ORIGINAL REPORTING: Texas Messes With Itself, Makes A Mess
Texas must increase ties to the national grid and DER to avoid another power catastrophe, analysts say; Planning for inter-regional transmission and distributed resources could do what ERCOT’s competitive, energy-only market didn’t – keep the heat and lights on, energy advisors say.
Herman K. Trabish, March 2, 2021 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: When the power in Texas goes off this summer or next winter, it’s leaders will be able to say they would have fixed the power system if politics had not been in the way.
Texans were left in the cold and dark this February, following extreme cold weather that had the Texas competitive energy market unable to prevent deadly power failures. Leaving behind its historic commitment to power system independence and joining the larger U.S. grid can relieve some of the consequences of extreme weather events Texas is likely to see again, many energy analysts in and out of Texas said.
"We designed this system for Ozzie and Harriet weather and we now have Mad Max," said Texas energy consultant Alison Silverstein, a former Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) adviser, during a Feb. 24 webinar cohosted by the Advanced Power Alliance and Conservative Texans for Energy Innovation. "Texas is now reaping the bitter harvest of avoiding federal transmission regulation and state energy sector regulation."
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) competitive, energy-only market "seemed like it was saving money until last week, when losses equaled the cost of three years of generation," agreed Rice University Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Daniel Cohan. "The free-market ideology ignores risks. Most people want to keep the lights on more than to make a market theory work."
All types of generation, especially natural gas, failed, analysts have widely acknowledged. Leaders must enforce weatherization and build cooperation among the PUCT, ERCOT and municipal authorities to address future crises, many have added. But for its best future, Texas should also consider expanding demand-side resources and connect with out-of-state markets, because the benefits can justify the investments, analysts said.
The average Dallas, Texas, low temperature for February is 39°F. But from Feb. 14-16, 2021, temperatures were significantly lower. On Feb. 11, power sector agencies began preparing for demand spikes, according to the PUCT. ERCOT asked customers to limit usage on Feb. 14 and announced generation capacity losses and outages starting Feb. 15. Boil water notices and reports of outage-related deaths soon followed.
Early on Feb. 15, when system frequency fell to 59.3 Hertz, the grid was less than 5 minutes from a cascading statewide blackout, ERCOT CEO Bill Magness said at a Feb. 24 ERCOT board meeting. ERCOT called a load shed event that lasted 70.5 hours, according to ERCOT's documentation. Peak load and outages were significantly higher than Texas has seen, said ICF Wholesale Power Market Advisory Manager Patrick Milligan. The bulk of the "missing capacity" was from natural gas and coal generation outages… click here for more