Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Why There Are Rolling Blackouts in Texas During 10 Degree Weather

Millions in Texas are without power as a deep freeze has hit the area. Specifically, 4.1 million residents

The Houston Chronicle was forced to stop producing its print edition after its plant lost power at 2 a.m. In a note to subscribers, the newspaper said that hadn't even happened when the city was battered by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

In a bid to save power, officials in Dallas said their skylines would go dark.

Here is something Texans can think about while they sit in the frigid cold without electricity.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Gas and power prices have spiked across the central U.S. while Texas regulators ordered rolling blackouts Monday as an Arctic blast has frozen wind turbines. Herein is the paradox of the left’s climate agenda: The less we use fossil fuels, the more we need them.

A mix of ice and snow swept across the country this weekend as temperatures plunged below zero in the upper Midwest and into the teens in Houston. Cold snaps happen—the U.S. also experienced a Polar Vortex in 2019—as do heat waves. Yet the power grid is becoming less reliable due to growing reliance on wind and solar, which can’t provide power 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

While Texas is normally awash in gas and oil, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees the state’s wholesale power market, urged residents this weekend to conserve power to avoid power outages. Regulators rationed gas for commercial and industrial uses to ensure fuel for power plants and household heating.

Texas’s energy emergency could last all week as the weather is forecast to remain frigid. “My understanding is, the wind turbines are all frozen,” Public Utility Commission Chairman DeAnn Walker said Friday. “We are working already to try and ensure we have enough power but it’s taken a lot of coordination.”

Blame a perfect storm of bad government policies, timing and weather. Coal and nuclear are the most reliable sources of power. But competition from heavily subsidized wind power and inexpensive natural gas, combined with stricter emissions regulation, has caused coal’s share of Texas’s electricity to plunge by more than half in a decade to 18%.

Wind’s share has tripled to about 25% since 2010 and accounted for 42% of power last week before the freeze set in. About half of Texans rely on electric pumps for heating, which liberals want to mandate everywhere. But the pumps use a lot of power in frigid weather. So while wind turbines were freezing, demand for power was surging...

Liberals claim that prices of renewables and fossil fuels are now comparable, which may be true due to subsidies, but they are no free lunch, as this week’s energy emergency shows. The Biden Administration’s plan to banish fossil fuels is a greater existential threat to Americans than climate change.

So once again we see how dangerous shallow lefty central planning can be. They just never think about all the consequences of their nutty plans---often because the world is too complex to be centrally planned.

This is the key from the Journal story:

Liberals claim that prices of renewables and fossil fuels are now comparable, which may be true due to subsidies...

The wacky left has priced sound energy sources out of the market with subsidies (taxpayer money) for unstable sources.

And that is how central planning lefties roll. 





  1. Replies
    1. Yep. If it’s cold it’s global warming. If it’s hot it’s global warming. Convenient. Oops it’s climate change now

  2. Bob,
    There are issues with intermittent renewables, but it's actually our natural gas fleet that let us down, not a GW or so of offline wind turbines. A quick check shows that a very large percent of our thermal fleet is down and the amount of wind offline is a pittance inb comparison. I don't know if more coal would have helped us. Thermal generation and infrastructure is winterized differently in the Midwest and NE than here in TX. It's a lot more complicated than a photo of AOC, or a comment in the WSJ. Energy mix is at play but do are other factors like policy, location, and timing.

    None of this answers the question of what happens if GWs of solar are covered in snow, or wind turbines are frozen, but it also doesn't answer the question of how TX plans it's entire grid for outlier events. That includes the thermal fleet that is down right now.


    1. Oh please, it is not like Texas never had cold weather before windmills.

      There has been plenty of it an no rolling blackouts.

    2. It is not like texas never had cold weather before windmills is a logical fallacy and does not address the massive amount of thermal generation that is offline right now. It also doesn't address the infrastructure issues.

    3. Here is a quote from the CEO of ercot. I work in renewables and understand there are serious intermittency issues with it but to blame the situation in TX on wind is shallow thinking at best.

      Magness said about 45,000 megawatts of electricity was offline Tuesday morning. ERCOT said that figure was 34,000 megawatts Monday.

