Assigning Blame for the Blackouts in Texas

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.

551 responses to “Assigning Blame for the Blackouts in Texas

  1. What we’re seeing now is glacial inception caused by global warming.

    The colder it gets, the warmer it actually is, and the less we can do about it, the more we’re to blame.

    Anything and everything that happens is “see – told ya!” climate change.

    “This I had also foreseen”
    The Soothsayer, Asterix.

  2. John Michael Coleman

    This is the first comment on the situation I’ve seen that gets to the true root of the problem.

  3. Basically everyone wants something done to cope with unusual situations (look at a rerun of Tambora in 1815 and the following year’s global cold snap) provided they suffer no cost, inconvenience, reduced choice or similar. There are various ways to have appropriate back up but who is going to fund them? As ever, it is all somebody else’s fault.

    Good article though – thank you.

    • Normally they are funded via regulation to ensure excess capacity for backup. But this was removed since wind technology is incapable of providing it, and the authorities are set on foisting wind onto the public.

      • Curious George

        It turns out that people who lost their power are the lucky ones. People who did not lose the power are now hit with many thousand dollar bills.

      • Good Lord! They created their grid so as to avoid Federal regulations They ain’t exactly the only state to use wind power. Yet the other states manage to ensure excess capacity nevertheless. How do they do it?

      • The other states primarily pay for reliable generation. Sadly, they don’t charge wind and solar for the excess costs they engender to the systems.

    • Texas’s power grid already HAD redundancy built in to deal with unusual situations and unusual demand. Texas politicians, most with an (R) by their names, have spent the last thirty years dismantling every last atom of redundancy and safety margin the system had while blathering about a “Smart Grid” and “Green Energy” that would take their place by magic. And now we’ve seen the results. People are dying because fools in the Governor’s mansion and the Texas Utilities Commission were more interested in getting an “attaboy” from Anderson Cooper than keeping the people they work for from freezing to death in the dark.

  4. Interesting perspective PE.

    I still ponder how those determined to get to a “Net Zero” goal, deal with the real TES facts involved.

    https://www.iea.org/data-and-statistics?country=WORLD&fuel=Energy%20supply&indicator=TPESbySource

  5. “I don’t believe anyone has ever advanced the notion that fossil fuel plants might operate based on altruism.”

    Succinct :)

    to which can be added, Renewables are deployed across nations according to cultural attitudes:
    https://judithcurry.com/2020/11/19/cultural-motivations-for-wind-and-solar-renewables-deployment/

  6. Thanks for an excellent summary. Too many forget that “societal goods” have to be paid for, and expect it to be done by the goodness of someone else’s heart out of someone else’s pocket.

  7. “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen

  8. Can’t Texas buy electricity from the rest of the United States, or even Mexico?

    The Energy-Only system *does* reward capacity. In unusual times like 2021, anyone with excess capacity makes gigantic profits. The problem may be that the pointy-haired bosses weren’t willing to listen to or couldn’t understand tech guys who told them this in advance.

    • ERCOT has very limited interconnection with the other two US grids. Moreover, most of the neighboring states were in the same emergency conditions, and still are.

      Given that those other states do have capacity markets it is not clear that the lack of this market explains the multi-state catastrophe. It may be why ERCOT is worst off, but not why it is bad off.

      My conjecture is that we were seeing cascading outages, tripping a lot of units that were individually okay. In ERCOT it is reported that renewables repeatedly oscillated over an incredible 5,000 MW of power. That in itself might create cascading instability. Gas fired generators might also have given oscillating output if supply pressure oscillated.

      We may have to wait for the engineering analyses, unless they too disagree.

      • Gas turbines essentially trip off-line when the fuel supply pressure is too low; more of a digital off-on than slowly losing output as gas pressure slides down.

      • However, you can backdown power in the hopes the line pressure will not hit the trip point. I suspect a number of the units were doing that, while trying to also avoid frequency and voltage trip points caused by a really squirrelly grid. Must have been really tough on the operating crews desperately trying to keep the plants running.

      • It doesn't add up...

        It is evident there were cascading trips just after 2 a.m. on the 15th: there was a loss of some 9.2GW of generation in short order. The following hours show a steep but slower ramp down that was likely mainly the result of progressively lowered gas supply as pipeline pumping was interrupted.

        Early reports on e.g. abc13 Houston refer to underfrequency trips. Essentially, ERCOT got behind the curve on imposing blackouts to restore the supply demand balance, leaving the grid under underfrequency and triggering more trips. Once tripped, power stations soon had no way back.

        The hourly data show wind declining from 9GW at 6 p.m. on the 14th to 5.2GW at 2 a.m. the next day. Normally you would expect demand to tail off through the evening, so this may not have been directly critical, except to the extent that it added locational pressures. Wind died later to just 649MW at 8 p.m. on the 15th.

  9. The price of wind plus corresponding grid adaptions would have bought a dozen nuclear plants that would have delivered

  10. Great analysis. I also think electric utility execs need to have the guts to stand up to all of these pressures and do the right thing — especially since they make 20 times the salary of when my father was in the business in 1985.

    • Unfortunately the utilities love building billions of dollars worth of new renewable capacity, because the more they spend the more profit they make.

      • That is exactly spot on. California provides a perfect example of utility management greed overriding integrity.

      • What “greed”? Let’s recap, the regulated utility’s profit margin is set by the state at a low rate. The state orders the utility to increase spending and, therefore, rates so that the dollar amount of the “profit” goes up. The state and media, combine to make it impossible for anyone at the utility to disagree with this plan- anyone who does so is merely a global warming “denier.”
        Then, when the regulated utility can’t modernize it’s grid because it’s forced to spend on fairy tales, the grid causes fires and the state sues the utility into bankruptcy.
        The “job” of utility executive in California is to be paid very well to agree with every progressive politician until their ideas kill people, and then politely take the blame, be fired, and leave with a very large check so the next hack can step forward. No person of integrity would want that job.

      • I have a vague understanding that utilities have profit regulated as a fixed percentage of invested capital. But I suspect it’s more complicated.

        I’d like to hear more about that, if anyone here is well informed on the topic.

      • Ok, let’s recap. The politicians tell the utilities they must have X% green energy. The utilities happily respond, building green generation that they know full well is unnecessary. The utilities buy the expensive green energy and happily pass the cost along to the customer. The utilities get their rate of return on their investment. Looks like greed to me.

      • “Looks like greed” – well, it looks more like businessmen responding to the conditions they find themselves in. “Greed” is a bit pejorative for the motivation that makes capitalism work.

        Also, to the utility, is the green energy that expensive? If they don’t have to pay the capacity costs, it may not look that bad to them. But you may know more about that than me, based on earlier comments.

        Plus, of course, if they are paid on a return on investment, there’s no limit to capital costs they can incur.

      • Mike,
        Minor correction, politicians vote on legislation carefully crafted by industry lobbyist. Sometimes they represent business and sometimes the promote consumer issues. Most politicians are lawyers so they have little formal training in science but they all have their own economic theories that support their ideological world view.

  11. Australian state South Australia ignored capacity value so that when there was a fault which kicked one wind farm off the network, the whole state went black.

  12. It might be inferred from what Planning Engineer has written, that it is up to each household, or landlord, or community to be prepared for extreme cold events in an energy demand-only market such as that in Texas, as the existing system is already geared to handle the demands of an extreme heat wave. This would be compatible with Texas’s historical “culture” of rugged individualism. However, it would also be incumbent upon ERCOT and the state legislature to provide some leadership in preparing households and landlords with incentives to install, say, propane fuel heaters and generators, weatherization measures, etc. and an advance warning system of an extreme cold snap event. Some communities might be better suited to have distributed (local self sufficient) power sources such as mini-nukes, hydrogen or hydropower, as would best fit each area.
    What did even highly Democrat San Antonio do to handle droughts? It didn’t go to the state and demand a state-wide water storage and conveyance system be built in a socialized system where the rest of the state defrayed the costs of such a centralized water system (such as in California). Instead, it approached a neighboring county and worked out a deal to buy their surplus water without condemning their lands or grabbing their water resources (no California Chinatown water grab). They built the Vista Ridge Pipeline. A market approach worked better than centralized system. Local Texas communities might consider something like this User-Pays system with regard to extreme peak cold events and energy.

    • I think you missed the point. The usual regulatory requirement for a capacity market was deliberately removed by authorities intent on pushing wind power, since wind technology is incapable of satisfying that requirement economically whereas conventional technology is.

      • Yes.

        That point is deliberately obfuscated by the “renewabubbles” proponents. It has been for over 30 years now.

        I find Planning Engineer’s articles generally interesting but the usual pattern of comment here is being repeated. A few initial comments mostly on topic then the obfuscators and goalpost movers take over. Every thread follows this pattern and becomes boring repition yet again. I admire Judith C’s persistence.

      • We could deconstruct Dave’s comments. For which Judith typically has little patience. But surely the obfuscation and goal post moving Ian refers to is in that wind and solar is responsible for every failure of any energy system at any penetration.

        “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.”

        A reasonably sensible point quoted from the post – on which Dave became typically abusive. Wind and solar – and its failings – is of course a pervasive meme of the contrarian groupthink repeated dozens of times under this post. But which really isn’t the point. Which surely is the loss of generation capacity – and not the available capacity – in foreseeable conditions. Surely there is an expectation of system reliability that may only not be realized under conditions of force majeure.

    • Wayne, you’re wrong about California.

  13. So at least some people noticed the atmosphere was setting up for a major SSW event almost 5 weeks before the storm Uri hit. Great science but information never filtered up to the top. Why wasn’t NOAA, NWS, NASA, etc. calling for DefCon 1? At this point we just don’t have the forecasting resolution to pinpoint the impact to a regional area until it’s about 3-4 days out.

    Robert I. Ellison linked to a tweet on December 24, 2020
    https://judithcurry.com/2020/11/27/week-in-review-science-edition-122/#comment-937358

    In my personal experience living through this in real time strengthens the argument for microgrids. I was lucky to be on the local leg of the grid that supports a critical load (cell phone antenna array) so when the sun was shining I was exporting back to the grid.
    https://microgridknowledge.com/microgrids-texas-blackouts/

    • I’ve also been following Judah Cohen’s AER blog where since Novembe he has been following first the deep Siberian cold (often a precursor to a SSW) then the ensuing series of SSWs in the Arctic and resultant disruption of the polar vortex. So indeed it was clear from December that outbreaks of deep cold we’re likely both in North America and Europe (a d Asia also). So it proved.

      https://www.aer.com/science-research/climate-weather/arctic-oscillation/

      • Thanks for the link.
        I have seen Dr. Judah Cohen and Dr. Jennifer Francis publish several research papers on the linkage of climate change with polar amplification. Prof. Francis has a couple of novel theories about persistent atmospheric ridging events that are linked to extreme droughts, heat waves and regional flooding.

      • Judah Cohen understands that it snows more when the Arctic Ocean is thawed. Early fall and winter snow cover promotes more snow in later winter and spring, even into summer.
        Ewing and Donn wrote, 70 years ago, that warm times with open Arctic cause the snowfall that promotes colder ice ages.
        To produce ice on Greenland and other places around the far north and on mountains, warm tropical currents flow into the Arctic to produce the evaporation and IR out for sequestering ice. The ice machines need power and energy dissipation. That only works when polar oceans are thawed.

  14. An engineer friend of mine who lives in Austin mentioned to me that the gas plants failed because some water lines froze because they were above ground and not heat traced, as they would be in the North. That sounds like a pretty easy fix.

  15. I’ve read that gas plants can often also use jet fuel. That sounds like something that could be stored for emergency. Gas has to be delivered on time and its flow is limited.

    • Gas turbines can us jet fuel, diesel, and propane. But the machine’s rate of fuel use is quite large so the storage facilities are also quite large. Generally would empty the tanks in a few hours.

      • I calculated that 150 SpaceX Superheavy boosters, if filled entirely with LCH4 instead of LCH4 and LOX, could power all of the natural gas plants in Texas for about 24 hours. And they could deliver themselves to the powerplants in a few minutes, instead of having to be trucked in!

        SpaceX now has a lot of experience operating an LNG tank farm, so I wonder if Elon Musk will Tweet that he has a storage solution for them, similar to his giant battery systems?

    • To use liquid fuel the gas turbine needs to be fitted with dual fuel burners. That’s something to figure out during plant purchase.

  16. Assigning blame – we read that the backup sources failed. Fair enough. Does it mean that with a full wind generation and no backups, Texans would still be freezing? Wind failure was the primary cause.

    • Wind power is not to blame because wind power is not expected to provide capacity in times of need. That is not exactly a rousing endorsement of wind energy but it is reality. As PE said no one was responsible for reliability in Texas. ERCOT is going to take the heat, but they had no authority to require winterization of critical infrastructure to ensure supply.

      • Curious George

        I don’t know how a stand-by generator providing no power in times of no need is paid in Texas.

      • Not sure what your saying there. My point was that those resources that can supply capacity, notably nat gas plants and nat gas supply infrastructure, had no incentive to winterize because ERCOT does not have a a capacity market.

      • Curious George

        “wind power is not expected to provide capacity in times of need”
        So, who is? With a pay based upon altruism, as PE says?

      • I think you’re misreading what PE said. He points out that the financial system that lead to the lack of capacity was created in order to favor intermittent sources – wind and solar.

      • Other ISOs have capacity markets where generators are contractually obligated to provide capacity. ERCOT does not, generators in ERCOT have no incentive to spend the millions of dollars to winterize for once in a decade events.

      • dougbadgero,
        “generators in ERCOT have no incentive to spend the millions of dollars to winterize for once in a decade events.”
        Well if they are true American crony capitalist they underinsured their labilities just like the Coal companies and their abandoned strip mines. USA!

        Maybe this belongs in the post about how insurance actuaries are being fooled by climate models.

      • What liabilities? AFAIK they have no liabilities associated with what has happened. Why would they have liabilities? Again, they had no legal or contractual obligations to supply capacity AFAIK. And why would they have when ERCOT does not compensate generators for supplying capacity.

      • Curious George

        Doug, I am not as familiar with their contracts as you are. If it is not a confidential information, please provide a link.

      • The grocery store I shop at has no contractual obligation to supply me with milk and bread. Similarly, generators in ERCOT have no obligation to supply houses in Texas with power whenever they want it. I believe it is no more complicated than that.

      • Fundamental difference: Grocery stores will go out of business and be replaced if they don’t provide you with what you want, when you want it. ERCOT, like all socialist entities, do what the politicians tell them; they serve their masters, not their customers.

      • dougbadgero,
        You are probably right. None of these multi-billion dollar companies with crazy Debt-To-Equity (D/E) ratios should worry about insurance and bond rating companies watching this unfold.

        Well at least this whole event is good practice if we ever have a “unprecedented” CME event.

      • Lol
        I am describing the market as it exists. Maybe you should learn to deal with reality.

      • generators in ERCOT have no incentive to spend the millions of dollars to winterize for once in a decade events.
        The generators that need to be winterized are the reliable sources, nuclear, coal and gas. Coal has no incentive to winterize as it is an expense they will not recover as they are being phased out anyway. The generators get paid more for energy when it is in short supply. They get paid more for not enough than they get paid for an abundance. Wind and solar get paid for no energy.

      • The author’s point is that ERCOT chose to not have a capacity market, out of a desire to push wind onto the public.

      • Curious George

        Doug – “I am describing the market as it exists. Maybe you should learn to deal with reality.”
        You are describing a grocery market. You assume that it is same as an ERCOT (EUCOT in the future?) market. Not necessarily. You did not support your position at all. Based on your 4:49 pm comment, you don’t understand what a “stand-by generator” is. I’ll repeat it: “how a stand-by generator providing no power in times of no need is paid in Texas”?

      • jacksmith4tx, Eh ? What do you imagine d/e ratios and insurance have to do the issue here (winterizing, providing capacity) ?

      • George You are describing a grocery market. You assume that it is same as an ERCOT … market

        What he means surely, is that they are the same in respect of not offering any security of supply.

      • Punksta,
        After I posted that I noticed it won’t be just the generators feeling the economic hit from this debacle… this time. No doubt that a lot of business contracts were uninsured or underinsured.
        From the Dallas TV news WFAA reports:
        “Thousands of Texans will be involuntarily switched to a new electric company, as a number of electricity providers cannot meet their financial obligations to serve their customers.

        In response, at an emergency meeting on Friday, the Texas Public Utilities Commission gave authority to TXU Energy to absorb customers of failing companies and to offer them competitive rates.

        It’s happening because, when the cost of electricity spiked during the cold snap, some retail electricity companies could not afford the high wholesale prices, forcing them into financial failure.”

    • Still not sure what your getting at. The answer is they are not paid, but generators are paid for energy or capacity. What do you mean by a stand by generator? The colloquial definition of one not being used, but capable of being used? They’re not paid in ERCOT because ERCOT has no capacity market. This issue should be obvious at this point.

  17. Planning Engineer – thanks for the best article I have seen on this issue!

    Dr. Curry, thanks for enabling this.

  18. Solid article. Energy in general is one of the least understood subjects of politicians and society. Most take it for granted and only take notice when it is cut off. Even those close to it can lack understanding. As a chemical engineer who spent 6 years on the tech/ops side of oil refining, then moved into commercial and trading for 23 years I appreciate hearing from people who have a balance between technical and finance/business. Transportation fuels market has similar negative renewable attributes many of which are hidden from the consumer. Look forward to reading your next article regarding various rates schemes and incentives for renewables which I assume are tied to ITC, PTC, RPS, RGGI and in CA Cap&Trade. Finally, the cost of low utilization is not appreciated by many and even some consultants like Lazard will misinterpret it to favor renewables in their price comparisons.

  19. If you look at some major city low temperature records in Texas you see that 1899, 1930, 1949, and 1989 were at least as cold as 2021. I looked at records in Austin, Corpus Christi, Houston, Brownsville, and Dallas. I was surprised to learn that Austin has seen sub-freezing temperatures in every year in the record going back at least 80 years. Texas gets cold in the winter.

  20. P E – Great article. Very helpful. When you say “Traditional planning approaches often have to go to get around this “bias” of favoring capacity providing resources over intermittent resources.” are you saying that traditional planning approaches are falsely accused of bias?

  21. Here is a new tool from the EIA that has documented some of the grid conditions during the storm.
    https://www.eia.gov/beta/electricity/gridmonitor/dashboard/electric_overview/balancing_authority/ERCO

  22. Republican control in a state dominated by fossil fuel mieny and interests.

    Obviously, that means it must be AOC’s fault.

    In the end, the desire to play politics will dominate this discussion.

    IMO, that’s all a distraction. Regardless of political identity, what’s happening is the result of a failure to unify to improve our infrastructure. Bad stuff happens. Unexpected stuff happens. Failure to protect against rare but foreseeable events happen. It’s not a perfect world.

    And people will allow political bickering to prevent addressing that issue. It would be nice, if instead people from across ideological allegiances could agree to focus on improving infrastructure – and employ people in good-paying jobs to do so.

    Not going to happen. People would rather do us their energy on assigning blame to the other guy.

    • Joshua, perhaps you should read the actual article. PE points out that the market created by ERCOT was built to favor wind and solar. That market , is what led to the lack of backup capability, because there was no compensation for it.

      I understand that leftists prefer to ignore the impact of incentives, but PE lays out the incentives and the impact (not enough backup capability) in detail.

      As has been pointed out before, the problem with intermittent sources at significant levels of penetration in grid, is backup, and the related costs. Those costs are ignored by those who push “Green New Deal” or 50% or 100% “renewable” energy in a few years. They use LCOE as if it tells the whole story.

      • Messo,
        ERCOT was not created to favor wind and solar.
        Has everyone forgotten the spectacular bankruptcy of TXU?!
        Revisionist history or sloppy analysis? Do better.

      • joe - the non climate scientiest

        Jack comment – “Messo,
        ERCOT was not created to favor wind and solar.
        Has everyone forgotten the spectacular bankruptcy of TXU?!
        Revisionist history or sloppy analysis? Do better”

        Ercot was created in the early 1970’s, TXU bankruptcy was 2014

        Meso’s – “PE points out that the market created by ERCOT was built to favor wind and solar.”

        Jack- Meso’s statement does not state that ercot was created to favor wind and solar. Though I have to say, your revisionist history is one of the fastest on record, changing meso’s statement in less than 3 hours

      • Just like it took years of bad decisions (lookup TXU’s adventures in Australia & Europe) it took years to finalize the bankruptcy.
        Leveraged long term natural gas contracts used as collateral to fund the Wall St. buyout was the breaking point.

        https://www.chooseenergy.com/blog/energy-news/how-did-txu-get-to-the-point-of-almost-certain-bankruptcy/
        September 12th, 2013
        “The trouble actually began in 2007, with the leveraged buyout of TXU Corporation by Energy Future Holdings, a company formed by Wall Street firms KKR, Goldman Sachs Capital Partners and Texas Pacific Group. The $45 billion buyout was the largest in history, and has saddled the utility with a mountain of debt ever since.

        So what happened?
        At the time of the buyout, TXU Energy was a profitable electricity provider through its power generator Luminant and regulated utility Oncor. The power plants that TXU operated were largely coal-fired, and at the time of the purchase, coal was the most cost-effective fuel for generating electricity.

        Natural gas prices had experienced a huge price spike, and coal-fired plants were reaping the benefits of cheaper production, even as electricity costs began to edge up. Things were looking good for Energy Future Holdings. Unfortunately, as these Wall Street types should have known, the market changes direction when you least expect it.

        With TXU under a mountain of debt, the worst thing that could have happened to them did. The price of natural gas came crashing back to earth as new technologies allowed for the drilling of previously unrecoverable gas fields. Because of this, electricity prices pulled back and natural gas became the preferred fuel for power generation.

        Add to the recent woes a relatively mild summer in Texas, resulting in fewer coal plants selling electricity. This seems to have been the final nail in the coffin of Energy Future Holdings investment in Texas power generation.

        As a result of TXU’s over-leveraged balance sheet, bad timing, Wall Street greed, or whatever else you want to attribute it to, the parent company EFH has seen all of its profits erode in debt payments. As of now, the holding company owes around $50 billion to creditors. The problem is that the value of assets is only around $39 billion. And upcoming debt payments are more than the company is expected to earn in the coming few quarters.”

      • joe - the non climate scientist

        JackSmith –
        I got all that about the history of TXU
        My point is that you intentionally misrepresented Meso’s statement

    • Democrats and the left do not have a monopoly on overly ambitious green agendas. We had the Green Tea Party in Georgia pushing for home solar and other green initiatives. Texas saw a lot of support for the green agenda. Here’s an article on a Republican Mayor who was a media darling for his green ambitions. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/texas-town-future-renewable-energy-180968410/
      Right now in his city of Georgetown residents can visit the local “warming Center” to warm up. You can even take your pets in crates and cages if they need a little warmth. They don’t have showers available but they report that the vending machines are stocked. https://communityimpact.com/austin/georgetown/weather/2021/02/16/georgetown-opens-warming-center-feb-16/

      I do not suspect and certainly do not advocate that green dreams of either party are superior to those of the other party,

      • Fossil fuels give us a method to supply base load and dispatchable electricity reliably. This in turn enables a robust economy and thriving society. So much so, there is an overflow of goods and services that partly are diverted to serve the poor. There are government programs to help them and also private entities that do the same. This is a huge external benefit of fossil fuels that easily outweighs any external costs.

    • meso –

      My assumption is that in countries like the Nordics, they manage to substantially overcome the impact of cold weather on renewable sources for energy. Even if they didn’t, I don’t think there’s any good reason why they couldn’t if the will were there.

      People here would rather point fingers than solve problems. People like to point to “price” as if it’s the same thing as “cost” and use prices as a justification for why we can’t do better, build more resilience, change our technological profile. I think that use of “price” hides unsustainability because of uncosted externalities. You can only outrun externalities but for so long. Eventually, they’re going to catch up to you.

      From what I’ve seen, the trend is that we’re maybe treading water relative to many other countries, if not losing ground, because people would rather point fingers than work collectively for everyone’s benefit. People think there’s a free lunch. That sacrifice, at least in the oaeid the “haves” if not the “have-nots” isn’t needed. That income and resource inequality is not only sustainable, but actually some kind of divine justice, God’s plan for an American meritocracy.

