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Blaming the Wind for the Mess in Texas Is Painfully Absurd

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Floridatexan

Floridatexan
By Bill McKibben

February 18, 2021

Blaming the Wind for the Mess in Texas Is Painfully Absurd McKibben-TexasOutageWindTurbines-2
Electric service trucks line up after a snow storm
Failures in renewable-energy generation accounted for only a small percentage of the state’s recent power outages.Photograph by Ron Jenkins / Getty


Sometimes, all you need is a map. In the wake of this week’s power failures in Texas, which have left millions without heat in subfreezing conditions, right-wing politicians and news networks decided that the emergency was down to “frozen wind turbines,” a phrase that has now been repeated ad infinitum on all the various ganglia that make up the conservative “information” network. The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, which has managed to be wrong about energy and climate for more than four decades, put it like this: “Gas and power prices have spiked across the central U.S. while Texas regulators ordered rolling blackouts Monday as an Arctic blast has frozen wind turbines.”

Governor Greg Abbott took time out from failing to deal with the emergency that had imperilled many in his state to tell Fox News that “this shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America.” Not to be outdone, on Tuesday afternoon, Representative Dan Crenshaw, a Republican who represents Texas’s second congressional district, including parts of Houston, tweeted that “this is what happens when you force the grid to rely in part on wind as a power source.” The Agriculture Commissioner, Sid Miller, who is “known for his right-wing Facebook posts that have, in the past, spread misinformation and amplified conspiracy theories,” the Texas Tribune reported, “also posted an unvarnished view of wind energy on Facebook: ‘We should never build another wind turbine in Texas.’ ”

The usual responsible voices eventually responded with a large amount of data showing that Abbott, Fox, and the rest were completely wrong. Failures in renewable-energy generation accounted for a small percentage of the outages. The biggest problems were in “thermal”—which is to say fossil-fuel—generating plants and systems; simply put, natural-gas pipelines froze in the cold, as even Governor Abbott admitted. His own energy regulators at the ill-named Electric Reliability Council of Texas explained that “it appears that a lot of the generation that has gone offline today has been primarily due to issues on the natural-gas system.” Or, as Michael Webber, an energy-resources professor at the University of Texas at Austin, put it, “gas is failing in the most spectacular fashion right now.” (A nuclear power plant also went down, likely as a result of freezing temperatures shutting down cooling systems or sensors.)

VIDEO FROM THE NEW YORKER
“That’s Not Who We Are” Is the Wrong Reaction to the Attack on the Capitol

I’m glad that there were plenty of authorities to try to set the record straight, but, of course, the truth was still searching for the winter boots in the back of the garage by the time the falsehoods had spread across the Internet. It’s particularly annoying because the bad-faith nature of the whole idea should have been obvious to anyone with an iota of geographical knowledge. Besides Texas, the biggest producers of wind power in the country are Iowa, Oklahoma, Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, Illinois, Kansas, North Dakota, and California. Except for California, all these places are situated to the north of Texas, and deal with much harsher winters. The idea that wind turbines cannot deal with cold weather is, prima facie, ridiculous: countries with huge wind-power installations include Germany, France, and Italy, all of which have managed in the past to host the Winter Olympics—and Italy is planning to host them again, in 2026. People have developed plans for building giant wind farms in Greenland to feed the European Union and the United States. If cold weather somehow made it impossible for wind turbines to operate, you would think someone would have noticed by now.

Cold weather can, however, make it hard to operate wind turbines if you don’t plan for it—installations of “cold-weather kits” prevent icing and freezing—and it appears that the Texas authorities didn’t plan for much. State officials, it turns out, had been gleefully tweeting at California authorities for months, making fun of them for not planning well enough to prevent brownouts when heat waves struck the West Coast. But tweeting—and a deep and abiding faith in markets to solve all problems—seems not to have been a good strategy when faced with a severe cold snap.

A cold snap that, by the way, seems likely to be linked to the jet-stream collapse that comes when you warm the Arctic, as we have been doing by burning large quantities of fossil fuel. If you wanted to do something about that, you’d need more wind turbines. Funny about that.

https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/blaming-the-wind-for-the-mess-in-texas-is-ridiculous#intcid=_mab-simulations-oo-bottom-recirc-2_d2d6e124-d6bd-4b39-bb8e-4db5de8f3a6d_entity-topic-similarity-v2

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Telstar and zsomething like this post

PkrBum

PkrBum
An opinion piece from the New Yorker concerning a Texas issue... lol.

