Texas’ Blackouts Blew In on the Wind

Source: The Wall Street Journal (behind paywall).

The writer makes the case that the root cause of the Texas blackouts was public policy of the foolish kind.

Ratepayers and taxpayers don’t have unlimited funds to invest in energy infrastructure. One choice always comes at the expense of another. The problem with wind and solar power is that investment in unreliable renewable sources has displaced investment in electricity generation from reliable energy sources. Worse, these investment decisions weren’t made voluntarily by individuals in the free market. They were forced on Texans by politicians in Washington.

According to the nonprofit Texas Public Policy Foundation, for every 39 cents the oil-and-gas industry received in federal taxpayer subsidies from 2010 to 2019, the wind industry received $18.86, 48 times as much, and the solar industry received $82.46, 211 times as much. By 2029 Texans will have spent $2.5 billion subsidizing wind and solar farms through local property-tax abatements and $14 billion building the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone’s transmission lines through their electricity bills. While most businesses must pay to bring their product to market, wind and solar get a free ride from Texas taxpayers.

If you add it all up, Texas taxpayers and ratepayers will shell out an estimated $36 billion by the end of the decade to subsidize wind and solar energy. These subsidies have tripled wind and solar capacity in the Lone Star State in the past 10 years, but as Texans learned first-hand during the storm, there is a huge difference between capacity and generation.

Instead of seeking solutions that increase reliable generation, several Democrats in Congress have suggested the answer lies in connecting Ercot, Texas’ independent electricity grid, with the rest of the nation. As someone who lives in East Texas, one of the few parts of the state not served by Ercot, I can tell you first-hand this wouldn’t have prevented the blackouts—we lost power too. “Having a grid that could have drawn more power from other states would have done little to ease the crisis,” Loren Steffy wrote in Texas Monthly. “With most of the country also facing bitterly cold temperatures, the rest of the U.S. wouldn’t have had much to spare anyway.”

In sum, public policy created foolish investments in electrical generation. The same will occur with public policy that favors electric vehicles. Then, however, people will be trapped in their unpowered homes during blackouts, unable to flee to safety.

11 thoughts on “Texas’ Blackouts Blew In on the Wind

  1. The whole article is based on the false premise that wind turbines were the cause of the Texas power failure. They were not. “Conservatives” can repeat this porky until Hell – or Texas – freezes over. It is still not true.

    It is worth noting that a large percentage of the power plants that froze up in this winter’s freeze were the very SAME ones that froze up in the previous freeze in 2011. Even with the warning of that event and the studies and reports that followed it, nobody wanted to reduce profits by spending the money necessary to ensure reliability in cold weather.

    https://www.texasmonthly.com/news-politics/texas-blackout-preventable/

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/03/06/texas-power-plants/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. RE: “The whole article is based on the false premise that wind turbines were the cause of the Texas power failure.”

      Nope. The article argues that public policy choices caused an unbalanced mixture of unreliable and reliable sources of electrical generation. Your attempt to recast the argument is without merit.

      Like

  2. I would add that another problem was that the fossil fuel backup. which all wind and solar require, was too heavily based on natural gas, which was in high demand at the same time for direct home heating use. Natual gas cannot be stockpiled.

    To avoid a repeat, more of the retired coal plants need to be upgraded to modern standards and brought back online with a 3 month supply of fuel kept on site.

    Like

    1. “Natual gas cannot be stockpiled.”

      You have used this “alternative fact” before. Natural gas can be – and very frequent is – stockpiled using the breakthrough technology called a “tank.” Of course, it is cheaper to assume that the gas pressure in the pipeline will never fall short of what is needed.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Unless you’re going to use a lot of your gas to run a very large compressor, you aren’t going to have a large enough tank to store a month’s supply of gas for a dual cycle electric plant. The fuel you would burn to compress it that much would release enough CO2 you might as well go with the coal.

        Like

        1. Uh, who says an emergency supply of gas has to be enough for a month? Two or three days worth would have been plenty to avert the disaster. Why not just admit that your claim that gas cannot be stockpiled was not accurate? Too hard?

          Besides, the need for ANY backup gas is caused by the failure of Texas to connect to the national grid. More than any other factor, THAT failure is the reason that Texas went down as it did.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. “A thing doesn’t have to be impossible for it to be impractical.”

            You did not claim that stockpiling gas was “impractical.” You said it was impossible.

            And, obviously, “impractical” in this context simply means that it would have cost money and reduced profits. Regulated utilities would not hesitate to spend the money needed to ensure reliability – they are guaranteed a decent return on whatever capital they deploy for legitimate purposes. Under-regulated for-profit utilities in the Texas market had very different incentives. The rest is history.

            Liked by 1 person

    2. RE: “To avoid a repeat, more of the retired coal plants need to be upgraded to modern standards and brought back online with a 3 month supply of fuel kept on site.”

      Yup. The paradox of renewable energy is that it is only effective when we don’t really need it.

      We should remember, too, that Ercot requested and received Federal permission to fire up idle coal plants during the storm. However, the approval came without relief from environmental regulations and fines. In future, we should perhaps allow pollution to occur during emergencies.

      Like

      1. No need to fire up coal plants if the NG was reliably delivered or stored with weatherization to withstand colder temperatures as experience in the past decade or so. You can warn people all day long, but if short term money supersedes weather reliability, you get a mess.

        Sloppy regulation, crappy maintenance, bad planning, and Texan hubris all add up to millions of people in danger, homes destroyed by broken pipes, and deaths.

        Simple as that.

        Liked by 2 people

    3. …”more of the retired coal plants need to be upgraded to modern standards and brought back online”…

      Carbon capture costs a lot. SO the coal burning companies keep telling us.

      Are you advocating now for regulations to force those not adding carbon capture technologies to do so?

      Having hunted in an area close to NG pumping stations, I can tell you that tanks do exists for storage. They are also weatherized. Too bad Texas thought 100 year weather events actually occur every 100 years.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s