      But if you think that blaming “the left” is some kind of way forward, I’m certainly not going to try to convince you otherwise. Imo, if you think that’s the answer you’re closed to real progress, by definition, because you won’t relinquish that motivating force, a motivating force that precludes progress through collective effort. I feel the same way abut people who reflexively think that blaming “the right” is an answer to our current dilemma.

      I just think it’s funny that people want to blame “the left” for infrastructure problems in a state that has been dominated by Republicans and fossil fuel money and interests for decades.

      • “But if you think that blaming “the left” is some kind of way forward, I’m certainly not going to try to convince you otherwise. Imo, if you think that’s the answer you’re closed to real progress, by definition, because you won’t relinquish that motivating force, a motivating force that precludes progress through collective effort.”

        A post which shows why I rarely engage with you.

        You are a self-proclaimed non-math person, so perhaps the math of energy is something you should stay away from. Generic blabs about “progress” and “behind” are pathetic.

        I am all for more, cheaper energy. My problem with most green solutions is that they are frauds, at least from a numerical point of view. We can have *some* renewables in the grid without catastrophe, but your party wants to force us into all renewable, or close to it.

        As PE has mentioned, we can see the consequences of that>

        As for your attack on “prices” – I haven’t a clue what you are talking about.

      • > My problem with most green solutions is that they are frauds, at least from a numerical point of view.

        Then show some numbers, meso.

      • There are actually solutions for intermittancy that would work such as pumped hydro, but people and policymakers seem reluctant to adopt them. I have no idea why. Perhaps the capital cost is high in some places. Batteries are expensive too. In some areas though like the US West coast it would be easy to use the existing reservoirs.

      • Take it from someone who ran the electric power and water operation studies for the Central Valley Project: You cannot use existing reservoirs for pumped storage. All of the existing resources are used to support water for cities, farms, wildlife, etc.

      • I am not sure people appreciate the massive energy storage required to compensate for the intermittency of wind and solar. Hundreds of thousands of MWHs just to compensate for a couple of large reliable power plants. Then you need extra solar and wind to keep those massive storage reservoirs full. If you actually start doing the math you quickly realize it is a practical impossibility.

      • Joe - the non epidemiologist

        Willard comment – Then show some numbers, meso.

        Perhaps we could start with LCOE – levelized cost of energy from wind, solar, fossil fuel, hydro, nuclear. LCOE which isolates the cost of energy based on energy source. Under that analysis, renewables almost always come out ahead. Why – because LCOE was a method to hide the total cost of renewables to make them look less expensive. ie LCOE hides all the costs of unreliables.

      • Joshua, you are seriously “out-to-lunch”.
        Jamming green energy down everyone throat is hardly improving the infrastructure or a mechanism to solve problems. In point of fact, produces exactly the opposite.

      • meso –

        > As for your attack on “prices” – I haven’t a clue what you are talking about.

        Yeah. A lot of people who think they know all about energy policy but don’t understand externalities hang out at blogs like this one, so that doesn’t surprise me.

      • Perhaps Joshua Rhodes knows what he’s talking about:

        The other difference between summer and now is that in the summer, there’s no competition for natural gas. The power plants get it because they’re making electricity out of it. But in the winter, about 60 percent of homes in Texas use electricity for heating, and the other 40 percent use natural gas. We have a massive demand for natural gas at the same time as we have a massive demand for electricity, so we don’t have enough natural gas to go around to all the power plants that want it and all the homes that want it.

        To compound that, we have some natural gas wells out in West Texas that have gotten so cold they’ve actually frozen, so they can’t put more gas into the system. So we’ve got these two systems, the natural gas systems and the electricity systems, both of which are more intertwined in the winter than they are in the summer, and they’re both being pushed to extremes that they were never really designed for.

        https://www.texasmonthly.com/news/what-went-wrong-with-texass-main-electric-grid-and-could-it-have-been-prevented

        But sure, let’s tilt at windmills instead of

      • You miss the point that the lack of regulatory requirement for a capacity market was a deliberate move to advance wind energy, since conventional sources can economically provide it but wind cannot. This is crisis stems from green energy policy.

      • joe - the non climate scientist

        Josh’s comment – “People like to point to “price” as if it’s the same thing as “cost” and use prices as a justification for why we can’t do better, build more resilience, change our technological profile. I think that use of “price” hides unsustainability because of uncosted externalities.”

        Meso’s comments to josh –
        You are a self-proclaimed non-math person, so perhaps the math of energy is something you should stay away from.”
        “As for your attack on “prices” – I haven’t a clue what you are talking about.”

        let me attempt to translate – A concept in the world of green energy is the “Subsidies ” fossil fuel companies receive for the future costs society incurs which are not borne by the fossil fuel companies, ie the carbon pollution. Those costs are are often referred to the “externalities” as josh mentioned. Skeptical Science frequently has discussions of externalities and subsidies received by the fossil fuel companies along with comparing the massive subsidies received by the fossil fuel companies compared with the miniscule subsidies received by green energy.

        The best analogy is the “subsidies” that framers receive because they dont bear the costs of the externalities of their product. Ie farmers dont pay for the costs of the byproduct of food, the solid waste disposal created by eating the farmers food product.

        In summary, the “price” and “uncosted externalities.” in the world of green are bogus concepts

      • > Perhaps we could start with LCOE – levelized cost of energy from wind, solar, fossil fuel, hydro, nuclear

        These ain’t numbers, Joe, but if you’re to spell out acronyms, you could also try LACE, LCOS, and NEMS:

        [T]he LACE, LCOE, and LCOS estimates are simplifications of modeled decisions, and may not fully capture all of the factors considered in NEMS or match modeled results.

        Click to access electricity_generation.pdf

        I emphasize this bit to underline that we’re talking about model estimates, and we all know how Denizens love them.

      • That’s a rosy projection for LCOE for wind and solar many years from now, Williard. Always best in the future, but not so much now. A lot to doubt in that forecast.

      • The natural gas problem in Winter makes a good case for coal plant, which can stockpile 3 months of coal easily. Of course, they would have to be appropriately winterized.

      • External costs (to address intermittency, ensuring capacity) are not acceptable for any consideration of renewables because if you cost them in they make the price for energy too high. Because Democrats and AOC.

        But for fossil fuels the external costs are unimportant. And neither is regulation. Because if you don’t cost them in you can just pass them on. Because Republicans and Rick Perry.

      • The cost to winterize a power plant that must produce power in the winter is not an external cost. It is a normal cost of doing business.

      • For fossil fuels, the external benefits far outweigh the external costs. For renewables, not so much.

      • > For fossil fuels, the external benefits far outweigh the external costs. For renewables, not so much.

        What’s the ratio of external costs to benefits for each? What external costs did you include for fossil fuels when making your assessment?

      • Jim –

        When you calculated those ratios (what are those ratios, btw, as I already asked you?) what where the negative externalities you considered for fossil fuels?

      • Joe – the massive subsidies received by the fossil fuel companies compared with the miniscule subsidies received by green energy.

        In total amounts that is true.
        As a fraction of units energy produced, exactly the opposite is true.

      • joe - the non climate scientiest

        Hunska – Joe – the massive subsidies received by the fossil fuel companies compared with the miniscule subsidies received by green energy.

        In total amounts that is true.
        As a fraction of units energy produced, exactly the opposite is true.

        My reference to the massive subsidies received by the fossil fuel companies was repeating a common myth perpetuated by the green advocates. Sorry if it appeared that I agreed with the greens. As a CPA dealing in federal taxation with a large oil and gas client base, its astonishing that fiction that oil and gas companies get a federal subsidy for the tax deduction for cash expenditures.

    • The ERCOT board elects themselves. The governor and legislature do not appear to have any control over what goes on within ERCOT. Not too surprising that a situation can arise where the “green” agenda is pursued outside the interests of the public.

      ERCOT as currently constructed is doomed. Lucky for ERCOT, Judge Roy Bean is no longer with us.

      • > Not too surprising that a situation can arise where the “green” agenda is pursued outside the interests of the public.

        lol.

        Who deregulated and privatized oversight in Texas? Looks like Abbott wants to investigate now. Why did he wait until a crisis developed?

        Who’s responsible for the lack of winterization?

        Just amazing.

        Texas has had a Republican dominated state government, heavily influenced by the fossil fuel industry money and power, for decades. Rick Perry came out of Texas to become Secretary of Energy. But surely he had no power, just like Abbott, and all the other Republicans and fossil fuel interests who dominate Texas government. They would have taken care of this if they hadn’t been under the thumb of “the left.”

        They’re all such victims. That AOC is a real bad mamma.

      • Just amazing.

        Texas has had a Republican dominated state government, heavily influenced by the fossil fuel industry money and power, for decades. Rick Perry came out of Texas to become Secretary of Energy. But surely he had no power, just like Abbott, and all the other Republicans and fossil fuel interests who dominate Texas government had not control over deregulation and couldn’t have ensured winterization. They would have taken care of this if they hadn’t been under the thumb of “the left.”

        They’re all such victims. That AOC is a real bad mamma.

    • Josh Regardless of political identity, what’s happening is the result of a failure to unify to improve our infrastructure.

      This is not oversight, it’s deliberate policy to advance wind, since having a capacity market slows down wind penetration.

  23. Good take. I have been an IPP project developer for nearly four decades and have seen the industry go from monopoly to ‘competitive’ under PURPA regs. The initial quest to break monopolies by forcing regulated utilities to enter into long term Power Purchase Agreements with “capacity” and “energy” tariffs set at “avoided costs” of the Utility in question, worked like a charm. Lots of savvy (not me) early and alert developers became billionaires. Fast forward, we now have ISOs that are nothing more than bureaucratic entities that have allowed Utilities to get back in the game. So, the managements of the utilities don’t really care too much about “capacity” or “energy” in the free market. They have a guaranteed rate of return and will make their annual bonuses, regardless of whether the generation is wind, solar or gas. When 30% of your grid is reliant on one intermittent source and you’re in an “energy only” ISO, to not have an adequate base load backup plan for disaster related outage is a dereliction of responsibility. Hopefully, this will be a timely wake up call.

    • Not so sure I would necessarily blame utilities while holding out IPP’s as the best approach.

      Traditionally, power production and the grid served the needs of their customers (obligation to serve). The leftest political class has injected itself and turned the traditional approach upside down. Power production, the grid and consumers exist to serve green energy. Pretty much what the Planning Engineer observed.

      The IPP’s, regulated utilities, and public power should operate in an competitive arena where the financial interests of the consumers come first. The political class needs to be drop-kicked over the side of the ship.

    • the utilities don’t really care too much about “capacity” or “energy” in the free market.
      This is because the authorities, in an attempt to advance wind energy by obfuscating its inability to provide capacity, chose to not require it.
      This crisis is rooted in green energy policy.

  24. Thank you for a great analysis.

  25. Geoff Sherrington

    PE,
    Good, clear comments showing your experience of the actual as opposed to imagined.
    For some years now, I have searched for economic analyses of various generation types. Almost every analysis has conditions precedent that weight the analysis. Examples, it is common in wind analses to have no cost included for backup; or the analysis includes socio-political incentives to favour wind; or the analysis excludes the cost of fossil backup having to act in load following mode rather than less costly base load mode.
    Can you point us to some analyses that provide clean comparisons, without socio-political considerations, for stand-alone generation? The types of scenarios that an investor might face in a hypothetical scenario about how to best equip a barren new country with generation, assuming adequate abundance of raw resources like coal, gas, wind, sunlight, nuclear fuel.
    Thank you,. Geoff S

    • Although obviously self serving, could read my book Hybrid Nuclear Energy Systems (Academic Press). We compare all forms of energy production (including green) using an Independent Power Producer model that is strictly financially driven. Also shows financial impact of backing down generators to load following mode.

      Our website hybridpwr.com provides a “big picture” financial overview, but the book goes behind the scenes and takes an in-depth due diligence approach to assessing all forms of power generation.

  26. Most of the neighboring states were in the same emergency conditions as Texas, and still are. Given that those other states do have capacity markets it is not clear that the lack of this market explains the multi-state catastrophe. It may be why ERCOT is worst off, but not why it is bad off.

    My conjecture is that we were seeing cascading outages, tripping a lot of units that were individually okay. In ERCOT it is reported that renewables repeatedly oscillated over an incredible 5,000 MW of power. In this case it was not the frozen wind turbines that were the problem, but the oscillating output of the live ones. That in itself might create cascading instability. Gas fired generators might also have given oscillating output if supply pressure oscillated.

    We may have to wait for the engineering analyses, unless they too disagree.

    • The real problem in Texas is that they didn’t have sufficient researve capacity using coal, natural gas or nuclear ppwer. They were relying on wind as part of their reserve margins, and, as you point out, wind and solar are not reliable. The graph on Page 63 of my book, The Looming Energy Crisis, Are Blackouts Inevitable, discloses the issue. They historically had reseve margins of nearly 14%, but that forecast evaporated to essentially zero this year for baseload power plants. Wind and solar should never be included in reserve margins, although ERCOT, and other RTO/ISOs, such as PJM, are trying to do so.
      As a retired engineer and senior executive at GE, my experience was nearly all related to the power generation business.
      For full disclosure, I’m the author of The Looming Energy Crisis, Are Blackouts Inevitable?

    • Kansas and Missouri (Kansas City) were extremely cold and did experience limited rolling power outages. However, the areas generation mix of mostly coal, some nuclear, some gas and some wind was adequate. The problem was the Southwest Power Pool requiring blackouts to keep the entire grid from destabilizing.

      • Not sure of the extent of the interface between Southwest Power Pool and ERCOT. There are, however, several transmission system tie in to ERCOT

      • Last I knew the ties were AC-DC-AC, which protects each grid from the other stabilitywise, and just a few thousand MW.

    • Most of the neighboring states were in the same emergency conditions as Texas, and still are
      So why is only Texas in the news ?

  27. Coal and nuclear are reliable power, still, any power facility can have a shutdown. ERCOT has rules they must follow. They have made stupid decisions but those decisions are made based on really stupid rules that they must follow.

    Coal fired power plants have been criticized for not doing what they need to do to protect from cold weather, but they would need to spend a lot of money that would be totally wasted because they are already scheduled to close as more wind and solar that is useless in cold times comes online. The rules are designed to force coal to fail and blame coal when the failure and disaster is the replacement of coal by sustainable green energy, Problem is that sustainable green energy does not work for any kind of tropical storm or cold events.

    The federal and state rules that ERCOT operates under do force them to fail. The rules do not allow proper preparation or response to any emergency without suspension of rules when the emergency has already happened, after it is long too late.

  28. Thank you, Planning Engineer. Excellent analysis and summary. One of the best I’ve read.

  29. Pingback: Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act CLCPA Initial Thoughts on Texas Energy Debacle – Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York

  30. Welcome back Planning Engineer! Hope you’ll be active again on this blog

  31. Power outage thoughts

    The green alarmists speak of a sustainable future, they talk of net zero.

    This most recent, historic, unpresented, expected outage disaster does help us define sustainable and net zero.

    Net zero is the amount of power we are going to get during any time mother nature has as much as a hiccup.

    What is Sustainable is the increasing frequency and severity of the outages we will get as we shut down more coal power and rely more on wind and solar and gas. Gas is delivered on demand and gas lines do not work well in really cold weather that is colder than expected and designed for.

    Coal is stockpiled on site and does not depend on gas pipelines.

    Nuclear and Coal are the only dependable energy sources in difficult times.
    Any powerplant can have unexpected outages and the margins must be there for that.

    ERCOT is not at fault.

    Government regulation that ERCOT has to comply with is at fault.
    It has been written that many powerplants need to insulate and winterize for cold weather. These same powerplants are told that they are going to be shut down as more wind and solar are online. Explain why they should spend extra money, go in debt, for something they can not expect to get return on investment.

    The failure to study natural factors that cause climate change and the failure to study and understand the natural self-correcting internal responses of the climate systems is at fault.

    It snows more when polar oceans are thawed and it snows more until it gets colder. CO2 does not change the temperature that the Arctic Ocean becomes ice free and becomes a monster ice maker that builds ice until it gets cold enough to form sea ice. CO2 does not change the temperature that the Antarctic Ocean becomes ice free and becomes a monster ice maker that builds ice until it gets cold enough to form sea ice.

    Look at and understand data and history.

  32. The capacity factor for wind is 35% on average in the US. In Texas it is backed up by gas. I think it is safe to say that wind farms didn’t stop generating because the wind wasn’t blowing. And in extreme winter events – wind is expected to provides 7% of electricity apparently.

    “Texas has promoted the development of wind energy over the past 15 years.

    And on average, renewable energy sources – mostly wind – account for about 20% of its electricity supply.

    But the largest proportion comes from fossil fuels, as well as 10% from nuclear.

    On Tuesday, the state’s principal energy supplier, the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (Ercot), said the freezing conditions had led to:
    30GW being taken offline from gas, coal and nuclear sources
    a 16GW loss in capacity in wind and other renewable energy supplies
    And this, it said, had severely curtailed its ability to satisfy a peak demand of 69GW over the past few days – a surge even greater than anticipated.

    In its plan for an extreme winter weather event, Ercot says it expects only 7% to be provided by wind energy.

    The company’s Dan Woodfin said: “It appears that a lot of the generation that has gone offline today has been primarily due to issues on the natural gas system.”

    The cold weather also affected a water system needed to run the South Texas Nuclear Power Station, causing one reactor to shut down.” https://www.bbc.com/news/world-56085733

    On the whole the problem doesn’t appear to be a lack of peak capacity – but the loss of fragile capacity when it was needed. To me this argues the need for accelerated development of small modular reactors providing electricity, process heat and hydrogen.

    https://www.ga.com/general-atomics-and-framatome-collaborate-to-develop-a-fast-modular-reactor

  33. If those who owned the plants had secured guaranteed fuel,

    Guaranteed fuel, when it is on demand, does not work when the gas pipelines do not have the capacity.

    • Pipeline capacity is known. They would have contracted for available capacity. If capacity was not available to obtain by contract, then that fact would have made it obvious that existing infrastructure was inadequate.

      • From my understanding, some pipelines froze, therefore decreasing their capacity. Same for well heads. Oil wells typically produce some water which can freeze especially if it is fresh.

      • That is my understanding also. If they were contractually obligated to produce they would winterize their systems. Not that market participants are all perfectly prepared, but price signals are powerful motivators.

  34. 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.

    Imagine the cost of enough batteries to have lasted through this cold event.

    • 30 to 45% capacity factor and can be balanced with hydro, biogas, geothermal, biomass or other technologies with low marginal costs and limited capacity factors. Gas at a pinch but the marginal is not as good as wind and solar. And if gas can’t make o profit in the high value two thirds sector of the market there is something wrong.

      Additional system cost don’t kick in until some 20% penetration in the US despite all the bleating. Do you have some better and more recent data?


      https://www.iea.org/reports/projected-costs-of-generating-electricity-2020

      • It doesn't add up...

        Work I have done suggests that the picture or the value of renewables painted for Europe in the chart you post is exaggerated. We are starting to get into the regime when at times of low demand there is a renewables surplus against the maximum level of renewables that the grid can tolerate without becoming unstable due to lack of inertia. This can have a negative value. Moreover, as capacity expands the frequency and extent of curtailment increases – initially quadratically – leaving the marginal useful generation from incremental wind capacity declining sharply, and driving up the effective cost. Storage solutions are generally prohibitively expensive: it is cheaper to spill the unwanted power.

      • The lack of rotational inertia is not the problem it is imagined to be. And unless you have some quantitative analysis – it’s just so much kitty litter.

        The ideal is to use all low marginal cost wind and solar power in a system with multiple sources built around cost competitive small, modular fast reactors.

        Including new battery technology.

      • Your alleged low-marginal cost green energy does not do much good if the resource is not around when needed. Then there is the matter of the all-in cost of energy production that can be disguised by mischievous marginal cost approaches. The cost for the “next unit” is misleading if the earlier “unit” is not actually financially solvent.

        Your vaunted iea analyses are replete with all manner of doubtful and skewed assumptions that weigh down their conclusions with a lot of political baggage. Read the fine print.

      • Mike – I am tired of going around in circles with you. That non quantified argument repeated ad nauseum is particularly tiresome.

        https://www.iea.org/reports/projected-costs-of-generating-electricity-2020

  35. Excellent article, nothing can really be added.

    This is all a wonderfully entertaining farce, and it’s only just begun! What a time to be alive!

  36. Pingback: More on the Texas Electricity Catastrophe -

  37. TERCOT (Texan Electric Reliability Council of Texas) is a priceless joke just in its name and the world is laughing. Up there with Chemical Ali.

    Adding to that the local mayor Tim Boyd’s Na3i rant “Asking for help makes you despicable socialist, you’re on your own, only the strong survive, the weak will perish” is just the icing 🧁 on the cake.

    You couldn’t make this stuff up!

  38. A small comment here. This quote “I was raked over the coals ” brings memories. I was also threatened with disciplinary action for running up a spare unit. It was in 1974 after the oil crisis, but March 22nd first spring day.
    Lesson1: bad weather comes and you may not normally expect it. Lesson 2: there was lack of delegation of authority with responsibility. My lesson there, ‘If I’m in charge I decide’. Those who don’t step in the engine-room don’t know/understand the conditions. But we were a public entity that had to service the nation.
    We sailed that day, full capacity and dipping frequency, only saved by the noon lunch break. But worst experience was a new year’s eve, relaxed demand but a storm that whipped up the harbour water, the source of cooling, fouling everything. A long night keeping the plant running. The point here is that this business has many tricky aspect.

  39. It doesn't add up...

    I think this post from Roger Pielke hits a nail squarely on the head:

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

    The possibility of cold weather was increasingly being excluded from planning.

    • “It appears that ERCOT based its assessment of preparedness for winter 2020-21 on a historical period of 2004 to 2018.”

      Can this be true? If so, it’s insane. Even if it was 1950-2018, it would have been insane. But as Roger said, it is beside the point. Cold happens, regardless of probability.

      I just saw an interview with a former regulator who didn’t want to ascribe blame but said with global warming we are going to have more cold. SOP.

      My head hurts. I’m going back to bed.

    • Thanks for posting that link. I knew that several years have been colder than 2021, including 1899, 1930, 1949, and 1989. I did not know how stupid Texas was in its planning scenarios.

    • Oh hell, where is global warming when we need it?

    • I read the ppt rpJR linked to at ERCOT. They got far too “cute” with attempting to use existing atmospheric dynamics to predict the nature of the winter. Even then they acknowledged that an event like this could occur late in the winter. They then inexplicably discount that possibility when doing the actual planning scenario.

      As someone familiar with this type of modeling from the nuclear industry, they should be much less mechanistic IMO. They should always be prepared for what has happened in the past regardless of their belief in how improbable the past may be based existing atmospheric dynamics.

  40. Thank you for this excellent article, PE. Perhaps the events in Texas will make politicians everywhere think again about renewables and start to look more seriously at the seriously ‘greener, cheaper, reliable’ nuclear options. I sincerely hope so.

    • Hi UK Weather Lass,

      I apologise if you’ve already seen it but the Climatr Coalition’s website argues passionately for nuclear as well as renewables

      • Renewables are a net negative, I’m thinking. The birds and bats killed, the marring of beautiful vistas with wind turbines, the huge acreage needed, the extra transmission lines and roads, the child slave labor for rare earths and lithium, intermittency, subsidies, low energy density, waste in the form of retired wind turbine blades and expended solar panels, … I’m not seeing the bloom on the rose here.

      • Climate Coalition’s website argues passionately for nuclear as well as renewables
        Maybe. Sadly though, nuclear can’t survive in a democracy for long.
        Unless they find a vaccine for stupidity.

      • Hi Phil,

        Fair point but there’s worse than that. In the UK (and I suspect some other places) some vocal people (not that many mercifully) believe 5G Masts cause and/or spread COVID. Somebody once bemoaned the decline of mainstream religion by noting that (some) people don’t believe in nothing as a result; instead they believe in anything. Masts were vandalised last spring here I believe.

      • UK-Weather Lass

        Hi Iain,

        On a small scale and if a land owner wishes to bear the full cost then I have nothing against them erecting their solar panels and wind turbines (providing other local residents do not object to the noise of the latter) but the matter of grid connectivity would be superfluous given adequate base and peak load supply via reliable alternatives.

        On the matter of UK deniers (of whatever kind) they have a right to voice their opinions and protest, which ironically, has has been the case with nuclear energy and its unpopularity. I think people dislike fanaticism which excludes counter argument rather the fanaticism per se. If our experts and scientists were a little more able to state their cases honestly, without half-truths and with persuasive factual evidence, perhaps we wouldn’t be in quite the pickle we are on so many different fronts at the moment.