      For context, one megawatt of electricity can power about 500 homes a year. ERCOT said the outages are from 70 to 80 power plants in Texas are currently offline. Statewide, there are about 680 power plants in the state.

    4. Please stop. You are quoting the CEO of ERCOT? ERCOT is the central planning agency that is creating the problem.

    5. Texas has had plenty of cold before windmills and never had blackouts before. Just one example in 1989 the temperature hit -1 in Dallas and 9 degrees in Houston. A lot colder than it is now.

    6. You are correct it had been cold but thermal rather than wind had been a bigger failure these last several days. You are also correct that planning is too blame, but the headline grab wind causes blackout needs a little more substantiation.

    7. You are still missing the point. It is thermal under the conditions of a large government subsidized windmill footprint where there is failure. Without the subsidized windmill footprint, there was no thermal failure.

    8. The issue is the windmills and solar are diffuse and intermittent; therefore, need supplemental power sources (coal does not). Natural gas is easy to ramp up and burns cleaner; however, it also freezes in cold temperatures. So now three sources have gone offline. Coal would not have done so. The world is complex. Central panning is shallow thinking. Brandon fits in with them.

    9. Couple of points here:
      Natural gas, nuclear, wind, and I am pretty sure coal all went offline.

      To say coal would not have done so is just inaccurate without many, many caveats. In the polar vortex event on the east coast several years ago it was coal that failed in mass due to frozen stockpiles, among other issues...
      The world is complex, but blaming a certain resource and then providing an ad hominem on doesn't really prove anything or advance a discussion. At no point did I advocate for wind or claim it to be infallible.
      The best info I can find is that about an 88:11 ratio of gas to wind that went down. The estimate is 30GW of gas and 4GW of wind. Someone will figure out what initiated the cascade of failures. At this point simply blaming wind going offline for other resources tripping off is a guess albeit one that may or may not be correct. It is plausible that unplanned lost generation from frozen wind turbines caused some thermal to trip, but I have not yet seen that information. It certainly does not address the known supply and pipeline temperature issues discussed in threads below.

      Most folks know wind has issues. What some of us are able to acknowledge is that other resources do as wel, as evidenced by the multi resource failure on Texas this week.

    10. There really should be no question as to what happened, only why.

      If you look at the hourly data on EIA.gov for ERCOT (screenshot above), it shows coal and gas generation were nearly maxed out, up until ERCOT decided to execute manual load shedding of 10GW, which caused all controllable generation sources to drop because generation must always equal load.

      Before the load shedding, we can see wind is underperforming. In fact, their wind generation problems started on Feb8. The night ERCOT decided to shed load, we can see there is about 14,000 MW of missing potential wind generation. If you add that back in, you get very close to ERCOT's max generation capacity 79GW vs 82GW).

      What made the situation worse is the manual load shedding appears to have been a bit uncontrolled, as they also shut off power to critical facilities necessary for generation, such as compressors to maintain pressure in the gas pipelines. That was a self-inflicted mistake that made everything worse.

  3. I read a day or two ago that the NatGat pipelines shut down, and I could not understand how that would happen regardless of weather extremes.

    Today I read that pipelines have pumps along the route. I did not know this, but it makes sense. In saner times, those pumps would be run from bleeding the gas out and using it to power them where and as needed. Then, madness ensued, and now all the pipeline pumps run on wired-in electricity.

    And now I understand how the pipes could stop working.

    1. I'm wondering if the problem is much more basic. At the right combination of pressure/temperature/water content, water vapor will form solid structures with natural gas (called hydrates) and this could easily plug the natural gas lines.

      Here's an example of a phase diagram for hydrate formation:

      On the other hand, while temperature (and possibly water content) aren't controlled variables, the pumps are driving pressure. I would assume that they have a feedback control loop that would drop pressure inside of the pipe when the temperature dropped.

      When was the last time Houston had a cold snap like this?

    2. Eric this is the recent grid maintenance and design process that no longer engineers to factor in extremes. Distribution doesnt plan for robust capability anymore.

