Abbott Declares Electric Grid Reform an Emergency & Texas House Announces Hearings Next Week: 'This is a Very Serious Emergency'

4.1 Million Texans without power for 2nd Day, as Texans brace for another sub-freezing evening without power

Texas Insider Report: AUSTIN, Texas – “The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” said Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this morning, adding that, "Reviewing the preparations and decisions by ERCOT is an emergency (legislative) item so we can get a full picture of what caused this problem and find long-term solutions.

“Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable,” said Abbott.

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan also requested that both the Texas House State Affairs Committee, and the Energy Resources Committee hold a Thursday, February 25th joint oversight hearing to analyze the factors that led to statewide blackouts affecting more than 4.3 million of Texans across the state. 
 
“I’m asking these two vital House Committees to convene a joint hearing on February 25th for the express purpose of helping Texans understand what went wrong and how we can prevent these conditions from happening again,” said Speaker Phelan (right.)
 
"We must cut through the finger-pointing and hear directly from stakeholders about the factors that contributed to generation staying down at a time when families needed it most, as well as what our state can do to correct these issues and what steps regulators and grid operators are taking to safeguard our electric grid,” Phelan said.

“The statewide blackouts raise questions about the reliability of our electric grid, and its ability to withstand extreme weather events in the future,” said House State Affairs Committee Chairman Chris Paddie. "I look forward to a thorough and exhaustive review of this critical matter.”

“This joint hearing will provide an opportunity for all Texans to hear from industry officials, regulators, and grid operators to get an explanation and understanding of what went wrong and steps they are all taking to make certain this never happens again. I look forward to working with my House colleagues and committee members to get to the bottom of this critical issue for all Texans,” said House Energy Resources Committee Chairman Craig Goldman.

During a Tuesday Conference Call organized to brief Texas State lawmakers about the latest developments across Texas, ERCOT representatives said they had no reliable estimate for full restoration of power.

ERCOT CEO Bill Magness said Tuesday that 45,000 megawatts (MW) of power generation were unavailable due to over 70 generation plants not working. One MW can power between 500 and 650 individual homes.

Only after being pushed by lawmakers on the call did ERCOT officials admit it could be “days” before power is restored for all customers across the state. And, in an email to legislators ERCOT noted:
 
"Even if there's good progress, returning to normal conditions is going to take additional time,” said ERCOT officials.

This is a Very Serious Emergency

In one of the areas of the state most severly impacted by the outages, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins declared a Countywide "State of Emergency," and asked non-essential businesses to delay opening their businesses until 10 a.m. Tuesday. Jenkins order also asked manufacturing and industrial businesses that “use electricity in their operation or processes” to not open and remain closed for at least Tuesday, if not longer.

And weather forecasts project that worsening overnight winter weather conditions will complicate the crises.
 
“This is a very serious emergency,” said Judge Jenkins during an emergency Monday evening press conference.

“My full focus is on this emergency, and yours should be too.” said Jenkins, asking Dallas residents – as have many other State & Local Elected Officials – to set their thermostats to no more than 68 degrees.

In various locations across the state, such as Ft. Worth and the suburban communities north of Austin, problems related to the heating issues have been compounded by water treatment plants losing power, resulting in over 100,000 Ft. Worth residents receiving a boil water notice. The boil order is expected to last until at least midday Wednesday. Even after water service returns, officials say they will need 24 hours to test the water.

With little clarity on the situation, Texans continue to face prolonged blackouts – 1,000s of which are approaching 48 hours straight – as frozen wind turbines, inoperable gas plants, and  out-of-commission gas, coal, and nuclear plants turned a record winster storm into a blackout for upward of 4.4 million people in Texas.

Experts say Cause of Prolonged Power Outages are Threefold

First, with severe winter weather conditions and record-setting low and freezing tempuratures, typically reliable natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy power plants have become inoperable, and are unable to contribute to the ERCOT power grid.

Second, severe winter weather conditions have caused wind turbines in West Texas to freeze and become inoperable, bringing their generating power down to less than a fifth of their anticipated or promised capacity. Solar power generation is also underperforming significantly during the freeze, both in capacity and projected grid contribution.

Nearly half of the wind power generating facilities, which normally contribute to Texas' ERCOT power grid, have been offline since the weekend due to frozen wind turbines in West Texas, say grid operators.

This has led to widespread power outages in cities such as Austin – where locally-driven green and renewable energy intitatives have led the city's electric monopoly to enter into contracts that provide up to 20% of the city's energy supply from such sources – and caused 42% of the city's residents to suddenly be without power from early Monday morning well into the day Tuesday.

Third, during severe cold weather emergencies, the difference between a “comfortable” inside temperature and the actual outside tempuratures have risen to more than 50 or 60 degrees, which requires a far great amount of energy to offset than those typically seen during summer months when air conditioning surges attempt to offset a tempurature differential of 20-to-30 degrees.

With record-breaking tempuratures falling into the teens and single digits in so many of Texas' major cities and 254 counties statewide, the heating and electricity demands have forced the ERCOT grid to work twice as hard as in summer months in order to meet consumer's heating demands. 

As a result, Texas – known as the world’s 4th-largest energy producer – has been unable to generate enough power to keep up with its own statewide heating demands. An unprepared for snowstorm knocked out 40% of the electrical grid’s generation.

Until lost capacity returns and each of the various electricity generating facilities come back online, Texan's situation cannot improve.

So What Now?

With substantial government-provided subsidies leading to a rush in wind and solar energy development – and with recent "green new deal" type focus across the nation and in some of Texas' largest cities – wind power has been the fastest-growing source of energy in Texas. In 2015, wind power generated 11% of the electricity put on Texas' energy grid. In 2020 it supplied 23% and overtook coal as the system's 2nd-largest source of energy, following only natural gas.

In the Capitol city of Austin, climate change and green power initiatives have led to wind power comprising roughly 20% of the city's energy supply.
 
But the blizzard of 2021 proves America has become distracted, and has not been taking "National Energy Security" seriously enough.

The concept of "Energy Security" – championed under President Donald Trump and now being attacked under President Joe Biden – has many aspects. The most fundamental is that America requires enough reliable and affordable energy (of whatever type) so that its citizens don’t freeze to death during cold spells like the one currently wreaking havoc across the continent.

"I thank my partners in the Texas House and Senate for acting quickly on this challenge, and will work with them to enhance Texas’ electric grid and ensure that our state never experiences power outages like this again,” said Gov. Abbott earlier this morning while making the review of ERCOT operations and managment an "emergency" legislative item.

The blizzard of 2021 proves that during extreme winter weather – and possibly for extreme summer weather conditions as well – solar panels and wind turbines are of little or no value to the nation's electric grid... to providing enough reliable and affordable energy to keep the country powered and its citizens safe.

This blizzard of 2021 proves that the nation's natural gas powered electricity grid is part of the nation's critical infrastructure – and that we either power it, or shut it down, at our peril.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott by N/A is licensed under N/A
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