  41. Texas should require the large base load generators to winterize and charge the energy-only operators (wind and solar) to pay for it.

  42. For at least 4 days the economic activity of over 30 million people collapsed.
    Losses will be historic from water damages, agriculture and infrastructure.
    Anybody want to guess how much this catastrophe adds to GDP?
    My bet it adds at least 1 point to the current 2021 GDP. forecast of 4.5%.

  43. Josh saId: “Yeah. A lot of people who think they know all about energy policy but don’t understand externalities hang out at blogs like this one, so that doesn’t surprise me.”

    Externalities related to energy have been pounded to death in this blog and everywhere else. Apparently no one finds the “externalities” matter much. You will say these “externalities” fall mostly on the poor or on minorities. I’m not seeing it, at least not in the USA. A very small percentage of the population lives near a coal plant and with clean coal, it matters less than it used to.

    • So this leaves you with global warming as the primary bug-a-boo externality. It’s also the least certain one. Might not even exist, at least in the sense that man is causing it.

    • Or might not exist yet. And hence better left to the future when more and better science may have finally found to an economical way to replace fossil fuel.

  44. No Texas blackout thread would be complete without the graphs that Alex Epstein has been tweeting out. For wind and solar advocates, they’re devastating:

  45. thecliffclavenoffinance

    I was surprised an article about energy included no data — no numbers. One important number is 3.2 million.

    3.2 million Texans experienced rolling blackouts in 2011 during unusually cold weather.

    At the time wind energy was about 1/4 of the current percentage, so was not the cause.

    A report was issued in 2011. I assume it collected dust on shelves. the Texas energy infrastructure was not “winterized” and wind power was quadrupled by 2011.

    When it was most needed, just before the blackouts, wind power was producing about 5% of total ERCOT energy. One week earlier it hit a peak of 58% during one hour. Wind power is highly variable, unreliable energy. Of course wind turbines can be equipped to avoid freezing. But that makes no difference when there is not enough wind.

    Two articles on my climate science and energy blog this week have numbers to supplement this article. A choice was made in Texas: The choice was not “winterizing” the Texas energy infrastructure, I suppose to keep electricity prices lower. It looked like a smart choice, from mid-2011 2011 through 2020. And then it backfired in 2021.

    https://elonionbloggle.blogspot.com/2021/02/weve-had-fun-mocling-frozen-texas.html

    https://elonionbloggle.blogspot.com/2021/02/wind-subsidies-help-freeze-texans.html

  46. Nice overview. I spent considerable time past couple of days digging into the Texas situation because of the GND implications. The situation is complex and nuanced, as the post points out.

    It appears true that the root cause was wind. But not so much the icing failures as the subsidies that meant there was insufficient financial motivation to replace the retired coal baseload generation. So reserve margins thinned, in hindsight far too much.

    Then there was a major planning failure. The ERCOT grid typically has its peak load in summer with AC. They never planned on a peak in winter. And that meant the natural gas reserve capacity was undersized in aggregate, because there is no residential heating demand in summer, just electrical peak load. So baseload CCGT got curtailed in favor of residential heating.

    Finally, all this should have been foreseen and corrected, because a very similar situation (forced rolling blackouts) occurred Super Bowl week 2011. The differences then were much less wind generation than now and much more coal baseload not yet retired, at least 4 GW.

    • What to do in response to a risk, and what not to do, are risk management decisions. For all practical purposes, those who control the assumptions being made about the risks control the risk management decisions.

      In 2012, if you had assumed that a repeat of 2011 was highly unlikely, then you did nothing. A decade later, if you assume that a repeat of 2021 is highly unlikely, then you still do nothing.

      Those who understand that risk management is a process, not an end point in itself, know that almost any decision outcome can be pre-determined by choosing a suitable mix of assumptions up front.

      • Hi Beta Blocker,

        I work in engineering risk assessment and you’re uncomfortably accurate here although even sensibly cautious advice can be overridden higher up e.g. the loss of the Challenger space shuttle in early 1986 or the 737 Max 8 crashes due to a horribly inadequate architecture in the MCAS for which Boeing were fined $2.5 billion to say nothing of lost sales and damaged reputation.

      • Iain Climie, part of my career in nuclear has been spent in technology implementation risk management, and also at a higher conceptual level in the area of project/program risk management for fielding and deploying new or revised technologies on cost and on schedule.

        The 1986 Challenger disaster, the 2011 Fukushima tsunami and subsequent reactor meltdowns, the 2012-2017 VC Summer and Vogtle 3 & 4 project cost & schedule overruns, the 2019 and 2020 737 MAX crashes, and now the 2021 Great Texas Freezeup — all of these incidents were driven by risks that were easily foreseeable to the lower level technologists and the lower level risk managers inside the corporate organizations, and were in fact were foreseen by these lower tier staff.

        In each of these cases, why weren’t proactive measures taken to deal with the root causes of these incidents before they actually occurred? It was because in each of these cases, senior corporate managers decided that no action was needed to deal proactively with known dangers and risks which had severe consequences if an incident occurred.

      • Hi Beta Blocker,

        Add in Nimrod XV230, Bhopal, Hatfield rail crash, Flixborough and many many others too. You may find the Haddon-Cave report (downloadable) interesting here or at least the summary of it.

    • Roger Pielke, Jr. points out the ERCOT assumed that 2011 was a good analogy for “worst case scenario” when 1989 was worse. They didn’t even plan for the known past.

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

      • Matthew R Marler

        Don B: They didn’t even plan for the known past.

        We hear that a lot.

        Thank you for the PielkeJr link.

  47. I very much appreciate this post, I think it clearly presents the financial incentives that drive (and distort) solid technical planning.

    One critique: I didn’t follow under what circumstances a provider would get $9000 Mwh for non peak and $100 for peak.

    Otherwise, thank you!

    • The issue is that in an energy only market like ERCOT, there is no incentive to build a billion dollar power plant to serve load only once every few years. The only reason prices were 9000 per MWH was because resources did not exist. If resources did exist then that great windfall of 9000 per MWH would disappear and would only be 100 per MWH for example.

      Put another way, there are peaking plants that may operate for less than 100 hours per year. There is no way for them to cover their cost of capital in an energy only market. PJM has a capacity market that typically clears somewhere around 100 dollars per MWD. Using a 1000MW peaking plant to make the numbers easy, that plant would receive 36,500,000 dollars annually as capacity payments to be available if needed. That sounds like a lot but is still barely enough to cover the cost of capital for the 500,000,000 that plant would cost to build. In an energy only market that plant simply wouldn’t exist and sometimes the lights would go out.

      • Thanks for clearing that up.

      • A 1000 megawatt combined-cycle plant costs around a billion dollars. A 1000 megawatt gas turbine plant costs around 700 million dollars to build.

        36 million dollars is not that much help, particularly if the price received for energy production is (1) low because of subsidized/mandated renewable energy artificially screwing up the marketplace and (2) the plant does not run very often.

        As dougbadgero observed, makes for a dismal investment incentive,

      • It seems like some type of liquid (diesel, jet fuel) emergency storage would cost a lot less and perhaps could help oil companies buffer price swings.

      • I did a bit of internet reading, and it is possible to use nuclear plants to do load following. This is already done in France, and apparently, in Chicago. Some can go down to 50% of maximum load. Some can ramp power as much as 10% per minute.

        Naturally, there are costs associated with this. They are less efficient (but not that much to my surprise – 4%-7%), and some components wear out sooner. And, I’d think, it increases the chances for a disaster. And, they’d require re-certification if they aren’t already doing it.

      • Nuclear can and do load follow but it is not common in the USA. It also hurts the economics of nuclear to load follow. Nuclear plants cost a lot to build, they need to operate at high capacity factors to cover their cost of capital.

        It is interesting to consider that for the amount the federal government has spent on COVID19 fiscal stimulus we could have built 300 large nuclear plants and completely decarbonated the US grid. Nuclear is expensive but we throw around much more to get much less and don’t think twice about it. Note this is just a thought experiment for denizen`s consideration. I realize there are lots of details that complicate this simple thought experiment.

      • “Nuclear can and do load follow but it is not common in the USA. It also hurts the economics of nuclear to load follow. Nuclear plants cost a lot to build, they need to operate at high capacity factors to cover their cost of capital.”

        Not as much as I thought, based on the European reports I read today. Obviously, if they are throttling down for grid stability reasons, they need to be compensated for doing so. So if wind increases generation, undercutting nuclear in price, the wind generation should compensate the nuclear for the nuclear’s job in backing up the wing.

        I guess that capacity markets provide a way to do this. Other schemes exist with similar goals, but… somebody has to pay for the capacity in the market for it to work, and generators aren’t going to do that unless forced to.

        It is interesting to consider that for the amount the federal government has spent on COVID19 fiscal stimulus we could have built 300 large nuclear plants and completely decarbonated the US grid. “

      • Terrapower’s proposed Natrium reactor design is supposed to have a molten salt storage buffer between the reactor and turbines. That would make it completely dispatchable. Rod Adams talks about it at 1:01:00 in this video:

      • Regular nukes are dispatch able. I think you mean that they can do peaking generation? But… how much storage? I suspect that the molten salt can’t store that much, plus as it cools, the thermodynamic efficiency of using the heat goes down.

        On the other hand, there isn’t much out there that can store much energy, at grid scale. Pumped hydro, if you don’t have unused typography, is going to be expensive. Batteries are terribly expensive. In the past, they talked about flywheel storage, elevating weights (sorta like hydro), compressed atmosphere storage, all sorts of stuff. We don’t see much of it in existence, though,

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  52. Thank you for your insightful explanation of Texas’ power woes. I had checked in several times previously this week hoping you might comment on the situation. Grateful to be rewarded. Thanks to Judith as well for this valuable resource.

  53. Appreciate this assessment from somebody who knows the engineering. I’d be very interested in seeing an assessment like those done by the NTSB after an airplane goes down.

    Briefly, an NTSB accident assessment first tries to determine what was the sequence of events that led to the “catastrophic” condition. This event chain can be quite long and include things like a minor component failure, leading to a monitor failing to indicate a problem, leading to another component failing to operate when needed, leading to the loss of situational awareness by the pilot, leading to them failing to take a recovery action in time to prevent the loss of control.

    Usually, the catastrophic event could have been prevented at any point in that chain of events didn’t happen. So the second aspect of the NTSB analyses address WHY each event might have occurred. This analysis looks at whether there was the inadequate training, improper or lack of maintenance, a design that failed to account for a condition that occurred, any policies or “work culture” that contributed to anything, and so on. In almost every case, there is a bunch of things that had to happen in order for the catastrophic condition to have happened.

    I’m fairly certain that the Texas “loss of power” event will have many similar chains of events and causes.

  54. The truth about AlexE’s hot takes in one sentence:

    Natural gas, the state’s dominant energy source, has provided drastically less energy than expected, according to experts and industry data.

    https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/fact-check-renewable-energy-not-blame-texas-energy-crisis-n1258185

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  57. Excellent article to which I’ve linked in the comments sections of many irrational online articles. People love to blame someone… anyone… when a crisis arises as they are not prepared.

    Here in SE Michigan, we have the Fermi nuclear power plant which has been providing reliable power for about sixty years and was expanded from its original capacity in the 1980s. Nevertheless, people who live in outlying (semi-rural) areas with older infrastructure know that despite power being generated, it also has to be transmitted. Heavy snow storms and occasional ice storms are not uncommon, so many people in our area have either fixed whole house generators or mobile generators that can pick up the electricity needs in an emergency. These are not necessarily wealthy individuals and often those systems are in place for homes in the 1,500-2,000 sf size.

    It’s thought of as “insurance”. Just as you don’t plan on having a fire destroying your property, you don’t plan on having a major power outage, but you do purchase appropriate insurance.

  58. The objective is to have enough capacity to meet peak demand. It is paid for by energy supply contracts that provide a sufficient return for the generator and competitive pricing for consumers. The loss of capacity in extreme events is another matter.

    • Let’s try that one again.

    • Automatically excludes renewable energy as the machines do not supply capacity. They provide unreliable and intermittent energy.

      Skewing the market place to support green energy over reliable capacity leads to problems. Take a bow, California, Texas, Australia.

      Will common sense prevail over the green energy religion? How many trillions of dollars will be squandered by not paying attention to reality? As C3PO observed “We’re doomed”

      • I’ll let you know when Australia gas an insoluble problem caused by renewables. Wind and solar subsidies are some10% of my bill. Subsidies wind down to zero in 2030. The biggest cost increase by far was cost plus grid contracts and rising prices of gas in a market where supply didn’t keep pace with a growing export capacity. The problem de jour is getting lower priced gas into the market to replace aging coal plants scheduled for retirement.

  59. I just blogged why they MUST plan for periodic extreme cold events

    Cold Snaps Expose Climate Science Fragility. http://landscapesandcycles.net/cold-snaps-expose-climate-science-fragillity.html

  60. 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 10-15% 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.

    • “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.” PE

      At what level do they become counterproductive? What technology innovations are required to change that level? You will find if you look at the latest cost report from the IEA/Nuclear Energy Agency the usual suspects keep waving hands about:

      1 nuclear is not cost competitive for a decade or two;
      2 and Texas is about at the limit with existing commercial technology.

      • Ahhh… the questions were rhetorical – asked and answered – and the hand waving was by others. You still haven’t read the post?

      • No – my post is not rhetorical, but in agreement with your first paragraph.

        BTW is there a different design of gas power plant designed specifically to vary output rapidly and continuously, to back up wind / solar. Or is tis supported in all gas power plant?

      • My questions were quite obviously rhetorical. Asked and answered.

        Costs of gas peaking plants were shown in the 2020 Lazards cost chart.

      • Combined-cycle plants frequently employ duct burners in the Heat Recovery Boilers. Enables up to about a 25% plant output increase to deal with peaking needs. The combined-cycle plants can drop load to roughly 50% quite rapidly (minutes).
        Combined-cycle plants can also use gasified coal. However, power noticeably more expensive than just using natural gas.
        There are innovations that merge natural gas and nuclear energy, but remains to be seen if the technology will gain traction – see hybrid power.com

    • IMO we now have enough real world data to answer that question, 20 to 30%. NREL predicted 10 years ago that numbers above this value would require significant additional investment in additional infrastructure. It appears they were correct.

    • They increased my electrical bills substantially. How exactly they achieved this while “decreasing fossil prices” is beyond me.

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  63. Thank you Planning Engineer. Excellent article.

  64. Geoff Sherrington

    RIE writes above
    “The solution for low cost, low carbon, cheaper and reliable energy is technological innovation”.
    Your selective argument is out of touch with reality. Exclude the low carbon words and recalculate.
    We already know that the best path to future low cost, reliable electricity generation is a return to conditions that existed before the “renewables” era. This incontestable assertion has the solid backing of decades of actual performance and observation.
    Forget about wind and solar except in the few niche applications that make sense. It failed in Germany’s Energiewende, It failed in Texas last week, it failed in South Australia and it will fail again.
    The dangers of man-made global warming that spruikers use are away in the future, are highly uncertain and are usually based on the projections of unverified models and frankly, designed to scare dogs and small children. That is not science, that is belief peddling.
    Repeated request, Robert, tell us what the verified actual dollar damage has been from man-made global warming/climate change – in the past, not in the future where it is only guesswork. Hint: Probably close to zero $$$.
    And for this we junk the best way we can make electricity and replace it with an expensive, intermittent way? Learn from experienced planning engineers. Geoff S

    • Geoff, you misunderstand. They don’t need your money in the past or the future – they need it NOW.

    • There is a greenhouse effect that we are adding to in a nonlinear world. There is no point arguing this with contrarian curmudgeons with negligible expertise in Earth system science. We are way beyond that.

      “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.” PE

      We can add hydro, bioenergy, geothermal – as well as gas and nuclear – to the mix and devise optimal low carbon systems.

      It is – btw – still working in South Australia. They beefed up the interconnector and installed some virtual inertia.

      • They have also mandated that there has to be a certain amount of synchronous power on the grid and will switch solar and wind off to achieve that.

      • “The two synchronous condensers to be installed at Davenport have been designed and manufactured by GE. The two synchronous condensers that will be installed at Robertstown will be designed and manufactured by Siemens.” https://utilitymagazine.com.au/first-synchronous-condenser-arrives-at-davenport-substation/

        Really?

      • And tell us how well geothermal in Australia worked Robert. South Australia’s Solyndra. Hot dry rock geothermal only works in the minds of academics who don’t know what they are talking about.

      • I considered investing in hot dry rocks – but decided not to. You have to drill up to 5 kilometres, have enough water in a desert to make steam and then deliver the electricity to consumers from remote locations. The technology worked – it is just not cost competitive.

        “He pointed out Australian geothermal energy differed greatly from the energy created by abundant and accessible steam vents in countries such as New Zealand and Iceland.

        “There are 46 countries around the world that generate significant geothermal energy, but all of those come from conventional systems — where you see the geysers and all the volcanic manifestation, where there is natural permeability in the ground,” Professor Hand said.”

        Hindsight makes even Chris a successful entrepreneur. I am always confounded by the economic illiteracy of contrarian curmudgeons.

      • Unlike you Robert, I actually read the AEMO notices. And why SA is generating 400MW on gas with windfarms shut down.

      • Like you read the hot dry rocks prospectus? I don’t think so.

      • You would do a lot better if you actually knew something about geothermal Robert. Iceland and NZ have two phase wells, not steam vents. And the fields aren’t always associated with recent volcanics – Ngawha and Salton Sea are good examples. Ngawha, Geysers and Kawerau have their permeability in the greywacke. ..

      • FFS – the most frequent accusations of ignorance come from the most ignorant.

      • Chris, as someone who actually financed and developed a geothermal electric power plant, I’ll go with you over RIE on this.

      • “Robert I. Ellison | February 20, 2021 at 2:56 am |
        FFS – the most frequent accusations of ignorance come from the most ignorant.”

        “There is a greenhouse effect that we are adding to in a nonlinear world. There is no point arguing this with contrarian curmudgeons with negligible expertise in Earth system science. We are way beyond that.”

        Nice sounding but meaningless crap. Nonlinear? Hey, add that world and sound like you’re saying something profound, because the rest of us proles are too dumb to know the implications. Sigh.

        You write lots of posts with nice sounding phrases – basically, like a marketing guy selling stuff. When I was in business, I worked with people who did that for a living. I was the engineer who actually could speak to the technology.

      • I worked in science and engineering. And if you believe that chaotic systems are just words you are many decades behind the curve.

      • “Professor Martin Hand ran the South Australian Centre for Geothermal Energy Research at the University of Adelaide.

        “I think it was talked up too much — it’s a very nice concept on the front page of a newspaper, looks very easy to do, and I think it was over-spruiked,” he said.”

        “My research focuses on understanding the development of metamorphic and allied deformational systems in the continental crust. Within this theme he has led/continues to lead multidisciplinary teams that integrate geology, geochemistry and geophysics in pursuit of several topics: (1) Strain localisation mechanisms, and the evolution of intraplate orogenic systems, (2) Causes of high geothermal gradient regimes in the lithosphere, (3) The lithospheric development of Australia during the Proterozoic era and (4) Tectonic frameworks for Fe-oxide Cu-Au mineralisation in the Australian Proterozoic era (5) The development and evolution of high and ultra-high temperature metamorphic systems in the crust. (6) Unconventional geothermal systems.”

        Yeah – my ignorance consisted of quoting a source far more authoritative than these would be echo chamber bozos.

      • Hot dry rocks is – btw – an unconventional geothermal system. So Chris’ remark was just a red herring. Intended to do what I have a clue.
        Marginalise geothermal as an energy source?

        Conventional geothermal is fabulous technology. The USGS estimates that some 10% of US electricity supply could be supplied from geothermal energy.

      • So Adelaide a centre of geothermal excellence in academia within a thriving geothermal community. You learn something new every day. And here was I thinking it was just Auckland and Reykjavik where they just have departments within the Engineering school and only churn out PhDs on it.
        Getting usable permeability in hot tight granites or sandstones by either hydraulic fracturing (40MPa overpressure) or acidification is basically impossible – that’s what my son did his thesis on. And we have drilled over 300 geothermal wells – never been able to improve the permeability of any of the tight ones. But what do we know.
        Getting back to the headline post, even those running geothermal power stations know you need to winterise them if there is a possibility of cold weather. That is where Texas went wrong.

      • You brought up hot dry rocks in response to a list of energy sources that included geothermal.
        Not remotely the point and you have rabbited on about it interminably. Martin Hand is a professor of Earth Sciences with an extensive publication record. He was quoted as an expert on the Australian lithosphere and commented on the hot dry rock project in the Cooper Basin. In the big red splodge in the eastern half of the continent.

        Hot dry rocks are heated by the decay of elements such as uranium and thorium. It is very different to the geothermal energy sourced from water in aquifers heated by magma in 46 odd countries globally. Hot dry rocks require ‘enhanced geothermal systems’. Something that has not been economically viable in Australia despite an abundance of uranium and thorium in the lithosphere. And money being thrown at it by government. Martin Hand said the project was over spruiked. It was something – as I said – that after due diligence I was not inclined to invest in.

        https://arena.gov.au/projects/?project-value-start=0&project-value-end=200000000&technology=geothermal

        And of course the Texas problem was the lack of infrastructure hardened to meet foreseeable weather extremes. You seem to have a problem sticking to the point. I can only think that it is because you are so busy drilling wells along with all the other things you are expert at. 5km was it? Either that or ADHD.

      • It matters not which blade of grass grasshopper climb at night,
        so long as each faces Greta in the morning.

      • We can add hydro, bioenergy, geothermal – as well as gas and nuclear – to the mix and devise optimal low carbon systems.

        I am an economic rationalist – but there is no pleasing grumpy old contrarian curmudgeons with a Greta fixation. The term is a deliberate if provocative reference to the contrarian groupthink. Identifying with it and being offended is a sure sign. No one with an idée fixe can be objective.

      • Your wondrous climate models are incapable of generating meaningful solutions to the chaotic climate; fundamental flaw in the underlying mathematics associated with attempting to solve extremely complicated non-linear partial differential equations. Kindly refrain from claiming what the future climate holds. No one knows.

      • “Sensitive dependence and structural instability are humbling twin properties for chaotic dynamical systems, indicating limits about which kinds of questions are theoretically answerable. They echo other famous limitations on scientist’s expectations, namely the undecidability of some propositions within axiomatic mathematical systems (Gödel’s theorem) and the uncomputability of some algorithms due to excessive size of the calculation.” https://www.pnas.org/content/104/21/8709.short

        If nonlinear PDE equations in models are all you have – you are decades behind the curve. It is unpredictable pattern shifts in a spatio-temoral chaotic Earth system that is the potential problem. We can however reduce risk with pragmatic responses to greenhouse gas emissions and other Earth system changes.

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  66. Paul Joseph Lafreniere

    A recommendation from the U.K. Helm report:
    The legacy costs from the Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs), the feed-in tariffs (FiTs) and low carbon contracts for difference (CfDs) are a major contributor to rising final prices, and should be separated out, ring-fenced, and placed in a ‘legacy bank’. They should be charged separately and explicitly on customer bills. Industrial customers should be exempt. Once taken out of the market, the underlying prices should then be falling.

    All that is missing is a link to the pensions of politicians and the jig is up.

  67. If the people of Texas are upset at this state of affairs, then we all know what needs to happen. The State has to dictate generators weatherize and make some capacity arrangement for 100 year events. Then, it will be necessary to add an item to cover it to the electric bill of the upset individuals.

  68. I refuse to organize my life around a poll taken by people who know less than I about the poll subject. The CliSci fear propaganda is ramping up as the UN IPCC climate models veer farther and farther from measured climatic metrics across the board. The missing CMIP3&4 tropical tropospheric hot spot has now extended to cover the entire troposphere in the CMIP6 models. Because …. science?

  69. Planning Engineer > …wind needs to be backed up by fossil fuel … such that if you have these backup generators it’s much cheaper to use and fuel them, than to add wind farms
    But what if you don’t already have them ?

    • We have seen the “what if” for the whole week.

    • No we haven’t. Let me rephrase the point I think PE is making there.
      Assume the starting point is that there are X wind farms, and we now need to back them up. If there are already fossil generators capable of providing the backup (given a capacity market), it makes sense to use them rather than build more wind farms to back up the first lot.