    3. Eric, it is as if you didn't even read what I wrote and want to come up with a Rube Goldberg-style mechanism to explain an easy to understand failure. I am familiar with methyl clathrates (the modern term for the same thing). They do freeze at higher temps than methane itself, but it is still much colder than water. This is not what happened. It can't be much more basic than switching out gas-powered pumps fueled by the pipelines for electrically-powered pumps with wired-in electricity (by windmills?).

      If you also read about clathrates, the pressures needed to form them are extreme.

    4. Shimshon, hydrates are formed by a combination of water, temperature, and pressure. At high-enough pressures, you can form hydrates at room temperature. Your original post said "pipelines shut down, and I could not understand how that would happen regardless of weather extremes."

      Plugged up by hydrates: I'm putting that out there as a possibility. Enjoy your day.

    5. Eric, the difference is, you are speculating, and I am reporting on something I actually read, and that makes sense. It's idiotic. Are you an idiot intent on exonerating other idiots?

      If you read about those hydrates, the conditions for their formation are so extreme they were theorized to not even exist on earth, regardless of what you say. Obviously, that was wrong. They do exist here. But the conditions to create them are still pretty extreme. Look where they are found. The idea that a pipeline could recreate those conditions, and that the engineers designing those pipelines would not take those conditions into account is, again, idiotic.

      Hydrates are close to 90% water. How on earth would enough water even be present in the pipelines for that happen? I bet the presence of any moisture in the pipelines is tightly monitored.

    6. Every oil/gas giant has a department devoted to preventing the formation of hydrates in natural gas and asphaltenes in crude oil transport. It's called "flow assurance". I'm not here to exonerate anyone, but not every explanation needs to fit into a nice ideological box. Do more reading and less name-calling.

    7. You're just a gamma who can't stand being wrong or upstaged. There is no logical debate with idiots, just as there aren't with SJWs.

      The contents of the pipelines don't have enough moisture for this to stop ALL the pipelines from functioning in Texas given the conditions in Texas. It's as if pipelines in Alaska, across the bitter cold of Russia, and thousands of feet under water, all of which exist and never experience problems like you keep wanting to happen, operating in much more extreme conditions, don't exist.

      From Karl Denninger, who knows a thing or two himself, and is clearly not trying to exonerate idiots by speaking idiotically:

      Texas, like so many other areas, has put up windmills and solar "farms" for the last 20 years, shutting down older coal-fired plants and not modernizing and improving their "fossil fuel" energy production infrastructure. At the same time on a national basis the natural gas pipeline operators, in service to the woke green mob, have replaced fuel-fired pumps (that run on the gas in the pipe, therefore are failsafe so long as the pipe has something in it and is intact) with electrically powered booster pumps because, of course, you can get the power for them from "green" sources instead of all that eeee-vile carbon.

      I remind you that natural gas does not freeze at other than cryogenic temperatures and as such the problem is not the gas freezing and as for machinery you have plenty of heat source in the pipe. By putting up with and responding to the "woke mob" instead of immediately frying and eating their entire blood line these companies took an ultra-reliable and essential energy delivery system that other than by physical destruction would nearly-always continue to operate and turned it into a fragile system dependent on multiple outside elements where if any of those elements failed so does the natural gas delivery.

      Eric, unless you can prove that the pipeline pumps were not converted in the way Karl credibly claims and that what you idiotically keep claiming happened happened by some documentary evidence, just shut up already.

  4. Another environmental catastrophe brought you us by government policy championed by economic illiterates.

    And capitalism will be blamed. I already saw one economics professor claim "deregulation" was the cause. Hahaha ok

    David B.

  5. Isn't global warming the answer to this problem?

  6. The following article from Center for Industrial Progress has more to say about both the renewables failure as well as the failure of coal/gas powered plants, which also is a direct consequence of regulatory pressure.


  7. Thanks to the power outage I was going through I was unable to make any kind of salient point before everyone else did. So I'll speak for everyone else in Texas when I say: damn you Ercot!

  8. permin basin was on rolling blackout and guess what thats where gas is produced.no gas is why the plants tripped offline. we have very smart people in our gov. that dont know what the hell their doing.turning power off to gas producers really?