ORIGINAL REPORTING: What The Texas Power System Needs
'A terrible idea': Texas legislators fight over renewables' role in power crisis, aiming to avert a repeat; Texans may face future freezes if lawmakers blame renewables and fail to set winterization standards and create market-based reliability protections.
Herman K. Trabish, May 17, 2021 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: The legendary Texas attachment to its power system independence and Old Energy, as detailed here, has not remitted and is likely to be at the core of future events similar to the one described in this story.
In efforts to prevent a repeat of the February disaster that left millions without electricity, Texas policymakers continue to disagree over the cause and appropriate mitigation efforts. The blackouts from the storm led to spikes in power prices and the deaths of at least 151 people.
Republican leadership was quick to criticize renewables for the role they played in the blackouts, with Gov. Greg Abbott, R, claiming on national television that renewables caused the outages. They "cannot be dispatched" by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and therefore "cannot be relied upon," said state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R, who chairs the Senate Business and Commerce committee. Hancock sponsored Senate Bill (SB) 1278, which would impose reliability costs on "intermittent generation."
But the grid operator's post-event data showed Texas renewables over-performed winter forecasts by 6.34 GW while natural gas underperformed by 15.8 GW, according to an assessment of ERCOT data by economics professor Peter Cramton, who resigned from his position as independent director of ERCOT's board after the grid failure.
"There is no reason to attack renewables with costs for reliability that subsidize fossil fuels," Cramton said. "But we cannot accept this critical infrastructure failure. Regulators must reform the natural gas system and design reliability into the transitioning Texas electricity market."
The many bills addressing power system weatherization and ERCOT's revenue shortfall divide Texas energy analysts and policymakers like Cramton and Sen. Hancock. There is little disagreement, however, over skepticism of the $8.3 billion proposal by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE) to operate emergency natural gas generation outside Texas's deregulated power market rules.
But beyond punishing specific resources and undoing deregulation, there are available and affordable solutions for reliable electricity service, many in the debate said. For example, a flurry of legislation in the state legislative session ending May 31 proposed solutions that would better weatherize the power grid, improve reliability requirements and resolve power providers' $2.9 billion debt to ERCOT… click here for more