      But if you don’t have unused fossil capacity available, does it still make sense to build it, or does building more wind farms then make sense?

      • “But if you don’t have unused fossil capacity available, does it still make sense to build it, or does building more wind farms then make sense?”

        You need reliable, dispatchable generation. Wind farms are neither. If you build more wind farms, why are they likely to be online when the others have been shut down by a weather event?

      • Curious George

        Write down an important message on a piece of paper. As a backup, write it down on the back side as well.

      • If you build more wind farms, why are they likely to be online when the others have been shut down by a weather event?

        Because they are sited far enough away.

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  71. The climate of North America was much more extreme in previous centuries. The past 150 years have been usually kind. We are not prepared for reversion to the mean.
    #AntiFragileEnergy
    #GreenNUCLEARDeal
    #HighlyFlexibleNaturalGas

  72. If we were properly focused on energy security, greenhouse gas emissions would be a moot point.
    #AntiFragileEnergy
    #GreenNUCLEARDeal
    #HighlyFlexibleNaturalGas

  73. Was there a capacity market in Texas prior to the ERCOT era ?

    • ISOs didn’t exist before about 20 years ago. ERCOT became an ISO to serve texas markets. There was the legal obligation to serve before ISOs which served the same purpose as capacity markets. The Texas electric grid has always been isolated electrically.

      • I should add there was, and is, lots of debate about capacity markets yes or no and how to structure them if the answer is yes. As PE stated since renewables don’t provide much if any capacity, having a capacity market disadvantages renewables. So the debate becomes political.

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  75. joe - the non climate scientist

    various sources are claiming that Texas / ERCOT requested or sought a waver from the Department of energy bypass various green energy restrictions on 2/12 or 2/13 in anticipation of the oncoming cold front the request as denied on 2/14/2021 by the DOE via EO 202(c).

    Does anyone confirm the story and thoughts on any impact this may have had.

  76. I’m awaiting the day when every residential structure will have its own solar cell array.
    However, apparently large electric companies can restrict independent use of solar panels.

    Interviewed by the online National Observer (posted February 12, 2019), renowned linguist and cognitive scientist (etcetera) Noam Chomsky emphasized humankind’s immense immediate need to revert to renewable energies, notably that offered by our sun.
    In Tucson, Arizona, for example, “the sun is shining … most of the year, [but] take a look and see how many solar panels you see. Our house in the suburbs is the only one that has them [in the vicinity]. People are complaining that they have a thousand-dollar electric bill per month over the summer for air conditioning but won’t put up a solar panel; and in fact the Tucson electric company makes it hard to do. For example, our solar panel has some of the panels missing because you’re not allowed to produce too much electricity …

    People have to come to understand that they’ve just got to [reform their habitual non-renewable energy consumption], and fast; and it doesn’t harm them, it improves their lives. For example, it even saves money,” he said.
    “But just the psychological barrier that says I … have to keep to the common beliefs [favouring fossil fuels] and that [doing otherwise] is somehow a radical thing that we have to be scared of, is a block that has to be overcome by constant educational organizational activity.”

    Our (B.C.) current system has each recipient building’s entire electrical delivery relying on external power lines that are too susceptible to various crippling power-outage-causing events (e.g. storms and tectonic shifts).
    Clear skies permitting, I can really appreciate the liberating effect of having my own independently accessed solar-cell power supply, especially considering my/our dangerous reliance on electricity. And it will not require huge land-flooding and potentially collapsing water dams.

    • “Interviewed by the online National Observer (posted February 12, 2019), renowned linguist and cognitive scientist (etcetera) Noam Chomsky emphasized humankind’s immense immediate need to revert to renewable energies, notably that offered by our sun.”

      Noam Chomsky is also a far-left crazy. He is most certainly not an engineer. A number of us in this discussion are.

      The problem with solar systems on structures is storage for when the sun isn’t shining – the same problem you have with grid solar. And, if you are going to do solar, it is more efficient to do it at the grid scale, not on individual structures.

      I happen to live around 100 miles from Tucson – in Phoenix. We probably get more sun than Tucson, since Tucson has more summer monsoon storms.

      I did an analysis of solar for my home. With optimistic assumptions, it would just barely pay for itself over a 20 year period. For that, I’d need an upfront investment of over $50,000 and my roof would be completely covered with cells. I would have to cut down any trees that would shade it, and the cells would have to be frequently cleaned of dust, pollen, etc. And, it would have take about another $40,000 in batteries to handle the time when the solar was not available – at which point, solar became nowhere near competitive with grid electricity.

      • Meso,
        I am wondering why did you use 20 years for a payback period? The latest global surveys say that the panels installed in the early 2000’s are expected to be producing over 80% of their original output for over 30 years. The DC/AC inverters have a shorter estimated lifespans of about between 10 to 25 years depending on if you use central inverters(10+yrs) or microinverters(25+yrs) but still a long life.
        No doubt there are solar companies that would be happy to sell you a $50k system but that seems like a lot (around 18-20KW nameplate). I think the national average is around $2.50-$2.75 per watt installed. If I assume you are being rigorous in comparing bids and you got the best prices that must mean you use a lot of electricity. Your best investment would seem to be cut your demand by retrofitting your home and changing your consumption patterns.
        At least the price per watt are still falling due to better efficiency so don’t give up. And good luck with our eternal struggle to live independently from government sanctioned monopolies.

      • “I am wondering why did you use 20 years for a payback period?”

        It was the timeframe I cared about. Given the risks associated with rooftop solar, even 20 years is too long for me.

        I do use a lot of electricity – I live in Phoenix and my house is not underground. I have analyzed reducing my energy use in the last two houses, and it didn’t pay off in my time frame. I even had an energy consultant do an analysis, and he validated mine.

    • Noam Chomsky is a mental masturbator that doesn’t know anything about renewable energy and anybody that listens to him deserves the shearing he is about to get.

      There are sound technical and economic reasons for the electric distribution utilities to limit the amount of house-top solar installations. Uncontrolled production of solar into the electric system when it is not needed will destabilize the system and cause massive outages for everyone. Excess solar production in California is already causing technical and economic problems. Now that the Leftists have mandated solar rooftop, expect massive problems in the future.

      “Clear skies permitting, I can really appreciate the liberating effect of having my own independently accessed solar-cell power supply, especially considering my/our dangerous reliance on electricity.” Your statement encapsulates the lazy thinking of the Left. Instead of being “dangerous,” electricity is what keeps you and everyone else alive and well-fed.

      • First: I was proposing that each building would collect and store its own solar-sourced power, rather than sell it back to the big power companies.

        Second: “Instead of being ‘dangerous,’ electricity is what keeps you and everyone else alive and well-fed”. What I wrote was, “considering my/our dangerous reliance on electricity”. By this I meant that my/our frighteningly heavy DEPENDENCE on it is dangerous — since almost everything urban/suburban and rural populaces do each day requires it.

        And then there’s the potentially disastrous coronal mass ejection (CME) effect to consider, in which extensive power grids are vulnerable to being fried.

        Therefore, each individual building should have its own reliable source(s) of and storage means for electricity.

        And how is my thinking on this “lazy”? Because I’m not into foot-pedaling my own electric current, like (since you got lamely personal) the trailer-park yahoo-Right might be into, e.g. Steve Bannon and the late Rush Limbaugh?

      • As for Chomsky, he genuinely analyzes rather than politically react.

        For example, in an interview (posted July 20, 2017, by The Free Thought Project), he said there’s some truth in the conservative reference to Russiagate as a “hoax” (albeit not in the context they’d have the electorate believe).

        Describing Russiagate as a contrived pseudo-scandal that only serves to distract from real scandals taking place daily in D.C., he cited the cabinet’s configuration as an example: “Every cabinet official was chosen to destroy anything of human significance in that part of the government. It’s so systematic that it can’t be unplanned. I doubt that Trump planned it … [since] his only ideology is ‘me’. But whoever is working on it is doing a pretty effective job, and the Democrats are cooperating … in a very striking way … So maybe members of his transition team contacted the Russians. Is that a bad thing?
        [Then] recent ambassador to Russia, Jack Matlock, had a blog where he pointed out that, ‘It’s exactly what you should be doing. It’s the job of ambassadors and diplomats coming in. There are serious problems and tensions you want to talk over to see if there’s anything you can do about them. Instead of just building up force and violence.’ That’s what the democrats are focusing on, and meanwhile all these other things are going on and they’re not saying anything about them.”

      • “As for Chomsky, he genuinely analyzes rather than politically react.”

        As demonstrated by your quote, and Chomsky’s long history, his “genuine” analyses produce reliably political results – left wing. Chomsky is far from reasonable as an analyst, and many in the field for which he is lauded can’t stand him. And, they think he was also wrong about his fundamental linguistic theory (the linguistic engine in everyone is the same and that all language can be produced from a relatively simple mathematical approach – his generative grammar). Having studied that grammar in depth once upon a college course, I think they’re right.

      • fgsjr2015 said: Every cabinet official was chosen to destroy anything of human significance in that part of the government.

        You offer no proof or examples. If what you say is true, you should be able to produce a long list of “destroyed” government bits.

      • Why do you post non sequiturs to my comments?

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  78. RichardSwarthout

    PE
    You provided the most useful information I’ve seen this past week. Thank you. – It appears that Texas’ problems did not occur recently, but rather years ago when the decision to use the energy model was made.
    Richard

  79. Capacity market seems a misnomer. There is a requirement for sufficient capacity to meet infrequent high demand. It is paid for by the usual market mechanisms. Suppliers charge tariffs to cover costs and provide a return and sell electricity either under contract or to a spot market. Making a profit is always a juggling act no matter what the business is. Loss of capacity in extreme weather is another matter.

    There is a case for transition to low carbon energy – based on science, risk management and pragmatic politics. Fulminating against this is simply to be irrelevant. The occurrence of extreme cold outbreaks in the US is predicted to increase this century with lower solar activity. But other influences are the atmospheric dynamics that are variable and unpredictable and is certainly modulated by by ocean and atmospheric temperature. In a chaotic ergodic – how’s that for an important sounding word – system nothing is unprecedented over a long enough timeframe – but we don’t in our nonlinear world understand how we are changing the system in the here and now or what the changes will entail. Unprecedented ceases to have a definable scientific meaning. We don’t really know how bad things have got in the past or will get in the future. Or what the impact on modern industrial economies will be. The rational response is to harden infrastructure generally to cope with extreme conditions. Business as usual risk management in which I have some experience.

    https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/2014JD022022

    The case for wind and solar depends on economics of the differential marginal cost. It may make sense to utilise as much as possible utility scale PV and onshore wind, to run combined cycle gas at maximum efficiency and to have enough peaking gas power to cover any shortfall. The devil in any engineering is in the detail. Detail commonly lacking in contrarian curmudgeonly comments who instead tend to fulminate a lot.

  80. Same thing goes on in California where periodic drought conditions and the consequences of rivers of atmospheric water causing an unpredictable deluge both, are… ‘devalued.’

  81. By John Droz

    In response to the excellent commentaries about the Texas wind energy fiasco (e.g. from Tucker Carlson), there is a lot of pushback baloney — because the guilty parties never want to acknowledge the failures of their policies. It is always the blame of someone else, or something else.
    Always.
    This brief, simplified article is about the primary core problem, that essentially no one is talking about…
    In every electric grid (like the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, ERCOT, in Texas), Supply and Demand have to be matched every second. Otherwise, when Demand exceeds Supply there would be blackouts — which would happen daily (as occurs in some third world countries).
    To assure that this matching is continuous, there is a Grid Safety Reserve. This consists of operating standby fossil fuel supplies, amounting to 15±% of the current demand. When Demand exceeds Supply+Safety Reserve, again there would be blackouts — which is what is currently happening in Texas.
    The two fold purposes of this Safety Reserve are for the Grid to able to fully handle: 1 – unexpected changes in electricity Demand, plus
    2 – unexpected downtime for electricity Sources.
    That sounds sensible, so what’s the problem?
    Well, for industrial wind to work on any Grid, it needs to have a 100% augmenting supply to compensate for its continually, rapidly, changing power output (i.e. to maintain the per second balance explained above). For technical and economic reasons, this augmenting supply is almost always gas.
    OK, so for every 10 MW wind project, does that means that there needs to be a dedicated 10 MW gas facility? YES!
    Is that happening — e.g. in Texas? NO!
    Why not? Because:
    1 – To maintain the false narrative that wind is inexpensive, wind developers (and
    their political allies) resisted acknowledging that such augmentation is necessary. 2 – Wind developers didn’t pay for the augmentation their product requires — which
    they should (i.e. not ratepayers).
    3 – Since wind wasn’t properly paying for it, utility companies said: let’s save some
    money and skip the necessary augmentation.
    4 – The Grid operator (ERCOT) failed to require wind developers to pay for the
    necessary augmentation, or for utilities to provide it.
    5 – Worse, the Grid operator allowed utility companies to steal from the Safety
    Reserve (!) to absorb the frenetic daily wind fluctuations.
    Such theft is totally wrong — and should be illegal — as the Grid Safety Reserve is for unexpected Demand or Supply changes. Conversely, wind energy is expected to continuously change through the day, every day.
    The Grid Safety Reserve was never intended to compensate for continuous, inherent unreliability. All Grid operators should impose a penalty on any normal operation of their wind fleet that steals from the Safety Reserve — as it jeopardizes all of their ratepayers.
    To be clear, this embarrassingly ignorant set of realities is going on in most US Grids. How they get away with it is simple:
    1 – The public is deceived about the necessity of augmentation, and
    2 – In most other places in the US, the Wind contribution to the Grid is low single
    digits — e.g. 5%. In such a scenario, Wind can steal 5% of the 15±% Grid Safety Reserve, and no one will be the wiser. Everybody looks the other way…
    However, in the Texas case, Wind energy is claimed to be 28±%. Clearly a 15% Safety Reserve can’t handle a loss of 28% — which is exactly what happened this week.
    So, when wind goes to near zero in Texas, the Grid will have blackouts — even if everything else is at full capacity! If there are also failures of conventional capacity, the situation will be worse.
    Look closely at this graphic:
    This is a visual description of the recent power sources in Texas:
    1 – Which sources are up and running and carrying 95%± of the load? [Answer:
    Fossil Fuels and Nuclear]
    2 – How much of that “28%” is wind supplying? [Answer: < 5%]
    Question: so which source is to blame?
    Now you know the answer, and who is to blame.
    john droz, jr. physicist North Carolina 2-18-21
    PS — To be sure there are other secondary sources that have earned chastisement here. Mark Mathis (Clear Energy Alliance) has a fine list of rogues gallery candidates:
    #1 – ERCOT waited too long to initiate conservation measures. (But those measures wouldn’t have been necessary if ERCOT had taken reliability seriously.)
    #2 – Texas rapidly increased its dependence on unreliable wind power from 6% in 2010 to 28% in 2020.
    #3 – Policymakers and ERCOT know that during common weather events (heatwaves, cold snaps, night time, etc.) that wind typically has very low electricity generation — but they kept installing turbines anyway.
    #4 – Between February 8th and the 16th wind power crashed as turbines froze. Coal increased by 47% and natural gas increased by a stunning 450%. But it wasn’t enough as millions of Texans lost power in frigid temperatures.
    #5 – The rush to install industrial wind turbines soaked up so much of the available utility investment capital, that there wasn’t enough left for transmission upgrades and infrastructure maintenance. Those infrastructure weaknesses contributed to the Texas blackouts.
    #6 – Wind power is massively subsidized (esp Federally), which has distorted the Texas electricity ratepayer market. This discouraged new investment for reliable critically important base-load power (e.g. nuclear).
    #7 – Wind subsides have made older base-load power generators unprofitable. Texas has shut down more than 3,000 Megawatts of power from conventional sources over the past few years, while adding 20,000 Megawatts of unreliable wind. This has made the ERCOT Grid far less reliable.
    #8 – Unlike some other Grids, ERCOT is an energy only market — meaning that there is no compensation for reserve power. This discourages that necessity.

    • Other factors to be considered:
      The population in Texas grew from 25.2 million to 29.3 million between 2010 and 2020, almost all of it in or near major urban centers.
      Our ground water aquafers are rapidly depleting and demands are increasing on the remaining surface water sources pitting agriculture, industrial(power) and consumers in a battle of priorities and costs.
      There is no Demand Response system to automatically moderate grid loading. We already have one of the most important elements deployed when we installed 100% smart meters and extended a radio network over the entire grid (See ZigBee protocols). A few changes to our building codes and we could control 20-40 percent of the demand on the fly by shifting heavy loads like water heating, major appliances, electric vehicles and HVAC systems to match supply.
      We don’t need more thermal power plants. We need to update our grid to accommodate the emerging trends of V2G, microgrids and hopefully modular nuclear plants.

      • I see this a lot: “A few changes to our building codes and we could control 20-40 percent of the demand on the fly by shifting heavy loads like water heating, major appliances, electric vehicles and HVAC systems to match supply.”

        I don’t buy the numerical values, but assume they are right. This is simply forcing consumers to accept a lower quality of electric service than they are currently paying for. Will wind compensate them for that demand reduction?

        Here in the APS service area of Arizona, I face very high peak charges already. As a result, timers shut off the electric water heaters from 3PM-8PM, we don’t wash dishes, and don’t do laundry. All of this is a reduction in our lifestyle that we do not appreciate, similar to EPA must-flush-twice toilets. But it could be worse – a “smart” grid can be a dictatorial grid – giving us zero opportunity to override.

        As for HVAC, I cannot shut that down during that period, so I have to pay the peak charges, as do all other Arizona residents.

      • I love it Jack; just shut off consumers during peak load periods. Manage shortages (Socialism) vs. meet demand (Capitalism). I have always insisted that electric utility resource plans that rely on ‘demand-side management’ are a capitulation to politicians and not designed for the consumer’s benefit.

      • Sorry Dave that’s exactly what they didn’t do. They have the ability to switch off individual meters and shed or add load with a scalpel but they couldn’t because of PUC rules, not ERCOT. Instead they cut of whole neighborhoods leaving only those circuits supplying critical infrastructure like communication systems, fire stations, and medical facilities.
        50 billion in damages, much of it avoidable because so many people have Dave’s attitude.

      • “Sorry Dave that’s exactly what they didn’t do. They have the ability to switch off individual meters and shed or add load with a scalpel but they couldn’t because of PUC rules, not ERCOT. Instead they cut of whole neighborhoods”

        You don’t shed or add load at the house level because it makes no sense. Individual homes are in the noise level.

        But, they would only need either capability if the grid doesn’t have enough reserves, which it does not because of its high levels of intermittent generation.

      • Meso,
        “Individual homes are in the noise level.”
        Could you break that out for me? What percentage of the load was being used by residential, infrastructure, critical services and industrial in the hours leading up to the crisis? The only group that doesn’t have contractual obligation to disconnect from the grid on command is the residential sector. I think most the major industrial users were off the grid before the rolling blackouts began.

    • Ulrich
      Excellent summary.
      It is a revealing number that 20,000 MW of wind replaced 3,000 MW of coal/nuclear.
      That’s probably a good approximation of how much more wind is needed to – even imperfectly and unreliably – replace conventional. 7 times more.

      • Curious George

        That’s for Texas in February 2021. You probably need to be ready for a bigger problem, so you surely need more backup capacity than 1/7 of the wind production (not capacity).

    • OK, so for every 10 MW wind project, does that means that there needs to be a dedicated 10 MW gas facility? YES!

      That would handle a 100% wind failure across Texas. But, in simple terms, if the wind load factor is say 35%, would 65% backup not suffice ?

      • It doesn't add up...

        No. Wind output in ERCOT dropped as low as 649MW out of about 34GW of nominal capacity. Essentially you need 100% backup.

      • Wind supplies nearly no capacity. I believe ERCOT uses 7% of nameplate for wind during winter as the capacity contribution of wind. As stated, essentially you need 100% backup.

    • I have to say I’ve been impressed by the mass of articles and resulting comments over the last few days trying to attribute blame and understanding the myriad factors at play. It’s a complex issue and generally most everyone has tried to sort it out, in a good faith attempt at finding facts and using reason and logic.

      It reminds me a little bit of the post mortem of the 2007-2008 Recession and the movement to find out the cause. The culprits are endless. Free market ideology. Greed. The bankers. Low interest rates. Government policies. No doc loans. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Subprime mortgages, Negative amortization mortgages, having no skin in the game, on and on and on. You could write a book on all of them. People did. I read a few.

      But I think a cause in the usual sense is too simple a concept. Even trying to isolate a chain of causality is an overreach. The usual approach in 2009 and later was to sort out the actors and actions and policies that were in play at that time. Banks and banking took a hit. They didn’t have good risk management systems. I recall one Senior bank VP saying he spent less than 1% of his time on mortgages. Why was that? Then government regulators took hits.

      From there you can walk back each year to see who the players were, from the Fed on interest rates, to the Community Reinvestment Act and its role and at each stage there is a predecessor or decision or policy that affected all subsequent actions. You could stop at 93-94 and the desire to increase home ownership from 64% to its subsequent peak of 69% and decisions that affected that rise.

      But even going back nearly 30 years probably doesn’t capture all the factors. Maybe the answer is that there is no answer. Capitalism depends on incentives and all the actors doing what they need to do, act in their own self interest. Government puts in side boards but they can’t dictate what every player does and expect to have a robust economy. Each decision that was made affecting housing increased or decreased the probability of what eventually occurred, but it didn’t cause it.

      Kudos to everyone in trying to sort out the Texas situation. I hope policy makers learn much from what has happened.

      • Richard Greene

        “Texas” is not a complex issue — it is a simple issue when you understand it. Understanding requires learning from history. And the history lesson on the Texas is very clear . The cold weather problem has happened before and there are reports to read that clearly describe the problem: The Texas energy infrastructure is not ‘winterized’. Perhaps with the drumbeat of hysterical global warming alarmists, Texans assumed they would never have really cold weather again.

        Texas had very cold weather rolling blackouts that affected 3/2 million people in early 2011.
        A report was written in August 2011 — the Texas energy infrastructure needed to be ‘winterized’ to prevent the problem from happening again.
        I posted the Executive Summary of the huge 357-page pdf August 2011 report on my climate science blog:
        https://elonionbloggle.blogspot.com/2021/02/heres-executive-summary-from-august.html

        The Texas energy infrastructure was never winterized — that saved money.

        Capital spending in the next ten years was mainly to quadruple the number of windmills. The new windmills were not like those designed for cold weather that work properly in cold northern states — that saved money too.

        The decisions looked smart for 10 years, until it got unusually cold in early 2021.

        ERCOT always plans for very low wind power output because that happens often with windmills. They had planned for very low wind output in February and would have exceeded their assumption if half the windmills had not frozen! Thanks to the frozen windmills, however, wind power was about one third below the predicted level — a 2000 megawatt deficit. But that 2000 megawatts only a small part of the peak deficit that reached about 30000 megawatts.

        The December 2007 Recession has a simple explanation too. An excessive expansion of credit, mainly for real estate — a trend that could not be permanent. And it was not permanent. We are now in another credit expansion, mainly for stocks, bonds, real estate, Bitcoin — just about everything! An unprecedented 25%+ expansion of the M2 money supply in one year. This is also a trend that can not be permanent. So it won’t be permanent.

      • “The December 2007 Recession has a simple explanation too. An excessive expansion of credit, mainly for real estate — a trend that could not be permanent.”

        And why was that?

      • Richard Greene

        Concerning your later question about the December 2007 Recession:

        My background includes a Finance MBA and I wrote a for-profit finance and economics newsletter for 43 years:
        — People regularly (perhaps once a decade) get over confident and bid up some asset prices to unsustainable levels. With real estate in 2000 through 2007, the over confidence was based on a false belief that real estate prices never go down.

        Starting with that wrong assumption, a “smart” move was to borrow money ro invest in real estate — and the more leverage, the higher the return on the investment. With that demand for real estate (and home equity loans too) there are people who want a piece of the action, such as mortgage brokers and real estate brokers, who are sometimes less than honest. For the lenders, they passed off their risks by selling their mortgages to FNMA and GNMA.

        When a financial bubble is devloping, everyone participating is getting richer. That makes them believe they are financial geniuses. Confidence in real estate (or any financial asset) grows as prices rise, until confidence finally peaks. And soon after, the price bubble begins to collapse.

