Texas’ energy grid 'just can’t keep up' ⁠— and could suffer 'rolling blackouts' this summer: report

Texas’ energy grid 'just can’t keep up' ⁠— and could suffer 'rolling blackouts' this summer: report
Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) control room operator (dispatcher)

In February 2021, Texans were literally freezing to death in their homes when the state suffered widespread blackouts during weather that was unusually cold for the Lone Star State. Texas’ power grid, which is operated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), had not been properly winterized and became overwhelmed. And according to a new report by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), hot summer temperatures could also give the Texas power grid more stress than it can handle.

NERC’s 2022 Summer Reliability Assessment, a 46-page report, examines what NERC describes as “areas of concern” for “the upcoming summer season” — and NERC, environmental reporter Haley Zaremba stresses in an article published by OilPrice.com on May 25, is worried about Texas.

“Texans need to be prepared for the grid to fail. Again,” warns Zaremba, who is based in Mexico City. “A new bombshell report from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) shows that while Texas has made some progress in increasing surplus energy flow to the grid for times of heightened demand, power is going to be extremely tight this summer — and Texans should prepare to expect rolling blackouts during the hottest months of the year.”

According to NERC, Texas has made some progress in improving its energy grid. But more work needs to be done.

“While Texas still lacks the energy capacity necessary to meet demand at its highest points during extreme weather conditions,” Zaremba explains, “NERC acknowledges that Texas has made concerted efforts to mitigate the issue. The Lone Star State has increased its anticipated reserve margins, largely thanks to the increased installation of solar and wind power capacity.”

The “solar and wind power capacity” part is important. During the February 2021 crisis, far-right Republicans ranging from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson made the ludicrous claim that green energy was to blame. First, Texas’ energy system is dominated by fossil fuels, not green energy. Second, Scandinavian countries that are known for frigid, snowy winters use green energy extensively and do so without any problem. It was a lack of proper winterization, not the use of green energy, that caused so much misery in Texas in February 2021.

Ed Hirs, who focuses on economics and energy at the University of Texas, is sounding the alarm about the challenges that Texas’ power grid is still facing. Zaremba quotes Hirs as saying, “We have less dispatchable power on the grid than we did last summer. We have about 63,000-plus megawatts available. That's about 1000 megawatts less than we had last summer. Demand is growing.”

In February 2021, it was cold that led to Texas’ energy grid becoming overwhelmed. This summer, it could be heat.

“Texas needs to invest in generators in a big hurry,” Zaremba warns. “Typically, spring provides a respite from extreme temperatures and an opportunity to work on the grid and generational capacity, but early heatwaves have already put a near-maximum strain on the grid in 2022…. The long and short of it is that the grid just can’t keep up with increasing pressures of demand and market volatility.”

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