingToEntertainYou on Fri, 19th Feb 2021 10:48 pm 

    Put GITMO in DuckDuckGo. You will get all sort of results you would not get with Google

  16. SomeThingToEntertainYou on Sat, 20th Feb 2021 2:16 am 

    This is really entertaining. If you cannot sleep, this might help you kill some time.

  17. Biden's hairplug on Sat, 20th Feb 2021 4:51 am 

    “Texas reels under dire water shortage crisis: 14M struggle to get clean water as residents are forced to scrape snow off walls to boil and experts warn of a health catastrophe”

  18. Anonymouse on Sat, 20th Feb 2021 6:22 am 

    The texASS power-grid. Built with pride in the uS of A.

    That’s what wrong. LOL.

    Next time try diverting some of those printed-from-air dollars permanently earmarked for israel, the pentopticon, and the CIA, to the nations infrastructure instead.

  19. Cloggie on Sat, 20th Feb 2021 10:55 pm 

    “Texas To Add 35 Gigawatts Of Wind & Solar In Next 3 Years — Boosting Grid Resilience”

  20. Biden's hairplug on Sun, 21st Feb 2021 12:12 pm 

    Bill Gates blames fossil fuel failure in Texas drama:

    “Bill Gates Blames Natural Gas Plants For Causing Deadly Power Outages in Texas”

    (Not everything is bad about the recent regime change in Washington).

    “Nigel Farage: “Communist Takeover” Underway In UK, CCP-Linked Firms Buying Schools”

    Nigel Farage has identified yet another enemy, after the EU, namely China. Accuses China of buying up schools and flooding the place with propaganda.

    One remains puzzled about what is actually worse: Chinese propaganda or woke globalist multicult gender lunacy.

    “RWE chooses Van Oord for foundations and array cables at Sofia Offshore Wind Farm”

    RWE (Germany) and van Oord (Holland) are going to build the next “largest offshore wind farm in the world” (yawn) at Doggersbank (“Sofia”, 1.4 GW)

    “EEW SPC delivers foundations for first monopile offshore wind project in the USA”

    The German company EEW SPC has delivered 2 monopiles that will be installed near the US coast, as the first offshore wind project, albeit of modest size. Orsted of Denmark will complete the joblet.


  21. makati1 on Sun, 21st Feb 2021 4:11 pm 

    If the Amerikan serfs don’t get off their fat asses and sharpen the blade on their guillotines, Amerika will be worse than Stalin’s gulag in a few years. Face Diapers, Jab Passports (Papers please!) and a crashing economy/Greater Depression, is their future. Bangladesh will look good by comparison.

    The US capital is now a military camp, and the Police State is obvious. A senile, dementia* ward escapee for president and a government whore VP. Military to remain until…Hell freezes over?

    It is going to be interesting when Spring comes and the riots begin…again. Fun to watch…from here. Pass the popcorn.

    *Dementia is a syndrome, usually of a chronic or progressive nature, in which there is deterioration in memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to perform everyday activities.

  22. Cloggie on Mon, 22nd Feb 2021 3:09 am 

    The Dutch offshore company Heerema will be involved in the next US offshore wind project of 84 turbines (now you’re talking) and will be completed this year:

    “Vineyard Wind: Heerema participates in largest US offshore wind project”


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