        Bubbles collaped after 2000, and again after 2007. It will happen again, with stocks, bonds this time. Stocks today, for example, are currently valued higher than ever before in stock market history (Total US stock market capitalization as a percentage of US GDP), and also the S&P 500 Price to Sales Ratio — both excellent indicators of stock market returns over the next 10 years, and they are both bearish.
        More information on my free, no ads, finance and economics blog:
        http://www.el2017.Blogspot.com

      • Yes, when massive inflows of capital occur, some event or decisions preceded the bubble. The 1929 bubble has been attributed to easy monetary policy by the Fed in 1927 and 1928.

        But I wonder if the over investment beginning in the 1990s could have occurred if the banks hadn’t begun selling their mortgages earlier so they had no skin the game. That meant no mortgage tranches and CDOs, etc to attract all those investments. And then the impact of amendments to Glass Steagle is still being debated, as is low interest rates in the early 2000s. We didn’t have a national foreclosure problem at first. It was confined to a few states with great increases in foreclosure rates but the variability was very large with other states having relatively low foreclosure rates. The Fed could have been lulled into a sense of complacency by averages rather than knowing about the negative amortization mortgages and other financial innovations which didn’t exist 10 years before.

        You are not wrong about the lack of winterization of the system, but I would like to know what was influencing them not to do what appears to be a no brainer decision. Elsewhere a Pielke article said the system used temperatures only since 2000 or so in their risk analysis. If that is true, it’s insane. This would have been an inappropriate use of statistics and probability. It was a binary decision. Was there a history of similar cold spells? Obviously there was. All they had to do was go back a few decades. I would like to get inside their heads to know why they didn’t make what was a prudent decision. In retrospect it was a common sense decision, not one for modelers. Unless it’s the Murphy’s Law model or Forrest Gump model. If something can go wrong it will and s**t happens.

      • As a financial columnist you might enjoy this.

        Back in the 1970s I heard Eliot Janeway tell a story about a woman writing to him asking his advice for getting an investment that would get a return of 20% with no risk. He replied “There are 3 types of investors, Bulls, Bears and hogs. Madam, you are a hog.”

  82. Planning Engineer, thank you for the essay.

    It seems to me that a culprit is the widely disseminated belief that Global Warming will prevent past cold spells from recurring. How widely? Of that I am unsure.

  83. Pingback: Nightcap | Notes On Liberty

  84. Facebook is blocking news posts on Australian pages. Earler to day I linked to this CE post in a reply to Stephen Heins in the US, and FB blocked it. FYI.

  85. So taking on board that the lack of a capacity market
    (a) favours wind
    (b) cuts short-term costs
    what was the relative importance of each in the authorities’ minds ?

  86. 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 🦇 chopping, mean that they should rationally be kept below an upper limit of 10-15% of grid capacity. And also due to their incompatibility with other low carbon solutions especially nuclear.

    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 intermittents and nuclear since nuclear is not intermittent. It is best for baseload. Although new nuclear technology allows load following also. However as intermittents increase they force the remaining non-intermittent supply to be quickly reactive (at the cost of efficiency) in a way that only gas can be. So increasing intermittents squeezes out nuclear, denying the system a good clean and reliable low carbon energy source. A bad deal.

    In short, there is a choice in overall strategy to reduce CO2 emission in energy generation: one favouring nuclear or one favouring intermittents. One must be the main solution, the other marginal. And in the big picture nuclear ☢️ is the best choice.

    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.

    • Is Texas an outlier with 20% wind and 80% gas? Still the problem was not a lack of capacity but the loss of capacity in inclement weather. A better solution is a mix of sources that are low cost and naturally complementary. Including wind and solar with low construction and operating costs and ultralow marginal costs – existing hydro – biogas and biomass and geothermal that is simple enough in many parts of the world. As much a hedge against inevitably rising natural gas prices as anything else. It requires ongoing research and development – and the productivity gains that brings – to fill in the technological blanks.

      “Storage could complement variable renewable generation to improve the alignment of, for example, wind and solar PV generation with electricity demand. In future low-carbon systems, a mix of multiple flexibility options, for example storage, demand flexibility and flexible low-carbon output from, for instance, nuclear and hydro plants is likely to provide minimal cost solutions.” https://www.iea.org/reports/projected-costs-of-generating-electricity-2020

      Ultimately transforming the energy landscape – and meeting future global energy demand – will need far more energy than renewables could ever provide. Advanced nuclear reactors would seem to be the leading contender to supply that need, Nuclear may be cost competitive in a decade or so. The next link in the energy chain is cost competitive hydrogen electrolysis – that can be used as a gas, converted to a liquid state or used to make ammonia for fertilizers. A major market in itself. For efficient electrolysis you need heat and electricity.

      “There has been an acceleration in the deployment of electrolysis technologies, in the number of projects and their size. The average unit size of the electrolysers installed in the early 2000s was around 0.1 MWe (megawatts electrical) and has increased up to an average of 1.0 MWe today. Numerous projects in the range of 1-6 MWe have been deployed since 2013 and a 10 MWe Power-to-Hydrogen project started operation in Japan in April 2020 (Asahi Kasei Corporation, 2020). Several projects for electrolysis plants of up to 20 MWe are under construction and projects with installed capacities in the hundreds of MWe have been announced for the early 2020s. Up to 2.8 GW in large-scale projects have been announced to be deployed just in the next three years, what could
      bring the installed capacity to 3 GW by 2023.” Projected Costs of Generating Electricity – 2020 Edition – p195 – https://www.oecd-nea.org/jcms/pl_51110/projected-costs-of-generating-electricity-2020-edition

      • Can store natural gas in depleted oil/gas fields. This is actually done in several US states. Maybe Texas would be wise to do more gas storage for winter reserve; pretty easy to pull off. Not so sure the gas suppliers would be real happy, however. Also, could throttle back the export of liquefied natural gas on grounds of being a strategic material. Again, the gas suppliers would scream bloody murder.

    • To reduce carbon you have a choice between a mostly intermittents or mostly-nuclear solution. As I mentioned they are mutually exclusive with nuclear. (In fact renewables are mutually exclusive with anthing except quick-changing (and thus forcibly inefficient) gas – they’re kind of a curse to an electricity grid).

      So I agree with you that the better choice is mostly nuclear. Mostly intermittents is the preference only of activists with no technical understanding of energy including of the implications of intermittency.

      Nuclear cheaper? That’s a purely political decision, no need for policy-makers to play cause-effect inversion games. Intermittents are only “cheap” because of huge distortions and re-definitions aimed at making it look cheap. Hiding distribution costs and using uber-optimistic maintenance costings that are way too low, for example.

      Imagine if, right next door to each wind turbine, manufacturers were forced to build a monastery. This would then be mandated to be permanently staffed by 20 monks or nuns who would pray 24/7 to prevent the spinning occultish symbol of the turbine blades from summoning up evil spirits from deep in the earth? This scenario is equivalent to the one nuclear power construction operates under. It’s costs are artificial and based on grossly even superstitiously inflated assessments of risk. If regulators were able to wake up and smell the coffee, and base nuclear regulation on science-based rationality, nuclear costs would fall in half. Also if the industry could build up momentum so that every nuclear construction project was not a first time job for everyone on the site, great economies would also be gained. Nuclear’s current high cost is the self-fulfilled result of anti-nuclear policy and culture.

      • Just to prove your point let’s build the first modular nuclear reactor under Washington D.C. just to prove it completely safe.

      • Wind and solar now have low construction and maintenance and – with no fuel cost – very low marginal cost. Use it at reasonable penetration rates to displace high and volatile cost fossil fuels. Have enough very high cost gas peaking capacity to compensate when required at times of less supply and higher spot prices. Let the market rule – with regulation and penalties on reliability – and if the democracy decides so preference for low carbon sources. Overall it must result in a cheaper unit cost. There is no either/or decision to be made. There is a need to be broadly technically innovative.

        Nuclear to minimise costs requires modular factory construction, flexible siting – i.e. not water cooled – generic approvals, significantly lower capital risk, efficient heat conversion, different fuel cladding to avoid the evolution of explosive hydrogen, ancillary markets in process heat and – ironically – hydrogen production.

        Your comment is colorful contrarian rhetoric but doesn’t make a lot of sense.

      • “To reduce carbon you have a choice between a mostly intermittents or mostly-nuclear solution. As I mentioned they are mutually exclusive with nuclear. (In fact renewables are mutually exclusive with anthing except quick-changing (and thus forcibly inefficient) gas – they’re kind of a curse to an electricity grid).”

        I was surprised to discover that this is not true. Nuclear power can do load following, and it does so in Europe, and reportedly, in the Chicago market. Not surprisingly, the energy efficiency is less when doing that, and maintenance costs go up. If you do an Internet search, you can find a number of reports on this, mostly from Europe.

        Of course, the real question, if one is going to cut CO2 emissions way down, is economics. Nuclear is expensive. Wind/Solar are expensive – at least when you include their grid externalities not currently paid for.

        Also, a lot of renewables advocates claim that conventional generation gets far more subsidies than renewables. That is far from the truth. Renewable advocates like to include standard corporate tax deductions as “subsidies” when taken by conventional power, which is completely misleading.

      • People also like to talk about worldwide fossil fuel subsidies. Then they leave out the part where most worldwide FF subsidies occur in places like Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, etc. These subsidies don’t exist because of AGW skepticism, they exist to buy political stability.

      • dougbadgero
        Of course it’s distorted because we force them to use petrodollars. All that would change overnight if OPEC and Russia stopped pricing oil in dollars. Once that strangle hold is off then everyone can start negotiating all commodities and contracts in local currencies. And once they are freed from the petrodollar we could recall the troops since every country would step up and increase their military spending to protect their own supply lines. Looks like a win-win situation!

      • Mesocyclone
        Yes I had heard that peaking / load-following nuclear technology has been developed. For this to be done reliably and safely would be a major technical achievement indeed. One thinks instinctively of the Chernobyl accident where trying to increase power too fast in that graphite moderated RBMK (from an accidentally very low power that had resulted in xenon poisoning) caused the explosion. But nowadays it’s easy to exclude such a scenario by design, i.e. not using graphite moderator.

        Since peaking electricity commands a much higher price, it would be interesting to see if such a fast-responsive nuclear plant could be more competitive with gas.

      • Re: Load following nuclear.

        Some of the references I read a few days ago discuss issues such as “gray” control rods, balancing use of fuel through the reactor in lower power modes, etc. And they say this is already being done, with reactors that are not that new.

        As you say, it does raise issues of various sorts, including safety.

        That this is already being done, including in the US, surprised me, but check the references and see what you think.

        Click to access SNETP-Factsheet-7-Load-following-capabilities-of-nuclear-power-plants.pdf

        A search engine query that will give more is: “https://duckduckgo.com/?q=load+following+nuclear+power&t=osx&ia=web”

      • The capacity factor for wind and solar is quite dismal. That adversely impacts the cost to cover debt and profit. Absent, subsidies and mandates, green energy is not economically viable.

      • “Absent, subsidies and mandates, green energy is not economically viable.”

        Mike – do you have some numbers to go with that? I see LCOE’s that look really good (except, of course, they ignore the grid stability and transmission costs). So I’d be curious what you have. Lazard shows them, unsubsidized, to be competitive with CCGT (again, ignoring stability costs).

      • mesocyclone
        Thanks for the link – can SMRs also be load-following?

        Claims of low cost for renewables – better to call them “intermittents” – keep getting more and more extravagant and less believable. Matching technology innovation of intermittents is creative accounting. We’re asked to believe that they’re now the cheapest source out there. But in the real world we see continued strict linearity in the relationship between percentage of intermittents in a grid and electricity prices. That fact exposes the claims of low cost intermittents as false. That’s not even including all the hidden government subsidies and cost distortions and Olympus-style loss concealment enterprises. They are probably adding fictitious costs from dreamed up environmental devastation from CO2. How about deducting a dollar for every bird and bat killed? (They’ve got an easy response to that one: “but cats”. Whataboutism.) And another one for every square meter of pristine countryside concreted over?

      • >Thanks for the link – can SMRs also be load-following?
        I don’t know about the small modular reactors. I think there are several designs.

        Gates’ Terrapower has load following capability. That means that it can exceed the reactor generation capability for up to five hours. They have a 345 MWe reactor and can output 500MW for up to five ours, using heat stored in the sodium coolant.

        But that wouldn’t help the Texas scenario – it isn’t the sort of load following that my reference addressed – which was reactors that can run below maximum output, but if needed, can run at maximum output indefinitely (and, of course, would prefer to run at that rate all the time for best capacity factor)>

        “Claims of low cost for renewables – better to call them “intermittents” – keep getting more and more extravagant and less believable. Matching technology innovation of intermittents is creative accounting. We’re asked to believe that they’re now the cheapest source out there.”

        The references I looked at had utility scale solar competitive or better than CCGT generation. I think that is probably credible. BUT – that is LCOE, so it doesn’t include grid stability costs. I saw one reference that claimed to include that, but I don’t know if it was credible. It added some tens of dollars per kWh for capacity. Since the costs without capacity reserve were roughly (from memory) $25-$55, then adding in the capacity costs still left it in the relatively cheap range, above CCGT, but below nuclear by quite a bit. This claimed to take into account subsidies.

        But, I’m no expert.

        “But in the real world we see continued strict linearity in the relationship between percentage of intermittents in a grid and electricity prices. That fact exposes the claims of low cost intermittents as false.”

        Yes – it’s clear that the intermittents are driving up our utility costs. And I agree that renewable proponents put out a lot of bogus information.

        Whether the costs represent costs with current low priced solar panels, I don’t know. Solar has had a dramatic drop in capital cost, although some of that my be China selling below costs for mercantilist reasons. But, those capital costs may not be reflected in current utility bills, as the drop is recent. So, hard to say.

      • meso – you mentioned LCOE. Do you have a source that breaks down the assumptions and calculations for LCOE? What I’ve found is usually a table or chart withe the end result, but light on what goes into it.

      • ” Do you have a source that breaks down the assumptions and calculations for LCOE?”

        Sorry, I didn’t save a link. There are reports out there that have that, and they aren’t hard to find, but I just don’t have time today. Apologies.

      • Real quick:

        LCOE… DOE calculator (put in your own numbers):

        https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/tech-lcoe.html

        NREL video (transcript) – LCOE of 100MW solar with 4 hours of battery:
        https://www.nrel.gov/news/video/lcoss-text.html

        DOE Office of Indian Energy (hey, it’s what duckduckgo found) – includes formula and numbers:

        Click to access LCOE.pdf

      • I appreciate the effort, but I was looking for something “Official” for energy sources in use now. Something that would be used to make policy.

        I’ll see what I can find.

      • Jim, Meso
        No need to look for impartial and accurate costs of intermittents, it’s a grail you will probably never find. There’s a much simpler solution.
        Look at electricity bills. Then look also at the percentage of intermittents in a grid. Do some simultaneous equations if you like.
        The result is simple and clear.
        More intermittents means higher electricity bills.

        https://images.app.goo.gl/D4gCzvCS2qpBdwxk7

      • “No need to look for impartial and accurate costs of intermittents, it’s a grail you will probably never find. There’s a much simpler solution.
        Look at electricity bills”

        As an engineer, I find that unsatisfying. Just look at an effect isn’t enough – I want to understand the cause, and that means knowing what is going into that bill. Understand the cause allows one to model future scenarios and proposals.

        LCOE’s that I see for solar and wind are not bad. I don’t believe the books are cooked on those, but I could be wrong. But, I don’t the actual capacity factor. I think that probably the main issue with intermittent is the cost of backup generation, but capacity factor certainly impacts the LCOE – low capacity factor has to raise the cost of generation, as it means the capital is being less well used, and capital cost is the main cost (in addition to the grid impact of it requiring expensive backup)>

      • meso – you are on to my point. Unless we see the sausage being made, LCOE calculations, we can’t take for granted they are on the up and up, or maybe just incompetently done, or contain unwarranted assumptions.

      • If intermittents were as cheap as claimed, then Germany and Denmark would have the world’s cheapest electricity. Instead they have the world’s most expensive.

        Low intensity energy like wind and solar incurs massively increased distribution costs – both financially and to the environment. And the intermittency and demand independence mean that it cannot really be considered as electricity at all until you include in the costing the whole system of peaking generation back up. All those gas plants. Not to mention coal and even nuclear that have some load following capability. All that peaking and load following capacity would not have to be there if it were not for intermittents.

        But instead we have the cause-effect inverting trick of ascribing the raised costs from peaking-load following, incurred due to the presence of intermittents, to the cost of the back up supply, not the intermittent. ThT allows them to say – my o my isn’t intermittent cheap! Isn’t everything else expensive!

        All of that – the peaking gas, the load following gas, coal, nuclear, hydroelectric etc., has to be included in LCOE of intermittents. If they’re not then the LCOE’s are a fiction.

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  89. An outstanding analysis and exposition. Thank you for posting this.

  90. Planning Engineer: LA recently signed a deal with a PV solar farm (8 Minute Power?) to provide electricity for just under $20/MW-h (after whatever subsidies are available). (The deal also includes battery storage, which I will ignore for the moment.) I tried to figure our the cost of providing back up for that electricity 100% of the time from natural gas. The key numbers I remember from the DoE were that the capital cost for a gas plant was about $10/MW-h (with today’s low interest rates) and that fuel and other variable costs were about $30 MW-h. If I correctly understood, it costs $10/MW-h to have a new gas plant standing around, another $30/MW-h to fuel the plant, but you can turn off the fuel and spend $20/MW-h for solar power as long as the sun is shining.

    With batteries, the solar farm could store about 2/3rds of the power they generate for use with the sun is down or weak. The price for battery storage wasn’t absurd. This would provide 100% renewable power on the 300 sunny days in the Southern California desert. The capital cost for 100% backup would be another $10/MW-h and you would only pay for the cost of natural gas on those 60 cloudy days.

    In other words, CA shouldn’t be planning for 100% renewable power; we should be planning for 100% reliable power using as much cheap renewable power as possible, but fully backed up by natural gas capacity. (IIRC, your post calls this paying for capacity.) The capital cost of backup capacity doesn’t appear to be outrageous. If renewable electricity (with or without subsidies) costs as much as natural gas (with or without a carbon tax), you break even substituting the renewable power and the gas off (or down). Am I nuts?

    • Using the $10/MWh electricity source to backup a $20/MWh one is already absurd, batteries or not. I just don’t understand why you don’t understand that.

      • There are basically two kinds of electricity generators: Those with modest capital costs for building a plant and high fossil fuel costs and wind/solar/nuclear with high capital costs and zero to near-zero fuel cost. IIRC, it costs $10/MW-h of capacity to have a gas generating plant standing around idle for its expected lifetime and plus another $30/MW-h for fuel when you actually need the MW-h of electricity. (For an older gas plants built under contract when interest rates were much higher, the capital cost could be much higher.) In the case of solar farms built a decade ago, the cost was perhaps $20/MW-h when Germany invested a lot in solar panels, but the price is literally 10-fold lower today in the sunny Southern California desert. However, that electricity is only available for roughly 1/3 of the day. Which is why you might want a natural gas generating plant sitting around idle during the hours when the sun shines most strongly.

        One problem with the prices is they represent the “leveled cost of generation” – the average over the year. However, electricity is the most perishable product in the world – if you can’t use it right now, it has no value because it is usually too expensive to store it. In the real world, prices vary with demand. When the sun is shining and the wind is blowing in Southern California, no one wants to buy electricity from a new solar farm at a low price because everyone already has contracts for all the power they can use. When it is cloudy and calm or very hot and calm, the demand for electricity is high, but prices have been set by PUCs.

      • Frank – finding a concise LCOE that transparently shows the assumptions and calculations is almost impossible.

      • Every year, the Department of Energy reviews all of the electricity generating projects that are contracted for or come online and uses that information to calculate LCOE for that year for various modes of generating electricity. They provide extensive documentation in connection with their work. For example, there many small virtue-signaling solar projects in regions with weaker sunlight and much larger projects in areas with strong sunlight. So they calculate the average cost per MW-h over all projects as well as a less useful average cost per project. They describe which subsidies they include in the price.

        Some of my information came by memory for the project described below. The problem here is that I can’t be sure how much the price is being reduced by government subsidies. If the goal of a solar farm with battery storage were to produce reliable power for 24 hours a day on sunny days, my estimate is that one could directly use 1/3 of the power generated during the 8 sunniest hours of the day and store the rest of the power for use during the remaining 16 hours. (The goal of the LA project appears to be to provide power for hours of peak demand in the late afternoon as sunlight is waning.) So I once calculated that we could have round-the-clock solar electric with twice the battery storage used in this project. So that would give 100% renewable electricity for about 300 days a year from the Southern California desert. However, battery storage can’t affordably deal with the storage needed for one or more consecutive cloudy days. I think we need back up by a natural gas generating plant to deal with cloudy days. IIRC, it would cost $10/MW-h to have a new natural gas plant standing around idle for 300 sunny days per year and costing another $30/MW-h for fuel on 65 cloudy days per year. The result would be 85-90% renewable electricity that is made 100% reliable with 100% backup from natural gas.

        https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2019/09/10/los-angeles-commission-says-yes-to-cheapest-solar-plus-storage-in-the-usa/

        IMO, 100% renewable electricity is the wrong goal. The right goal is the highest percentage of renewables you can get for a reasonable price. The costs of battery storage for nights following sunny days no longer appears to be outrageous. Germany invested in solar power when the price was outrageous and they will be paying that high price for a LONG time (the length of the contracts or the lifetime of the solar panels). Using intermittent wind power to back up solar power on cloudy days doesn’t produce reliable power on cloudy calm days. I now view natural gas as the key to making wind and solar “100% reliable” for a reasonable price, making Biden’s restrictions on fracking insane even for those who want more renewable electricity.

        How much more does 24-h/sunny day electricity from solar+battery cost vs electricity from natural gas? I don’t know. I don’t know: how much government subsidies are reducing the price for renewables, how much the price natural gas is likely to increase and how much social cost of CO2 emissions should be added to the cost of gas.

  91. Is it not apposite to note that the previous gas-fired heaters to warm the NG wellheads were replaced with electrical heaters in the devout hope to avoid CO2 emission? Thus ever with virtue-signalling. When will we again become pragmatic?
    Um, what I mean to say is, what idiocy! But it does seem to be predominant.

  92. As many have said, solar and wind sources are worthy additions to the power grid. But, I will point out, not replacements. Discrimination is necessary.

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  95. Consider the brilliance of City of Austin planners …

    Under the proposed plan, which is being sent to City Council for final approval, Austin Energy commits to using internal carbon pricing to run its existing Fayette coal power plant approximately 30 percent less over the next two-and-a-half years, before closing the Austin-owned portion of the plant by the end of 2022. (The other owner of the plant — the Lower Colorado River Authority has not made any commitments to close their portion of the plant). Austin Energy reaffirmed its commitments to close down the two primary steam units of the Decker fracked gas plants over the next two years as well. Ultimately, Austin Energy committed to extending its carbon pricing model (after Fayette shuts down) to the remaining gas units at Decker and the Sandhill fracked gas plant until they are retired by the end of 2035 or sooner. This plan to reduce dependency on fossil fuel plants is known as the REACH plan, which states:

    https://www.sierraclub.org/texas/blog/2020/03/austin-energy-s-2030-plan-zero-carbon-2035-gets-initial-approval

    • No nukes either …

      In terms of energy goals specifically, Austin Energy commits to getting 86 percent of its energy from carbon-free sources by 2025 — including more than 60% renewables — and replacing all of its retiring fossil fuel units with an equivalent amount of renewable energy, storage, and other technologies that don’t emit carbon by 2035. The 2030 Plan also eliminates any potential for additional nuclear power — although we would continue to rely on the current nuclear plant for 23% percent of our power.

    • Once is careless. But when this power blackout repeats within a couple of years, the true extent of green folly will begin to be realised. By the third or fourth one, people might be on the verge of even learning something.

    • Just plain dumb, but what else do you expect from Democrats

  96. Sometimes symbolic gestures are gratifying:

    Video footage of the Mariachi band playing outside Cruz’s residence is now being widely circulated on social media. The clip shows the band wearing their traditional suits and sombreros and playing the trumpet, guitar and violin on the street outside his home behind what appears to be a yellow crime scene tape.

    https://www.ibtimes.sg/ted-cruz-someone-hired-mariachi-band-play-outside-senators-house-after-cancun-fiasco-video-55745

  97. It’s not like the State of Texas has not been warned:

    A wide cast of characters throughout Texas’s lightly regulated power sector appear to have failed to heed experts’ long-standing warnings, notably in the wake of a similar series of outages almost exactly a decade ago. In February 2011, an ice storm struck the state, crippling power plants and forcing rolling blackouts. After that disaster, lawmakers and regulators studied how the state’s electric and natural-gas infrastructure needed to be shored up, as in other states, to withstand punishingly deep and extended winter freezes. Key recommendations from various experts were to require winterizing of power-generating equipment and fuel-delivery infrastructure such as gas pipelines, and to provide for reserve generating capacity that would be needed when demand surged or when some providers went offline. Both moves would impose somewhat higher costs and result in marginally higher electric rates. But they might have averted the much higher costs Texans now face for business disruption, broken pipes, flooding, and spiking electric bills—not to mention human suffering and death.

    In the end, those with a hand in the system did very little to improve its cold-weather resilience.

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

    But renewables.

    But renewables.

    I know. I know.

  98. I thought the following was very interesting too.
    “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”
    http://www.aier.org/article/lockdowns-and-the-texas-power-disaster/

    • Not just our utility sector relying too much on virtual tech to cut costs.
      Tarrant Co./Ft. Worth subcontracted the job of weatherizing sections of the I-35 interstate to a private contractor and they did apply a brine treatment to the I-35 the day before the crash that happened on Feb. 11. Six dead, dozens seriously injured, 70+ vehicles and blocked interstate highway for 20+ hours. The company “North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners” used remote cameras to monitor road conditions and was blindsided by the failure of their ‘treatments’. A huge investigation was launched and then storm Uri hit and it’s on to the next crisis.

    • It’s not clear that the lack of inspections is that significant. What would they have found that they didn’t already know?

  99. “In the case of hydro, capacity factor depends on when it is switched on to meet spikes in demand. Hydro’s ability to be rapidly activated in this way, is why it is a critical aspect of a renewable energy mix.” https://thehub.agl.com.au/articles/2018/09/calculating-capacity-factor

    Geothermal in California is a comparable resource.

  100. What a waste of good hydrocarbon feed stock. Now it will just filter into the ecosystem and we will just have to make more.

    https://www.ecowatch.com/texas-refineries-pollutants-released-2650697760.html
    The five largest refiners emitted nearly 337,000 pounds of pollutants, including benzene, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide, according to preliminary data supplied to the Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ).

    Valero Energy Corp said in a filing with the TCEQ that it released 78,000 pounds over 24 hours beginning last Monday from its Port Arthur, Texas, refinery, citing the frigid cold and interruptions in utility services.

    The 118,100 pounds of emissions from Motiva’s Port Arthur refinery from Monday to Thursday were more than three times the excess emissions that it declared to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the whole of 2019.”

    • They did all of that at the request of consumers, the request relayed by price signals. Consumers bear the blame for whatever emissions occurred.

      The weight of the atmosphere is 11,500,000,000,000,000,000 pounds. Even if you divvy it up for a region of the US, any pollution is highly diluted. There comes a point where it just doesn’t matter.

  101. To those claiming that Renewable cannot replace conventional power grids….yeah that’s what they said about Coal….it should only be “a supplement” to rubbing two sticks together and making fire that way, and cannot replace it! are you kidding me? You may like living in the stone age, I do not! 100% renewable now! I’ve lived in building 100% self generated power through wind, solar and geothermal….electricity was just a “backup”!
    Please look at the real technology and stop defending a fossil fuel industry who are not even paying
    you to make sure unsubstantiated comments about Green Energy!!!
    https://ceciliayu.com/2015/02/03/award-winning-greenhouse-leeds-my-2-years-at-eco-flat-living-an-honest-review/

    • Sure, just tell is what to do when there is no wind or sun.

      • Interesting comment given what happened in 1816 – the ash (to a limited extent) and sulphur dioxide (mostly) dramatically reduced solar input after 1815’s Tambora eruption. 1816 was widely described as “The year without a summer” and global temperatures fell. If it happened now of course demand for electricity would also rocket. Such events are not as rare as I would like.

    • joe - the non climate scientist

      Cecil- comment – “Please look at the real technology and stop defending a fossil fuel industry who are not even paying you to make sure unsubstantiated comments about Green Energy!!!”

      Looks like green energy provided the best authentic comments last week about its green energy –

      Solar provides virtually no power in Texas
      Electric generation from Wind power dropped by 70%-80% of its capacity during the winter storm in Texas
      Electric generation from Gas and other fossil fuels dropped by 10-15% from its capacity

      So which source of power generation would you think is the most feasable

    • I so happy you are here, ceciliawyu. I’ve been looking for answers, and you have them all! Congratulations!

      • ceciliawyu is closer to the zeitgeist than Jimmy can ever be – and that’s their problem. They imagine that they may yet win the war. But the world has moved on without them. They are left fulminating utterly irrelevantly in the dust.

        Jim’s comment tells me why CE is such a contrarian echo chamber. They actively insult and berate views that differ from the quite obvious groupthink. Andy West says they are not groupthink zealots because they all have different theories. Like the guy spruiking a new gravity theory as the cause of climate change. Hilarious – but they do have more in common gleamed from echo chamber blogs than differences. Andy West for one. A fixation with wind and solar for two.

        More – we have to wonder why when the science is so clear – even if the future is uncertain – and the policy so obvious – contrarians stay in the same old rut. Judith knows enough about the science and the policy – but is far from honest and open about it. She risks being an invidious footnote in the annals of the climate wars by not being forthright.

      • The future has always and will forever be uncertain. Adaptation has served us well, and will also in the future.

        Supercilious, smug, so certain you know it all.

      • Energy innovation, building resilient infrastructure and reducing pollution along with restoring and conserving agricultural soils and ecosystems – what’s not to like. Some of this is state of the art urban development around the world. As I know first hand. I am after all an award winning integrated urban water designer.

        “I so happy you are here, ceciliawyu. I’ve been looking for answers, and you have them all! Congratulations!”

        This however is a grumpy old man the world has passed by. There is little doubt that Cecelia is closer to the spirit of the times than you. And your reaction is to cancel her.

        “It isn’t enough to repair the damage our progress has brought. It is also not enough to manage our risks and be more shock-resistant. Now is not only the time to course correct and be more resilient. It is a time to imagine what we can generate for the world. Not only can we work to minimize our footprint but we can also create positive handprints. It is time to strive for a world that thrives.” Jean Russell

      • Once again, Ellison spouts generalities, no cost/benefit (incremental or otherwise). All we get from him is propaganda.

      • I have spent a career in financial, construction and environmental risk analysis. I save them money. The upside is endless and no downside. Economic growth provides resources for solving problems – conserving and restoring ecosystems, better sanitation and safer water, better health and education, updating the diesel fleet and other productive assets to emit less black carbon and reduce the health and environmental impacts, developing better and cheaper ways of producing electricity, replacing cooking with wood and dung with better ways of preparing food thus avoiding respiratory disease and again reducing black carbon emissions. A global program of agricultural soils restoration is the foundation for balancing the human ecology.

        There has to be a big picture before detail can be engineered. Niggling naysaying from Jim here is utterly pointless.

      • Hi Jim2, Thanks, I think Robert did all the info on the Renewable energy side. I just annoyed horrible Trolls with my #sarcasm so poor Robert.Ellison gets a break!

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  104. Robert, please tell us of the occasions when someone paid you to opine on electric power system development. Could it have paid for your overpriced coffee? As I said, you are obviously a dilettante.

  105. “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.” PE


    https://www.iea.org/reports/projected-costs-of-generating-electricity-2020

    It is not clear that Dave has any expertise – other than rants and unwarranted personal attacks. It is clear that combing renewable energy sources in a system can reduce costs and increase value.

    “Renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and hydro do not generate energy all the time.” https://thehub.agl.com.au/articles/2018/09/calculating-capacity-factor

    That’s fairly obvious. But if there is both hydro – or geothermal, biofuels or batteries – and wind and solar the opportunity exists to create firm, reliable and low cost generating capacity. While hedging against fossil fuel price increases. This is the reality world wide engaging the attentions of many thousands of engineers.

    With batteries it is a matter of maximising the electro potential using abundant and cheap elements. Although in an energy rich world there is still a need for advanced nuclear reactors.

    https://ambri.com/

    • Geoff Sherrington

      RIE,
      What prevents your mind accepting that the best future plan is to eliminate wind and solar? A decade of widespread use in many conditions has shown the weaknesses adequately. Fixing the weaknesses is clearly a more expensive plan than phasing them out asap. Replacement with well-tested fossil and nuclear is merely reverting to the proven best, with the bonus of more advanced recent technology.
      Seems from your many, many, many comments here that you have not yet accepted that global warming fears can now be dropped from assessments. Once a green apostle, always a green?
      Life is much more rosy when you spend your time sniffing the flowers and thanking CO2 for making them so much better. All you have to do is confront your inner demons and destroy the ones that make you ill.
      (There is no charge for this consultation and diagnosis). Geoff S

      • Another empty missive from Sherrington on high. One quite likely to be disappeared in due course. It is not about climate science – that boat sailed long ago. And if he had any knowledge at all he would know that the roses are much better off in an organically rich soil.

        It is not about wind and solar as such – it is about systems thinking for an inevitable energy transition. As energy demand increases by 350% this century – energy sources other than fossil fuels will be necessary.

        There is a scientific and political reality. As well as immense benefits to be had from technological innovation. Governments have a role to play

        e.g. https://arena.gov.au/projects/?project-value-start=0&project-value-end=200000000

        Sherrington is a fossilized dinosaur. And that diagnoses is free.

      • RIE is saying the climate science is settled: ” It is not about climate science – that boat sailed long ago.” Well, sorry old bean. CliSci, based on unvalidated, clearly incorrect UN IPCC climate models, is increasingly unsettled by physical evidence of lower estimates of ECS. Climate profiteers are in their last spasms of propaganda production before people begin voting on their personal wellbeing.

      • “It is unpredictable pattern shifts in a spatio-temoral chaotic Earth system that is the potential problem.” So lets throw another virgin in the volcano? What does CO2 have to do with “pattern shifts?”

      • Try to understand why models don’t work and you will be 10% there.

      • I have always understood why you can’t model chaos the way the UN CliSci socialists try. I’m telling you that I don’t trust you to determine what is needed to guard against future “unpredictable pattern shifts.” You are a blow-hard dilettante.

      • This again is a comment that seems likely to be disappeared. Again I am not sure what your problem is but there seem to be many of them. Climate change over the last century has seen anthropogenic warming superimposed on large and abrupt internal variability in a system where small changes are projected onto Hurst-Kolmogorov stochastic dynamics. In this I am far from a dilettante.

        Climate pragmatism has been the obvious way forward for decades. You are fighting a rearguard action in a battle you have lost. It is quite obviously an ideologically driven cultural war in which agnotology rules.

        “So what’s not to like about Climate Pragmatism? The no regrets aspect of this implies that nothing is lost and there are still benefits if the threat doesn’t materialize. If it becomes increasingly apparent with time that the threat is of a serious magnitude, then we have taken the first steps towards addressing the threat. David Roberts and Jim Hansen seems to get this (although his carbon fee approach is not no regrets but relatively low regrets , and whether it is feasible to implement and would actually work is debatable). Doesn’t sound like Joe Romm or Al Gore will see the light; it seems that they are prepared to continue to wage an idealistic war that they have no political, economic or technological chance of winning.” Judith Curry

      • “(although his carbon fee approach is not no regrets but relatively low regrets , and whether it is feasible to implement and would actually work is debatable). Doesn’t sound like Joe Romm or Al Gore will see the light; it seems that they are prepared to continue to wage an idealistic war that they have no political, economic or technological chance of winning.” Judith Curry” seems to argue against your “climate pragmatism.” Your cut and paste implies something that Dr. Curry never said.

        Why are you posting on Dr. Curry’s excellent site if you are secure in the knowledge that intelligent entrepreneurs will be solving future climate problems? Is it to brow-beat us fossilized contrarian curmudgeons to no real benefit? If you are not a dilettante, who is paying you for your advice?

      • It was said just so nearly a decade ago.

      • I am – btw – the complete optimist on the power of unfossilised brains to imagine solutions and of markets to deliver them. Ever the pragmatist – I’m not sweating the details but progress abounds.

      • Curious George

        Clearly we are still in the imagination stage.

      • Curious George

        Yes.

      • Clearly thee are dozens of pragmatic solutions.

    • “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.” Planning Engineer

      How do they miss the quote and the point?

      • Geoff Sherrington

        RIE,
        Several invitations to address international conferences on ornamental horticulture (accepted and enjoyed) are part of my credentials to sniff the flowers. And yours?
        Again, I ask, is it not correct that the best course is to eliminate wind and solar?
        There is no gain for you in deflection perfection ad nauseam..
        What do you mean by “I am – btw – the complete optimist on the power of unfossilised brains to imagine solutions and of markets to deliver them.” Please describe what major, important conditions exist (apart from natural human desire for betterment) to create your need for imaginary solutions? Solutions to what problems? Real ones or imaginary ones?
        Then on markets. You and I can both admit to ignorance of how markets perform. I confess to ignorance of the potential of free markets because in my 80 years I have never seen a fully free market at work on any large scale. Free markets are always nobbled by enforced regulation by incompetents, a process that you seem to imagine is a required part of God’s design.
        Please, just answer the question.
        Geoff S

      • You do go on. Daisy grows the roses. My expertise is in biogeochemical cycling on a larger scale. That’s a level of natural sciences that I can only assume put’s you to sleep dreaming of marigolds.

        As for economic freedom – you would need to commit to democracy and understand economics.

        https://watertechbyrie.com/2016/03/11/all-bubbles-burst-laws-of-economics-for-the-new-millennium/

        Australia has moved up a spot or two. Size of government is letting down – but otherwise fabulous scores.

        https://www.heritage.org/index/

      • Geoff Sherrington

        RIE,
        Since I know so little about free Enterprise, why would I have conducted a private conference in our boardroom, to hear from invited specialists in property rights like Richard Epstein from Chicago oaw school and other internationals of note?
        A big difference between us is that I have been hands on in many matters about which you selectively cut and paste. People who have been there, done that, saw through your method from the start.
        Take a rest. Geoff S

      • “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.” Planning Engineer

        How do they miss the quote and the point?

        I quote reputable sources and like to quantify things. I was doing some due diligence on Dominion Energy this morning and noted their commitment to 15% renewables by 2025. It is not either technically impossible or economically reckless. And as an energy company they are far from alone.

        These guys have rely on nothing but their own rather dubious authority. What a hornswoggle of a fallacy that is.

    • “if there is both hydro – or geothermal, biofuels or batteries – and wind and solar the opportunity exists to create firm, reliable and low cost generating capacity.”

      Hydro and geothermal rely on having exactly the right geography. As such, they are niche solutions globally. There is very little growth in hydro despite it being a much-vaunted solution to the intermittency of wind and solar. Presumably this is because there is a shortage of the suitable locations that haven’t already been used (at least in the countries that want to expand wind/solar).

      Biofuels are land intensive, i.e. yet another low energy density source to add to already low energy density wind/low energy density solar. Most people think agricultural products are better used to feed people than electrical power generators. Policies that encourage an economic competitor to the human stomach may not be all that humane. Given that humanism is supposed to be the justification for all of these enlightened energy policies – you know, to save the planet and all of humanity along with it – setting up renewables in competition with human beings may be a mistake.

      Batteries are very expensive in terms of cost/capacity. However, they are ideal for niche applications, such as mobile power (most batteries have been used for this purpose since the technology was first made practical nearly 200 years ago, and certainly since the widespread availability of grids). They are useful for off-grid applications, but grids were invented because they are not very good at it. The vast majority of batteries are being used for precisely the same applications they’ve always been used for – to power mobile devices. Despite us having a lot of experience with batteries, it is widely believed the applications for which they are used is accidental and arbitrary, and we could just as easily deploy then to run everything. Many people – increasing in proportion as you progress from the least educated to the most educated – think we chose them for our phones but not our houses out of caprice.

      “This is the reality world wide engaging the attention….”

      I see very little reality engaging attention when it comes to energy policies in advanced western nations. I mostly see the growth of religious thinking. To me this isn’t unexpected because I’m pretty sure it’s a deep human impulse and will find whatever avenues are currently available for expression. I don’t blame engineers for this: after all, they also built all of our wonderful cathedrals. However, whereas cathedrals certainly answered to a human need, even the most religious people understood they weren’t the answer to material needs. One might say they lacked the faith and spiritual convictions of our present times.

      • Hydro in Australia has a capacity factor of some 12% – but hydro that has been fully capitalized is a cheap source of energy that can be switched on or off at short notice. In Australia ethanol is produced from sugar cane and appears in 10% blends in petrol. Sugarcane residue is called bagasse and is used as feed for burning in furnaces or producing biogas. Biogas is produced from human and animal waste and from landfill. There is very little geothermal but there are 46 countries that do have some. All the major energy companies have fingers in the pie and 1000’s of engineers are working on it.

        The objective is to have generations with low construction and maintenance costs – with wind and solar the fuel is free and so the marginal cost is negligible. Diversified sources are a hedge against rising costs in a world where energy demand is rising exponentially and increase in supply of economically recoverable fossil fuels is logarithmically decreasing.

        “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.” Planning Engineer

        The feasible penetration is limited by available technology. New liquid metal batteries might cost effectively help. The first are being installed as a data centre backup power supply in the US at the moment. New low cost advanced nuclear reactors seem likely to be a bigger part of the solution – especially when combined with ancillary markets in hydrogen and process heat. Even then low cost alternatives have a role in maintaining lower costs overall.

      • And I was quoting your blog. Such fun.

      • Oh for God’s sake. You lose some harmless comments from ceciliawyu and permit all sorts of nonsense. Little wonder that you preside over an echo chamber.

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  109. Good point and often overlooked. The problem with having spare capacity I suspect is that it doesn’t pay – a bit like storing food gluts or creating marine reserves where fishing is banned or very limited. Great in theory until someone has to fund and fill the former or decide where the latter should be created – usually some other country’s coastal waters for preference.

    Pure free markets whether food or power can be a problem here although anyone thinking planned economies are silver bullets should look at Frank Dikotter’s “Mao’s Great Famine” about the peacetime debacle between 1958 and 1962.

  110. PE … an absolutely beautiful post! Thank you.

    I have two friends in Houston who weathered (pun intended) this very well. Both had natural gas generators. I lived through Sandy on Long Island without power for 13 days, via a generator. I agree with you on spare capacity, but wouldn’t it be prudent for utilities to look at residential (and some commercial) backup systems? Batteries are worthless for major events, and some medium ones. A natural gas back up generator is the best solution from a consumer’s point of view, and may be from the utilities. I’m thinking it may be in their interest to partially fund them.

    • A back up generator may be a good option for many individual consumers. Unlike reliable affordable power it magnifies the differences between the haves and have nots. Widespread ownership of small generators will have bigger net costs than developing a reliable system for everyone. In terms of emissions this scenario will be worse. But the more you can’t count on the system (or have particular individual needs) the more appealing ownership of you own generator becomes. If a lot of people have home generator many of them likely won’t be working in extreme conditions and fuel may be challenging,

      • Geoff Sherrington

        PE,
        Again, succinct and credible. Thank you. Geoff S

      • Backup power is not meant to supplant central power systems. They’re for temporary/emergency use. (And, an NG generator would be extremely expensive to use off grid, not to mention the small problem that it wouldn’t last very long.) There are no central systems that are 100% reliable. Not in the generation, not in the transmission. That’s why hospitals, airports, industrial and certain commercial facilities, even nuclear plants and residences utilize backup systems. I was curious about any effects in Texas that backup units had in getting the grid back up, meaning reduced load, etc. I’m sure the load was quite small but was it negligible? As I’m sure you know, closing switches can be quite the adventure. And that’s why I thought it might be worth a look.
        Thanks for your reply. And again, great piece.

      • “That’s why hospitals, airports, industrial and certain commercial facilities, even nuclear plants and residences utilize backup systems.”

        Facilities with backup generation tend to be critical ones – where loss of power is either life threatening, or a major commercial loss, for example server farms, or factory processes that damage equipment if interrupted.

        As PE says, it rarely makes sense for residences to have them. Certainly, if people have critical medical equipment, they may need them. For example, I once flew generators by National Guard chopper to a community cut off by flood waters, because some people had critical medical equipment.

        But otherwise, unless people are survivalists or rural residents, they aren’t likely to have generation. I looked into it for my home, as a loss of air conditioning in Phoenix can literally be fatal, especially for us old folks. Most generators are not reliable – you need something like a diesel Generac to do the job, and those are expensive – and you need a fair amount of excess generating capability because electric motors place a high load when first starting. Plus, you need fuel storage, which takes space, adds a slight fire hazard, and has permitting issues. I concluded that a full gas tank, and access to a high altitude (and access restricted) mountaintop would let us get out of the heat if necessary.

      • aplanningengineer,
        Why do you think ONCOR did not use their smart meters to selectively connect/disconnect loads during the crisis? Deployment of smart meters for all Oncor customers was completed by the end of 2012.
        I know for a fact my Landis-Gyr smart meter has remoted disconnect on my 200 Amp mains. I also know the ZigBee protocol is a real-time system and could have managed a rotating 2 hour connect/disconnect cycle on each subnet of the grid if they had the software ready to run.

        Do you think this crisis will accelerate the deployment of microgrid systems?
        https://www.cleanspark.com/

        From comments I have read from other Texas electricity users I must have won the award for the biggest energy saver in DFW.
        Note: Red is usage, Green is solar, Yellow is critical loads and Black is my Chevy Volt keeping it’s battery from getting too cold.

      • “Why do you think ONCOR did not use their smart meters to selectively connect/disconnect loads during the crisis? Deployment of smart meters for all Oncor customers was completed by the end of 2012.”

        Perhaps because it is better to take out larger chunks of the grid than individual homes? Why should taking out homes one at a time make sense?

        It’s one thing to use smart meters to time shift usage of high demand home appliances, another to shut down all the power to the home. And even the latter is a pretty big problem if it becomes regular practice.

        But yeah, maybe PE is still around and can comment.

      • What rate are you being paid for your excess solar production, Jack?

      • Oops! Magnifying your bill, I can calculate your energy rebate at $0.1432/kWh. That’s one hell of a subsidized rate your fellow energy consumers are paying to you. I assume your energy supplier is getting far less than that for its generation and transmission costs.

      • OK, I looked at your bill again. They are simply offsetting your consumption with the amount of your energy generation. What happens when you “over generate?” Are they paying you $0.1432 per kWh? If so, what I said goes: The other ratepayers are significantly subsidizing your solar generation.

        That sort of subsidy was the only reason I installed rooftop solar. The rate was “grandfathered in;” current rooftop solar doesn’t get the old retail rate. Since future energy costs will rise substantially, I will be saving even more over time. The suckers don’t realize their green schemes cost more up front, then more by subsidizing old guys like me.

      • PE, thanks for your posts.

        I have been reading “Shorting the Grid” by Meredith Angwin which was published recently but before the Texas 2021 fiasco. She makes several points that seem to apply directly to ERCOT and Texas:
        1. Deregulation has not resulted in lower electricity costs.
        2. RTOs have led to reduced grid reliability.
        3. RTOs have reduced transparency.
        4. Increased renewables in RTO areas is resulting to an over reliance on just in time natural gas which reduces grid resiliency.
        5. Shuttering of nuclear and coal reduces grid resiliency.
        6. In RTO areas there is virtually no entity that is responsible/accountable for grid resiliency.
        7. Unless this changes things will get much worse.

        It seems to me that all of these observations relate to the Texas fiasco. Do you have any thoughts?

      • joe - the non climate scientist

        Mark Silbert

        My apologies, but can you explain RTO’s and then elaborate on your RTO comments.

        thanks

      • Joe,

        An RTO is a Regional Transmission Organization. It is similar to an ISO or Independent System Operator.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regional_transmission_organization_(North_America)

        Both came about in around 2000 as a result of FERC Order number 2000 intending to deregulate the electric grid. Prior to this time the model was to have heavily regulated vertically integrated Public Utility Systems in each State.

        ERCOT is the ISO in Texas.

        They were supposed to reduce consumer cost of electricity and improve grid reliability and performance through reducing government regulation and utilizing open markets. Deregulation of the Telephone system was notionally the model.

        The book I referenced by Meredith Angwin argues the points I raised with a focus on the New England grid. While she doesn’t specifically discuss ERCOT, she pretty well nails the underlying factors that led to this winter’s disaster.

        Hope this helps.

      • Mark Silbert,
        Not only did the deregulated market fail to spend the resources to prevent this crisis it seems it’s just a sophisticated way to soak the customer for more $$. The Wall St. Journal just published a story that concluded the deregulation of the Texas electric grid cost the consumers 28 billion more than the consumers that remained on regulated part of the grid.
        https://www.wsj.com/articles/texas-electric-bills-were-28-billion-higher-under-deregulation-11614162780

      • jacksmith4tx,

        It seems that the traders are the ones making money. According to the WSJ Macquarie (an Aussie bank) pulled in $250 million that week and I know of at least one other trading outfit that did likewise.

        Bottom line is the system isn’t working to the benefit of the customers. It’s too complex and lacks transparency. The customer gets screwed, the bureaucrats just shrug and the smart traders make a mint.

    • Hey meso … I certainly agree that backup systems are used primarily for critical loads. Why would anyone spend the money to install/maintain it unless there was a critical need? Of course. But my comment/question was based on living through natural catastrophes and deciding that my life is ‘critical’. :-) I now live in Arizona. And I’ve found that my place on APS’s grid isn’t as secure as I thought it would be. I’m sure they’re a good company, but outages are outages, whether from nature or design causes. There is no perfect central system, which is a good argument for diverse sources. At some point I’ll be getting a NG generator, as have millions of others.
      My question to PE … I was curious if having a certain number of backup units actually made it easier for the central plants to come back online.
      Thank you for your response.

      • ” There is no perfect central system, which is a good argument for diverse sources. At some point I’ll be getting a NG generator, as have millions of others.”

        As a personal choice – sure. Although, how long with the gas flow when the grid is out? I considered propane – easy to store, a bit of an issue if it leaks since its heavier than air. But if I were looking at long outages, propane or diesel oil would be my choice. Short outages – there’s the car :-) In my neighborhood, I don’t recall any APS outage longer than 30 minutes. In my previous neighborhood, in the Phoenix mountains – also APS, old underground cables would go out once every few years, and it would take them hours to lay an above ground cable to bypass the bad one.

        As a societal response to power unreliability – no. Individual generators are far more expensive than a reliable grid, just as individual rooftop solar is far more expensive (as much as 10X) than utility scale. Backup generators need care and feeding – they should run for a while every month, and I don’t know the lubrication and other servicing needs. Cheap backup generators often are good for only a few hours before they fail badly. Generally, the lower the RPM, the longer it will last.

        Grids can be made as reliable as society is willing to spend. And, having worked with data centers with backup power – the backup fails a lot more than you’d think. In one case, the backup was the cause of a failure, when the cutover switch put two arms on SRP (grid) power and left one on internal batteries (which were being charged by SRP or APS power). This happened when there was no power outage, but the servers failed, and did it in mysterious ways, with one phase drifting in and out of phase with the other two. It took hours to figure it out, and then minutes to fix.

        BTW… welcome to Arizona!

      • “As a personal choice – sure.” “As a societal response to power unreliability – no.”
        Totally agree. My question to PE was in reference to the poor plant worker having to close a main or lineman closing an ABS on a pole with all of that inrush current. I’ve had a few breakers spark at me in the past, although definitely not at high voltage. If someone is on a generator it takes a minute or so for normal power to cut back in; it’s an initial no load condition.

        “Although, how long with the gas flow when the grid is out?” We lost power for 13 days just 5 miles outside NYC on Long Island during Sandy. The NG was still working. (They had recently upgraded it to a ‘high’ pressure system. Not sure how that affects the situation.) I assume they had backup power at their distribution points. For those of us who had potable water, it kept us with hot water (works with an internal thermocouple) and heat (if you had a generator)… it was the first two weeks of November, so not the warmest time back East. A large enough propane tank would give you more than thirteen days, judiciously used. Realistically, having to use more than two/three days of emergency power and you’ve entered a twilight zone. It can be fun to ‘camp out’ in the house for a couple days, maybe. But more than that and it gets old quick.

        I had three power outages last year. One for over a day. My neighbor had power, as the distribution transformer only lost one primary leg, and apparently operated as an open delta. Sh*t happens.

  111. Just in – several of ERCOT board resign including (wind activist) Sally Tallberg

    https://www.reuters.com/article/BigStory12/idUSKBN2AN2F3

    • “The board’s chairman, vice chairman, two directors and a board nominee of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), all of whom live outside of Texas, resigned effective Wednesday, according to a notice to the state Public Utility Commission.“

      They live outside of Texas. Interesting.

      • Curious George

        What’s the pay of an ERCOT board member?

      • $803,000 for the President.

        I’m surprised that some of the Board Members were from outside of Texas. Several members are compensated pretty well. I assume who is on the Board and their compensation will be an issue in the future, in addition to a litany of obvious failures.
        https://paddockpost.com/2021/02/20/executive-compensation-at-ercot/

      • I would say it looks like the ERCOT directors earned their money. Al least those out of state directors won’t have to worry about mobs of angry Texas consumers chasing them.
        This was published today in the WSJ:
        “Nearly 20 years ago, Texas shifted from using full-service regulated utilities to generate power and deliver it to consumers. The state deregulated power generation, creating the system that failed last week. And it required nearly 60% of consumers to buy their electricity from one of many retail power companies, rather than a local utility.

        Those deregulated Texas residential consumers paid $28 billion more for their power since 2004 than they would have paid at the rates charged to the customers of the state’s traditional utilities, according to the Journal’s analysis of data from the federal Energy Information Administration.

        The crisis last week was driven by the power producers. Now that power has largely been restored, attention has turned to retail electric companies, a few of which are hitting consumers with steep bills.”

  112. The latest retail price trend report (Dec. 2020) projects a further decrease of 7.1% over the next couple of years.

  113. Looks like those debt to equity ratios and going to put a crimp on spending to upgrade the grid.
    “Fitch Ratings – Austin – 24 Feb 2021: Fitch Ratings has placed all retail and wholesale electric utilities operating within the geographic footprint of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) on Rating Watch Negative (RWN) following the potentially severe, but uncertain, financial impact of operating challenges, market dislocation and winter weather on the sector last week.
    SECURITY
    Bonds are secured by retail electric revenues, retail combined utility revenues, wholesale electric revenues and, in two cases, payments from combined utilities.

    Analytical Conclusion
    Placement of the identified ratings on RWN follows unprecedented winter weather experienced throughout Texas during the week of Feb. 14, including multiple snow and ice storms and historic low temperatures. Due to extreme weather conditions, record setting demand for electric and gas coupled with supply constraints, resulted in real-time energy prices reaching ERCOT’s market price cap of $9,000/MWh and spot gas at the Houston Ship Channel pricing point averaging over $200/MMBTU. Prices for those commodities earlier this year were $20/MWh and $3/MMBTU, respectively.
    https://www.fitchratings.com/research/us-public-finance/fitch-places-texas-public-power-utilities-electric-cooperatives-on-rating-watch-negative-24-02-2021

    • We have the first signs of where the market is going to allocate the losses.
      One of the largest providers in Texas, Vistra reported earnings.
      I predict a funding shortfall for more infrastructure.

  114. There is 0.00% chance any of this would have happened if Texas relied on Coal and Nuclear. Simply go to NASA GISS and look at the desert location stations in Texas to see how much warming is happening in Texas. There is none. None, nada, zip. Use a desert station because it controls for the UHI and Water Vapor. When you choose stations that control for the UHI and Water Vapor, you will find no warming. This entire attack on CO2 is nothing more than Tobacco Settlement 2.0 Socialism isn’t self sustaining and continually needs a new host. The tobacco money is gone, and now the Socialists need a new host. Democrats get a twofer with Big Oil because they are big supporters of Republicans, and the money they spend in the Green New Deal goes to Democrats. Only when you study the politics does any of this Green Economy nonsense make any sense at all. Joe Biden supports Nuclear Power for Iran, and opposes it here in the US. He strengthens our enemies and weakens the US. He opposes Keystone and supports NOrdstream 2.0 and the Afghan Pipeline. He strengthens our enemies and weakens the US. Joe, Hunter and Jim aided China, The Ukraine and Russina with various conventional projects, and opposes energy production at home. Biden strengthens our enemies and weakens the US. China is building coal and nuclear, while the US is trying to replicate the energy failures of CA and TX. China will never power an AIrcraft Carrier with Wind or power a bomber with Solar.

  115. There is a rumor making it’s way around the web that the evening before the weather changed and temps dropped in Texas, the power managers asked the feds for permission to take the ceiling off coal and gas plants that are “hardened” knowing that much of the capacity would be brought down by the weather. According to the narrative, the feds turned the state down, leading to an inability to bring sufficient capacity on line to replace the loss of the failing capacity. Any truth to this???

    • joe - the non climate scientiest

      neil – I asked the same question – I have not received an answer, though best I can tell, ERCOT’s request was somewhat a variation of what you stated and may not have completely helped the situation. Though I would prefer to have someone such as PE clarify

      “various sources are claiming that Texas / ERCOT requested or sought a waver from the Department of energy bypass various green energy restrictions on 2/12 or 2/13 in anticipation of the oncoming cold front the request as denied on 2/14/2021 by the DOE via EO 202(c).”

      • Texas requested and received a waiver to bypass pollution limits. There were some conditions – IIRC they had to charge a minimum of $1500/MWh, which is a lot ($1.50/kWh) Seems a bit odd – but I don’t understand these things. Maybe that was so they wouldn’t release the normally disallowed emissions unless the market had a high demand for their power, thus limiting emissions.

      • I read the order. It granted ERCOT’s request, but it had many bureaucratic caveats. I’m not going to dig into this any more to see if any of the caveats restricted ERCOT’s activities unreasonably.

    • That sounds like fake news. What could the Feds do to stop them if they did red-line the plants?
      I didn’t see any stories about the Texas petro-chemical plants and refiners asking permission to break the rules. They just dump it into the ecosystem.
      “The five largest refiners emitted nearly 337,000 pounds of pollutants, including benzene, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide, according to preliminary data supplied to the Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ).”
      Tis easier to ask forgiveness than permission.
      https://judithcurry.com/2021/02/18/assigning-blame-for-the-blackouts-in-texas/#comment-944060

      • Curious George

        “What could the Feds do to stop them?”
        Sue them as usual.

      • Of course they will and the companies will write it off on their taxes.

        I know your going to love this:
        “President Joe Biden on Friday restored an Obama-era calculation on the economic cost of greenhouse gases, a step that will make it easier for his agencies to approve aggressive actions to confront climate change.

        $51 for every ton of carbon released into the atmosphere — is well above the $8 cost used under former President Donald Trump, who declined to factor the global impacts of climate pollution into his calculation.”

        Boy that’s great news because I have 34MWh of RECs (Renewable Energy Credits) that are even more valuable now.

  116. Germany has long promoted renewables. They’ve shut down coal and nuclear plants.
    How did they fare? Granted this weather system was hitting Texas & the SW, but not even any barbed wire fences in northern Germany to block arctic weather patterns.

    • On the news yesterday it mentioned Germany broke it’s weather record for biggest temperature swing in a single week: -24°C to +18°C.

      It’s a sign of things to come imo.

    • Germany will be fine, they are switching to natural gas. They already approved it for the giant Volkswagen factory (and attached city) and Germany funded the NordStream 2 pipeline to supply the fuel.

  117. Very insightful article that helps the average joe to understand the situation we are in dealing with our power grid. Maybe the use of more fossil fuels is the answer. I know that whatever the result it needs to be reliable sources and not a hit and miss energy. To many lives were effected and some lost as a result of the lack of power to stay warm. Mother Nature is very good at being unpredictable. Who’s to say she doesn’t do a bad ice storm again next year? We must have what we can plan on for energy and that is oil & gas. We in Texas are blessed to have a lot of the source. Let’s use it and leave air and solar to be the extra we have on hand. We can’t depend on air or solar. That’s just the facts!!

  118. Excellent article. Thank you for this post.

  119. Great job as usual, Judith. We need more people like you to be heard. I have a similar technical background, and although I never worked in planning, I have had many of these financial discussions when preparing cost analysis and payback models for many types of generation.

    I have only one comment about your initial analysis, that even if planned for with a capacity model, there is no assurance that extra power would have been available.

    You posit some of the issues in your personal analysis section and couch them with the word may. I think you know that all of those things have and are happening and I wish you had not couched it.

    Wind and solar get massive subsidies – not just the visible subsidies but the economic treatment of production, rates, etc. They take every bit of wind production to make it look better, and charge it virtually nothing. But in reality for most of the wind in production, you have to have equal gas turbine production, running in the most inefficient manner possible, zig zagging up and down in ranges where it is less efficient to make up for the zig zagging of the wind. All of that cost- the investment at sub-par payback, paying double for generation, and paying for running them inefficiently are all borne by the gas turbine producers – which makes it look way more expensive than it should while wind gets to look cheap. It is the same with all of grid management software and hardware improvements that have had to been made, up to and including synchronous condensers, SSVR’s etc – costing billions. This is mainly to take in this unreliable, non-dispatchable, non-frequency controlled, non-impact load bearing renewables. Wind is the worst form of energy, and should never be allowed to be over 15% of the grid for reliability sake.

  120. Why am I not surprised that my pro-solar-energy posts, etcetera, have been deleted by this blog site. The extreme Right hypocritically blathers on about and supports free speech only until it offends them, which apparently doesn’t take much.

    The Fox news websites are the worst when it comes to deleting posts that fail to align with Fox’s click-economy bread-and-butter mainstream readers/posters. It’s like listening to the already-converted adamantly preaching to the already-converted.

    • We are dependent on air and water as well as electricity. I guess we could go back to living in caves, but we would have to fight to the death for the available caves. You seem to believe having your own personal power source is the most reliable way to get electricity. It’s not. And it’s not the cheapest way either.

      • “You seem to believe having your own personal power source is the most reliable way to get electricity. It’s not. And it’s not the cheapest way either.”

        Some people do that as a personal choice, and I have no problem with that.

        But if they are arguing that we all should, and are all retrograde if we do not, well… then they’re out to lunch.

      • Each building having its own solar-cell-panel power storage/system — at least as an emergency/backup source of power — makes sense (except, of course, to the various big energy corporation CEOs whose concern is dollars-and-cents profit margin).
        Many Texas residents are now realizing this.

        The ‘cheapest way’ can also be the most unproductive, if not damaging; I believe it’s important to realize this.

    • JC allows posts that advocate pro-solar-energy. If you posts are actually being deleted, it isn’t because of that.

      It is very ironic to see a leftist lecturing the right about censorship.

      • It amazes me how it’s lost on you, JC and its fans that one’s beliefs and ideas should not be automatically labelled as “leftist” and therefore promptly dismissed/condemned because it greatly differs from yours.

        The real irony is that the general ‘Right’ (since such labels are integral to the posting here), including Fox news websites, is the part of the spectrum that’s always bitching about being censorship; yet, they then trip over themselves to delete posted opinions that, regardless of abiding by the posting rules, risk upsetting their hard-conservative bread-and-butter click-economy consumers! (And I’m not just making this up; I’ve experienced it myself with Fox news).

        My latter posts replied directly to the gratuitously snotty responses to my initial post, due to (I can only presume) the ‘Right’ posters simply disliking my quoting Chomsky and/or praise for solar energy itself — as the latter may, in future, take business away from the dirty ‘energy’ sector’s big fossil fuel industry.

        The common ‘Right’ thing to do with commenters with whom they greatly disagree is to, quite frankly, call them and/or their opinions lame names, e.g. mental masturbator, crazy, lazy Left.

        Why behave in such a manner right from the start? If you’re going to name-call, at least wait until it will be a reciprocation.

        But apparently it feels better to straightway get angry at the original comment’s idea, itself, and reactively cyber-disconnectedly dump on its source (after all, you’re not face-to-face).

        Until I posted on your site, I didn’t use such thoughtless buzzwords as ‘Left’ and ‘Right’; they are but aggressive divergents that don’t belong in civil discussion, the latter which should be free of terminological and political stereotyping.

        But, I guess, when in Rome ….

  121. thecliffclavenoffinance

    One Texas blackout every ten years (2011 and 2021) is no big deal — what is everyone getting all excited about?
    So a minority of the state lives without electric power for a few days. Big deal. I would have no problem living without electric power … for a few hours. Well, maybe for a few minutes.

    • How long do you envision it would take to bring nuclear capacity on line? What does TX do in the interim?

      • It’s going to take a real long time so in the interim you stop decommissioning coal plants and maybe add a few. Increase dual fuel gas plants and assure that they keep adequate fuel supplies on site. Stop building new windmills and solar arrays. Fuggetabout battery storage cause it ain’t gonna happen. Put electric cars on hold. Stop powering pipeline and gas production operations with electricity from the grid.

        All this will cost money and go against the green wave. The point of the article is that if you care about CO2 and grid resiliency there is really a clear path forward. The current trend is only going to lead to more disasters and finger pointing.

  122. Pingback: ‘Climate’ policy ignores weather at its peril – The Other Club

  123. “The Hartwell group is an informal international network of scholars and analysts dedicated to innovative strategies that uplift human dignity through mitigation of climate risk, enhancement of disaster resilience, improvement of public health, and the provision of universal energy access.’ https://judithcurry.com/2011/07/31/climate-pragmatism/

    Pragmatic responses are to mitigate
    climate risk by policy and practices to “accelerate energy innovation, build resilience to extreme weather, and pursue no regrets pollution reduction measures”. I quoted above Judith endorsing this approach. Although cognitive dissonance kicked in and it was claimed that my ‘cut and paste’ of the entirely of ‘JC comments’ in the post somehow distorted her meaning. I make a point of it to demonstrate the irrationality of much contrarian rhetoric – that inevitably devolves into a denunciation of a posited other. The left are equally fixated. Leaving the middle wondering what the noise is about and wishing it would go away.

    There are multiple pressures on the Earth system and we are at some risk of crossing planetary boundaries. Boundary points were described by the NAS decades ago as like a finger slowly increasing the pressure on a light switch until suddenly it clicks. In the Earth system the click causes a maelstrom of interacting feedbacks as tremendous energies cascade through powerful subsystems. It is not something that hand waving can wave away.

  124. People are missing the big picture.
    1) Joe Biden supports the foreign pipelines of the Nord Stream 2.0 and Trans Afgan Pipeline.
    2) Joe Biden blocked the Keystone Pipeline
    3) Joe Biden supports nuclear power in Iran and the inevitable Iranian Nuclear Bomb
    4) Joe Biden opposes Domestic Nuclear
    5) Joe, Hunter and Jim made fortunes aiding China, Russia, and Ukraine build conventional energy projects
    6) Joe Biden opposed domestic conventional energy production
    7) Texas, California and Germany have proved the unreliability and non-commercial viability of wind and solar
    8) Joe Biden’s focus is on wind and solar
    9) Joe Biden is weakening the US and strengthening our enemies
    10) Why does oil-rich Iran need nuclear power? There is only one reason someone would want a nuclear-armed Iran, and it isn’t pretty.

  125. Subsidies to wind power amount to over $80 Billions.
    https://stopthesethings.com/2020/06/10/the-big-subsidy-steal-texan-taxpayers-fork-out-80000000000-to-wind-power-outfits/

    The $80 B doesn’t include capital investments shouldered by rate payers; nor the costs of the disaster that occurred last week in Texas.

    The fact is, Simple weatherizing of coal and nuclear stations would have increased “surge” capacity at little cost. More to the point, building one or two nuclear plants or a few coal units would cost a tiny fraction of the $80 B subsidy portion of Green Energy costs.

    Considering that wind produced as little as 7% of capacity shows the folly of building base load capacity on a foundation of Green Renewables.

    It’s unlikely that these facts or the eloquent disquisition published above will change the disastrous policies underway in the State of Texas. For entities groanng under Green Renewables only have doses of “Freeze/fry in the dark” pedagogy will be at all effective.

    It’s unlikely hat these facts or the trenchant analysis

    • joe - the non climate scientiest

      Numerous green advocates are pointing out the 20+% loss of electric generation from Gas generation, since it was the biggest total loss in power in Texas,
      Yet the fail to note that wind lost 80+% to 90% of its electric generation capacity.

      No doubt fossil generation lost the lions share from capacity,, Two important points. 1) proper maintenance and winterization would have reduced the loss to less than 5% and 2) nothing could have been done to reduce wind’s share of the 80+% loss in generation.

      The weather event in the south & Texas was rare. However, green wind energy is promoted heavily in MN, WI, Mi, etc, which are areas of the country that experience several weeks at minus 20. A loss of 90% electric energy becomes deadly in the north.

      No engineering can over come reality

      • thecliffclavenoffinance

        Joe
        Wind frequently goes to near zero, probably at random times in every week of the year. The gas plants are supposed to be their backup. Unfortunately, the entire Texas energy infrastructrure was not ready for unusually cold weather. That was the problem. It happened before in 2011, with 3.2 million people affected by rolling blackouts. The official report said to winterize everything. So they built more windmills instead. Didn’t even get the winterized models of windmills.

        The problem is not the windmills — they frequently produce very lottle power — the problem was BUYING more windmills rather than preparing the energy infrastructure for unusually cold weather. It took 10 years for the 2011 extremely cold weather to happen again, and then it was deja vu all over again in 2021.

        It would not have prevented the blackout if none of the windmills had frozen. Windmills belong in museums, not part of electric grid.

  126. Many enlightened Texans dismiss last week’s weather as Fake News, citing videos ahowing solid balls of the so-called snow resisting melting by a cigarette lighter.

    They maintain the wild weather was caused not by polar vortex displacement by Arctic amplification of radiative forcing, but deliberate acts of climate warfare by a vast Harvard based conspiracy of Yankee elitist anti-Texan secession activists, led by Bill Gates

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2021/02/is-climate-warfare-driving-texas-to.html

  127. When doesn’t the wind blow in Texas. 4.5 m/s will get the turbines spinning. In the blackout they lost some 16,000 MW wind power of the 24,000 installed – so operating at some 33% capacity. In winter – the season of low wind speeds – they plan on 7%. At the same time they lost some 29,000 MW gas and nuclear power.

    “The overall consensus from energy experts is that it’s far too soon to draw conclusions on what the exact cause or causes of the blackouts were. All agree that the single-digit temperatures that shattered the grid’s previous record for wintertime demand quickly outstripped the grid’s design parameters.

    “It’s too early to play the blame game,” Johnson said. “Everybody naturally wants to play the blame game depending on where they sit politically. I think the real answer lies in the middle somewhere.”

    Nonetheless, attempts to place the blame squarely on one energy source is misleading.

    “If you’re pointing to a few thousand megawatts of wind being short and ignoring the fact that tens of thousands of thermals is short — I don’t see how you can paint that kind of picture,” Rhodes said.” https://www.statesman.com/story/news/politics/politifact/2021/02/18/texas-power-outages-greg-abbott-dan-crenshaw-fact-check/6791469002/

    I have seem some meme checking – but not on CE.

    • I think the diagnosis is becoming clearer. Large amounts of intermittent wind and solar backed up by “just in time” natural gas fired power plants with gas production reliant on the electricity they generate to produce and transport the gas along with a perversely opaque regulatory framework ineffectively overseen by sleepy politicians on the dole is a good place to start.

      • There is a change coming to the global grid. Electrified transportation. Yes it will take years but it’s propelled by the unstoppable force of technology and capital markets quest for efficiency.
        The die is cast. Most of the automotive manufactures have already announced definite plans to phase out ICE and go to pure EV.
        To the operators and owners of the grid this is the looming challenge. Microgrids, V2G and renewable energy will be a major part of the industry response.
        Of course this could be wishful thinking because I’m ignoring that China is going to be the most powerful country on the planet by 2030.

      • “There is a change coming to the global grid. Electrified transportation. Yes it will take years but it’s propelled by the unstoppable force of technology and capital markets quest for efficiency.”

        Unstoppable force? Sure.

        “Quest for efficiency?” – no, you mean the need of manufacturers to bow down to the demand of the green fascists.

      • Jacksmith, there is no such thing as “the global grid” and there never will be. There is no such thing as the national grid either.

        Electrified transportation and burgeoning IT are going to exacerbate the issue of grid resiliency that may be unstoppable but it will have to be dealt with locally.

      • I wouldn’t mind such a runabout. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-56178802
        Plus no fancy electronics, just the bare minimum, and maybe a good lock on the battery terminals.

      • melitamegalithic,
        Check out this Aptera model. It can go 1000 miles on a charge and can recharge itself with solar. I’m not big fan of 3 wheelers but there must be a market for them with 7,000 pre orders.
        https://cleantechnica DOT com/2021/02/22/aptera-is-going-gangbusters/

      • It isn’t “green fascists” that will make EV cars dominate the market, it will be if they are a better alternative in the marketplace’s opinion.

      • “It isn’t “green fascists” that will make EV cars dominate the market, it will be if they are a better alternative in the marketplace’s opinion.”

        I agree, but that’s not how your post sounded. There are many things to like about electric cars. But the market isn’t responding just to consumer preference – it is responding to government subsidies, coercion, and with a Democrat controlled government, anticipated coercion.

        And, there is still the problem of the materials required for electric cars – rare earths and cobalt for motors, and various materials, some scarce, for batteries. Plus, charging is not yet a solved problem. If we have a high penetration of EV’s, we will need either an increase in electrical generation, transmission and distribution, or we’ll need harsh rules on when they can be charged, or “smart grid” controls over the chargers. The latter means waking up in the morning and discovering your car didn’t get charged, for example.

        Tesla showed there is a market for electric cars. Musk is a genius. Those who push EV policy rarely are.

      • jacksmith4tx
        Nothing doing; I’m not out to impress anybody (not at may age anyway).
        It needs be of some utility; two seats and room behind for a decent load of stuff.
        Where the mileage is generally low the Chinese thing is/looks promising. This Subaru 1992, 660cc engine has been quite a hit and some are still around. They die with their owner.
        There is a consideration to be made comparing EV’s to ICE. The same amount of fuel converted to electricity at near peak dedicated power plant efficiency will result ultimately in a lower cost per mile. Add ingenuity for partial or total free charging where space is available; it would look more inviting.

      • We need a second opinion.

      • melitamegalithic – are you including the cost of the transmission infrastructure and power losses in your efficiency determination? The power plant efficiency is but one part of the picture.

      • EV sales at least for now are targeted at high end users. But there is a blue sky future. Nio on small sales volume are valued on the New York exchange as the world’s 4th highest value carmaker. But beautiful marketing. Nio’s cars cost less than Tesla’s and they offer battery leasing and exemplary service – including on road emergency charging.

        The future of EV’s seems better battery chemistry and lower cost. That will require endless energy from fast neutron advanced nuclear reactors. These extend nuclear fuel reserves from 60 years at current energy consumption to something virtually limitless. At a low, low social investment for technology innovation of some $6 B committed thus far. .

        https://arstechnica.com/cars/2020/09/heres-what-tesla-will-put-in-its-new-batteries/

        “This paper looks to history for guidance in achieving a high-energy world. Historically, energy modernization has been driven by a strong public commitment to expand modern energy services, ensure equitable energy access, and achieve broader economic development goals. Smart public policies will promote increasingly productive uses of energy, engage the private sector to ensure reliable and cost-effective services, support energy innovation activities, and proceed in concert with long-term development goals.

        A commitment to a high-energy planet empowers growth and development using the broadest array of energy services, technologies, and policies that can meet the manifold needs of developing societies. The way we produce and use energy will become increasingly clean not by limiting its consumption, but by using expanded access to energy to unleash human ingenuity in support of innovating toward an equitable, low-carbon global energy system.” https://thebreakthrough.org/articles/our-high-energy-planet

      • The Tesla S with a 100 kWh battery costs some $10 in the US to charge and has a range of some 500 km. Daisy’s Suzuki Vitara turbo diesel wagon has a 55 liter tank (US$40 to fill) and a range of some 800 km. I imagine you would charge an EV preferentially at off peak rates.

      • The 55 gallon tank costs $50. The Tesla battery, $12,000. The tank will last 100 years. The battery, not so much.

      • The average price for household electricity in the US is $0.15. So, $0.15 per kWh. $15 per charge, assuming a 100% efficient charger, which doesn’t exist. The Devil is always in the details you never provide.

      • “Li-ion has 99 percent charge efficiency…”
        https://batteryuniversity.com/index.php/learn/article/bu_808b_what_causes_li_ion_to_die

        And having checked prior to commenting – I am confident of my ground.

        “In 2019, the U.S. annual average retail price of electricity was about 10.54¢ per kilowatthour (kWh). 16 Dec 2020” EIA

        And as I said – the contents of the tank last for 800 km in Daisy’s hyper efficient and very driveable AllGrip Suzuki 1500 cc turbo diesel. The fuel cost for Daisy – if she were in the US – is $0.05/km – for the Tesla it is $0.02/km. There’s a break even point in there somewhere. And batteries are getting cheaper, more durable and more energy dense.

        And if you want to get snarky about it – it is very basic engineering thinking. So get your facts right and develop better analytical skills.

      • R.I.E – not sure why you don’t use this year’s electricity price. Maybe you have a time machine?

        https://www.statista.com/statistics/263492/electricity-prices-in-selected-countries/

      • RIE – I always have to watch the pea under the cup with you. I referring to the efficiency of the battery CHARGER – the actual device consuming the $0.15 / kWh electricity. It ain’t 100% or even 99%.

      • Diesel in the US currently is $2.68 and over 20% of that is taxes. It would be $2.14 without tax and her cost would be closer to $0.037.

        And after the clueless lefties force everyone to use electricity for cars and it comes mostly from windmills and solar – the price of diesel will be nothing more than a sweet, sweet memory.

      • Figures lie and liars figure. Then there is all the zealous snark in defense of groupthink memes. A surefire diagnostic. I used the 2019 average retail price from the US EIA. Jim’s ‘statista’ figures were released in June 2020 and it’s not clear what it is. And I assume that diesel and gas taxes pay for roads.

        I was wondering what the point of all this is – then I went back and it started with Jim’s inaccurate and pointless claims – it makes negligible difference to the point – it is quibbling at the edges. A little higher cost for electricity and something about diesel taxes is beside the point. Nor is the efficiency of chargers anywhere near the critical problem. There is already a steep fuel price differential between fossil fuels in ICE and grid electricity used to charge EV’s – and that is only getting steeper. I used Daisy’s hyper efficient turbo diesel as an example. I used 15km/liter – but I have got it up to 19.3 on long country trips – beating Daisy’s record.

        For me the key EV limitation is – well the up front cost – and the time it takes to charge. These things are marketed to citified yuppies and dinks. That may not always be so. Plus I live in Central Queensland where distances are far and dusty and charging stations few. It’s Clancy country. I drive a 3.8L Pajero work horse.

        And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
        (And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar)
        Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
        “Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are.”
        Banjo Patterson – 1889 – Clancy of the Overflow

        Home sweet home… It’s a hard life… But just on charger efficiency…

        “The researchers built what is known as a Level 2 charger, which plugs into a wall outlet and converts electricity into a form more suitable for electric cars. What sets apart the new charger is an efficiency of 97%, more than 3% over the average for these chargers. The charger used power switches based on gallium-nitride transistors, wide bandgap semiconductors that operate at higher voltages and temperatures than silicon. With these components, supplied by GaN Systems, the charger achieved a 2.6 kW per hour power density.” https://www.electronicdesign.com/power-management/article/21801273/electric-vehicle-charger-hits-new-efficiency-level

      • The EV movement is not based on market driven economics, it is based on political manipulations by the loony left in investment circles, corporations, and government. I wouldn’t want to try to escape a hurricane in one of Tesla’s vehicles. No, that’s OK, I’ll take my family in a gasoline powered vehicle outfitted with extra gasoline.

        The entire EV movement just nuts. A solution looking for a problem where none exists.

      • As I said – these things are marketed to citified yuppies and dinks. That may not always be so. Grumpy old contrarians not so much. I’m sure Elon Musk will miss your business Jim.

      • jim2 The liquid fueled CC plant I was on achieved 47.5% efficiency 20yrs+ ago (and I tweaked down the temp limits to extend life – effcy would have been more). Cut out transmission losses, it would still be better than the average efficiency of the average car.
        Take also into consideration that where space is available one may be charging the battery quite cheaply at home (again considering cost versus investment for the charging system. Solar panels plus necessary inverter are becoming cheap and readily available). All it takes is for one to help himself.
        I see there was discussion on battery cost. Very valid, but what is the cost of battery replacement on the Chinese model (- at that price don’t bother; get a new car)? It is said ‘price is a policy’ (it was so when purchasing the CC plant).
        However EV’s require a sensible energy supplier (CNN featured one and I reversed the TV to halt and examine their plant– very nice and sensible).

      • melitamegalithic –

        1. Could you explain what you mean by “sensible” energy supplier?

        2. If the left has its way, windmills and solar panels will rule the day and I’m betting the price of electricity will be a good deal higher. You will have to, from what I’ve read, triple electricity output to include all EVs. The cost of all that vs just keep using ICE vehicles? (Not a good comparison, I’m thinking.)

        3. If you want to supply all of your electricity needs yourself, from say solar panels, how big would your installation have to be to include a car that yields the same mobility we have today with gasoline engines.

      • jim2:
        1 ‘sensible supplier’. There are many factors for one to consider, but I mention two here. A supplier with a plant that is complementary to the ‘site’ (ie customer base and other plant) and of reliable design. And security of fuel supply.
        I mentioned a supplier featured by CNN. Their design was dual fuel and with enough fuel reserve on site. For different reasons those were two features I had opted for decades ago (why: liquid fuel cost is cyclic. Buying at low demand has great savings, and I had storage facilities, plus the possibility of long delay in supplies). But each case its own considerations. Plus the fact that power plants have lifecycle times of decades. Nuclear much longer.

        2 There are feasible options of augmenting a power base. Wind, solar, hydro, inlet fogging on CC plant in hot regions, etc. could be advantageous when incorporated profitably (financially and ecologically). EV’s for inter-city transport can both be cost effective plus cut out some of the smog (even here in a very small area (17×9 mls) the daily pall disappeared with Covid) . However the fossil plant is definitely here for the foreseeable years.
        3. Extreme positions always fail. Mix and match. Intercity, the Chinese runabout is a good option – and likely profitable-, But for the heavy duty, the old ICE horse will still be there. But it will not be idling for hours in traffic. But again each case its own considerations. For most times the EV will help the power provider during the night.

      • !00% wind an solar is a hypothetical – a straw man – it is not remotely feasible or desirable.

      • melitamegalithic – as long as EVs are a choice and not mandated by the government or corporation, the I’m OK with them. It’s when I no longer have a choice that I won’t like it.

      • “melitamegalithic – as long as EVs are a choice and not mandated by the government or corporation, the I’m OK with them. It’s when I no longer have a choice that I won’t like it.”

        Don’t forget… not OK with them if our taxes subsidize them. I don’t mind federal R&D support, but if EV’s are a good thing, let them do it the old fashioned way – by making a profit.

      • Excellent point, Meso.

      • jim2, mesocyclone: Agreed – in principle-. However the issues are somewhat more complicated. ‘Free choice’ and the ‘common good’ don’t always go hand in hand. A society makes rules for itself, some good, some distasteful.
        To keep to the subject, a reliable electrical supply is a common good (electricity has pervaded everyone’s life, that has made us/life depend on it.) City pollution also effects all residents, and there is a big cost to it health-wise (Beijing residents have long been used to masks). Where should the balance be socially. Can EV’s help – somehow-? I think so.

        But then the ‘Lemming mentality’ can also be pervasive.

      • “To keep to the subject, a reliable electrical supply is a common good (electricity has pervaded everyone’s life, that has made us/life depend on it.)”
        I don’t think anyone doubts that. It’s one of the reasons that large expenditures on green energy are so doubtful – they demonstrable raise the cost of energy to everyone.

        But, the real question is how to assure the supply with minimal government intervention, since the more intervention, the less efficient most systems get, and the more prone to regulatory capture and other forms of corruption.

        Texas went the market route, but as PE mentions, failed to do it right – they didn’t create a capacity market. And, by failing to put in price circuit-breakers, a crisis caused money flows that were as damaging as the blackout. Why they did it wrong, I don’t know, but I’ve read allegations that it was done to help the big money wind interests, which wouldn’t surprise me. T. Boone Pickens is a big name in Texas, and a huge investor in wind, for example.

        ” City pollution also effects all residents, and there is a big cost to it health-wise (Beijing residents have long been used to masks). Where should the balance be socially. Can EV’s help – somehow-? I think so.””

        City pollution is a local problem, so let the cities and states deal with it. When the feds get involved, it is overkill, and it results in a failure to account for local conditions – resulting in such absurdities as low flow shower heads mandated in areas where water is readily available and requires little energy to deliver.

        EV’s might indeed help with city pollution, although already mandated emissions controls have made a big difference. I say that as one who lived in LA in the 70’s and has seen the difference. My problem with EV’s is that taxpayers nationwide are being forced to subsidize them, and the driving force in the US is not pollution, but rather CO2 emissions reduction. The latter is absurd, given that the rest of the globe (other than Europe) isn’t going to play along, putting all the costs on us and the benefits mostly on them.

  128. Solar power homes were a net benefit during the Texas winter storm.
    “Just as important as the performance of individual solar modules is the impact that solar had on easing a home’s demand on the grid during the electricity emergency. Before and after the storm and crisis (see Feb 9, 10, 20, 21, 22 in Figure 2) you can see that, on average, solar homes had prolonged periods of negative grid demand – they put more energy onto the grid than they pulled from it.

    During the storm and extreme freeze, that flipped. Solar could not fully provide all the energy that freezing families needed.

    But it helped a lot. During daylight hours, solar reduced customer grid demand 37%. If you include nighttime hours (when, of course, the sun doesn’t shine), these homes showed 7% less grid demand.”
    https://www.pecanstreet.org/2021/02/solarstorm/

    • Joe. - the non climate scientist

      Solar was a blessing during the freeze?

      It was solid clouds or dark nights from Saturday until Thursday

      Zero sunlight for most of the state for 5 days – at least not here in Dallas and most of north texas

      • The numbers are what they are. Pecan Street has direct access to hundreds of solar homes with 1 second resolution on production and usage. PV by itself is not what’s important. It’s how it fits in with a modern smart home and that it is less of a load on the system during extreme weather events. Just wait till we have another 3-4 month drought and you will see how valuable zero water (wind & PV) energy is.

    • Joe. – the non climate scientist,
      Do use smartmetertexas.com? Let’s compare meter readings.

      • Typo: Do [you] use smartmetertexas.com

      • joe - the non climate scientist

        https://www.eia.gov/beta/electricity/gridmonitor/expanded-view/electric_overview/balancing_authority/ERCO/GenerationByEnergySource-14/edit

        Pecan street is an advocacy organization, as such, its comments should be addressed with an appropriate level of skepticism. The article is highly misleading, if not downright dishonest. As I previously mentioned and which you already know, most. if not all, of north Texas was under cloud cover from Thursday the 11th through late Wednesday , the 17th. In the north Texas area, there was snow cover from Sunday morning 14th through Thursday early afternoon the 18th.

        Solar panels produce virtually zero electricity at night, when it is cloudy and when the solar panels are covered with snow.

        As the attached link covers all of Texas which shows, Solar produced at less than 20% capacity across the entire state from the 10th through the 14th, on Monday through thursday morning, solar production was approx 40%-45% of capacity coming almost entirely from the southern part of the state.

        The rolling blackouts began midday Monday, the 15th when solar was producing at most 40% of capacity.
        In sum, pecan street’s claim that solar panels in Texas , at least in the North Texas, provided a usable amount , if any, electricity to a home owner to be highly misleading.

      • joe – the non climate scientist,
        I posted a graph of my electricity production and use for the period 12-19.
        https://judithcurry.com/2021/02/18/assigning-blame-for-the-blackouts-in-texas/#comment-944151
        Let’s see your home data. It’s on smartmetertexas.com
        The point I was making was that homes with PV systems perform better on average than your typical Texas home during weather extremes. I attribute most of that to better attention to insulation and energy efficiency. More homes like mine are going to be on the grid and this deep freeze will only accelerate the process. Yes the world will still need FF energy for decades but the incremental demand will be met with more renewable energy.
        Have you read the latest earnings reports of the RE sector? Even Exxon put 2 new ‘green’ members on their board of directors today. Which way is the wind blowing?

      • mesocyclone

        “Yes the world will still need FF energy for decades but the incremental demand will be met with more renewable energy.”

        Are you a soothsayer, or are did base this on political trends? There’s no reason to do it except for such reasons.

        Yes, a few more people will have their own solar cells, and maybe batteries. And if the Democrats get crazy enough, all of us will have to get them to be able to even start to afford electricity.

        Otherwise, what magical technological development leads to your optimism?

        “Even Exxon put 2 new ‘green’ members on their board of directors today. Which way is the wind blowing?””

        Exxon is looking at the political winds. It will do what it has to do in a political environment that is hostile to rational energy policies.

  129. Pingback: Facebook Missing the Context in Its Phony "Missing Context" LabelingNatural Gas Now

  130. Getting hard to keep up with the conversation on this blog since almost every post I make lands in moderation.
    Solar power homes were a net benefit during the Texas winter storm.
    Reposting this without link to source web site (Pecan St. organization):

    “Just as important as the performance of individual solar modules is the impact that solar had on easing a home’s demand on the grid during the electricity emergency. Before and after the storm and crisis (see Feb 9, 10, 20, 21, 22 in Figure 2) you can see that, on average, solar homes had prolonged periods of negative grid demand – they put more energy onto the grid than they pulled from it.

    During the storm and extreme freeze, that flipped. Solar could not fully provide all the energy that freezing families needed.

    But it helped a lot. During daylight hours, solar reduced customer grid demand 37%. If you include nighttime hours (when, of course, the sun doesn’t shine), these homes showed 7% less grid demand.”

  131. First, Judith you nailed the issue. Believe the way to fix the issue is to allow the buyer to deal with the issues of the power source. For the true believers in Green Energy, when the windmills stop, their energy should stop too. Let the buyer experience the full consequences of their belief and choice. For those who chose nuclear, coal, or gas, the power can stay on.

    • But you would still share your pollution with them. That is not a valid argument.
      Extreme positions never lead to a satisfactory solution. Its like putting the proverbial camel’s hump between it legs. :)

      • Society also shares the excess goods and services made possible by a generous supply of electricity with the poor, so it’s not all negative externalities.

      • That’s as it should be.
        More so, because electricity has impacted everybody’s life, whether they chose it or not. IMO the poor got poorer because of that. But the bigger danger for all will be the extreme dependence on something that may suddenly disappear. There are many reasons why that can possibly happen.

      • Whoa! How on Earth did electricity make the poorer more poor? If anything, it has elevated their existence. Would you rather they burn cow dung? Coal? What?

        The poor are poor for a myriad of reasons. Mental illness, addiction, low IQ, bad luck, generations brought up without parents, perpetual bad social milieu. It’s not just one thing.

        It’s true that earlier living by a coal plant exposed those around it to some bad pollutants. That’s not the case nearly as much as now. Recall how early coal burning in cities and trains was carried out. Everyone got a dose. It got better over time, and continues to do so.

        Since you aren’t specific, I can only guess you may be talking about ecosystem collapse or some such. Asteroid, yes. CO2, not so much.

      • “Poor” is many times a relative thing. Many times it does not even matter. (You might have been exposed to the TV series ‘Fraggle Rock’. The king of the trash heap was far richer than the one scrounging under the other king’s table for scraps – with cats.) In any society an improvement that is not shared equally extends the difference between rich and poor.
        An example of how electricity is now seen as a measure of ‘wealth’. Storms destroy homes. The media comment about the state of the storm victims is not that they no longer have a home, but -many times- that they don’t even have electricity.
        No one had electricity 130 years ago.

        You are right; I’m not being specific. But I had other things in mind; not asteroids and not CO2. But just as ugly. (sometimes the idiot in your camp is worse than the enemy outside – said from my own personal experience).

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  133. It is time for Biden to step up to the plate – as you say – and invest billions in geothermal research and development – kickstarting new projects in proven fields – and on partnerships bringing new geothermal technologies to market. After all – there is a problem and no one particularly cares if you think there isn’t.

    “Achieving California’s 33% renewable generation goal will substantially increase uncertainty and variability in grid operations. Geothermal power plant operators could mitigate this variability and uncertainty by operating plants in a more flexible mode. Plant operators would be compensated for flexibility through payments for ancillary services such as frequency regulation, load following, and spinning reserve.” Edmunds and Sontorio, LLNL, Ancillary Service Revenue Potential for Geothermal Generators in California

    The resource nationwide is as much as 100 GWe. There seems to have been a four year hiatus in success stories.


    https://www.energy.gov/eere/geothermal/listings/hydrothermal-success-stories

  134. Now it turns out that one week before the freeze and energy crisis, Texas asked the federal government for emergency dispensation to exceed environmentally determined limits on electricity generation?

    And was denied?

    For the new Biden administration, keeping to green limits all the time was more important than keeping the lights on.

    https://www.iceagenow.info/dept-of-energy-blocked-texas-from-increasing-power-ahead-of-killer-storm/

  135. David Wojick:

     “My personal conjecture, just to join the speculation crowd, is that a big frequency drop caused a mini-outage-cascade around 1:55 am Monday morning, automatically tripping off at least four big gas fired plants. Re cascades, big blackouts can be triggered by a frequency or voltage drop that causes one big generator to automatically trip off. This shock causes others to then auto trip in a cascade. Similar to stock market crashes causes by cascading automatic sell orders……..

     “On the financial side renewables are big business. More to the point, the utilities are making huge amounts of money building wind and solar facilities. The more they spend the more they make, as long as the regulators approve and they are pushing for renewables. For example, Xcel led the way several years ago and now they have proposed $8 billion in new capacity for Colorado.

    “I am sure that with all this revenue coming in the utility engineers have long been told by their management to keep quiet about the perils of intermittency. I see hints of it hidden away in the back pages of long reports, but that is about all. The engineers know that intermittent renewables are destabilizing.”

    https://www.cfact.org/2021/02/28/we-may-never-learn-the-truth-about-the-texas-blackout/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=we-may-never-learn-the-truth-about-the-texas-blackout

  136. After consultations with Democrat friends, over green tea, the conclusion is obvious: The blackouts required teamwork — collusion — Donald Trump colluding with the Russians — the same Russians that fixed the 2016 election to make Trump win.

    This time the Trump-Russian collusion was payback for Democrat 2020 election fraud — reminding Americans that Russia still has lots of power. The blackout was a loud, cold warning that Trump and his fellow Russians will be back in 2024.

    This theory was tested at a favorite Democrat website, and there was a 97% consensus that it is correct. As you all know, 97% is a magic number in science. If 97% agree on anything, the issue is settled. So the cause of the blackouts is settled.

    The blackouts had nothing to do with trivial things such as low wind power or the Texas energy infrastructure not winterized.
    It was the Russians!
    This is a serious analysis, not satire.

  137. Pingback: GLEANINGS FROM THE PASSING WEEK … (Politically Uncorrected) | jcurtisblog

  138. Changes in ERCOT won’t be optional!

    Texas’s largest electric-power cooperative filed for bankruptcy, saying it is overwhelmed by the more than $2.1 billion in sudden bills stemming from the extreme winter weather that blanketed the state last month.

    The bankruptcy filing by Brazos Electric Power Cooperative Inc. on Monday suggests that while the power blackouts in Texas are over, the process of settling massive bills stemming from the energy crisis is just beginning as the financial fallout spreads.

    Brazos on Monday said it had “no choice” but to file for chapter 11 protection after receiving invoices from the state’s grid operator to settle the cost of purchasing energy during the weeklong period when freezing temperatures knocked power plants offline and left millions of customers without electricity for days.

    “Simply put, Brazos Electric suddenly finds itself caught in a liquidity trap that it cannot solve with its current balance sheet,” Clifton Karnei, the company’s executive vice president and general manager, said in a sworn declaration.

    The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s power grid, said on Friday that some power retailers had failed to pay for energy they purchased during the winter freeze, indicating they lacked the means to settle their bills.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/texas-blackout-bills-plunge-power-supplier-brazos-into-bankruptcy-11614612602

  139. I have a comment concerning a bankruptcy of Texas’s largest electric-power cooperative in moderation. I don’t see the “trigger” word. Sign me: Confused.

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