Telstar

Telstar
PkrBum wrote:An opinion piece from the New Yorker concerning a Texas issue...  lol.




An opinion on a Florida forum, concerning a Texas issue coming from a Michigan drug abuser...LOL.

Floridatexan and zsomething like this post

Floridatexan

Floridatexan

Top Texas Republicans on the ropes after tone-deaf storm response

The swaggering, Texas brand of free-market governance that’s central to the state’s political identity is taking a beating.

By MARC CAPUTO

02/19/2021 04:30 AM EST

"The brutal winter storm that turned Texas roads to ice, burst pipes across the state and left millions of residents shivering and without power has also damaged the reputations of three of the state’s leading Republicans.

Sen. Ted Cruz was discovered to have slipped off to Mexico on Wednesday night, only to announce his return when he was caught in the act. Gov. Greg Abbott came under fire over his leadership and misleading claims about the causes of the power outages. And former Gov. Rick Perry suggested Texans preferred power failures to federal regulation, a callous note in a moment of widespread suffering..."

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/02/19/texas-storm-response-cruz-abbott-perry-470109?utm_term=OZY&utm_campaign=pdb&utm_content=Saturday_02.20.21&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email

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Read the whole article, with video of mealy-mouth Cruz trying to explain away his trip to Cancun. The reason this is being picked up by national media is that the Texas GOP "leadership" has embarrassed themselves, not only in the US, but around the world. Texas is my home state, and I have family and friends all over, including frequent contact on Facebook with people I've known since grade school, high school and college. Many people across the state will lose everything because, not only is the power grid an embarrassment, the building codes suck.

Telstar and zsomething like this post

PkrBum

PkrBum
Pffft... Texas is a very appealing state because of its infrastructure, limited govt, and fiscal good sense.

Millions have moved there in just the last decade to escape other states govt overreach and mismanagement.

They sure as hell don't need more leftist policies those people fled.

Telstar

Telstar
PkrBum wrote:Pffft... Texas is a very appealing state because of its infrastructure, limited govt, and fiscal good sense.

Millions have moved there in just the last decade to escape other states govt overreach and mismanagement.

They sure as hell don't need more leftist policies those people fled.



So why are you still smelling up Michigan? Is it because that state respects closet queen, drug abusing, tennis ball boys like you? Do your friends and family a big favor by downing a gallon of Flint Michigan water. You may even end up in a place where souls think just like you do, with any luck. Twisted Evil

zsomething likes this post

Floridatexan

Floridatexan

Telstar and zsomething like this post

zsomething


We're at the point where conservative politicians have their base so brainwashed and trained like dancing spaniels that there is literally NO amount of abuse they can give 'em to make them stand up for themselves.

Guys like Cruz don't feel any obligation to even put on a good show of "serving the people" who voted for him, because he knows they've been taught to hate and fear Democrats so much that they'll keep voting for him anyway, no matter how much he pisses in their face.  They have no pride anymore, they'll do what they're told, so why waste the effort in putting on a good show for 'em?  They have no respect at all for their voters, so why NOT fly off to Cancun and avoid all the misery?

Republican voters have become so stupid and reactionary that they honestly don't deserve any better than they're getting.  They asked for this shit.  Unfortunately, there are good people in Texas who are having to suffer along with them all because they were outnumbered.

Floridatexan and Telstar like this post

Floridatexan

Floridatexan
zsomething wrote:We're at the point where conservative politicians have their base so brainwashed and trained like dancing spaniels that there is literally NO amount of abuse they can give 'em to make them stand up for themselves.

Guys like Cruz don't feel any obligation to even put on a good show of "serving the people" who voted for him, because he knows they've been taught to hate and fear Democrats so much that they'll keep voting for him anyway, no matter how much he pisses in their face.  They have no pride anymore, they'll do what they're told, so why waste the effort in putting on a good show for 'em?  They have no respect at all for their voters, so why NOT fly off to Cancun and avoid all the misery?

Republican voters have become so stupid and reactionary that they honestly don't deserve any better than they're getting.  They asked for this shit.  Unfortunately, there are good people in Texas who are having to suffer along with them all because they were outnumbered.

I joined a FB group called Joe Biden for Texas.  It's still going strong and it makes me hope for a better future there for my family and friends.  I don't know what to say about my brother...I think he's beyond hope.

Speaking of Cancun Cruz:

Blaming the Wind for the Mess in Texas Is Painfully Absurd TMW2021-02-24color

Telstar and zsomething like this post

Floridatexan

Floridatexan

Texas Gets Lay’d: How the Bush Family turned off the lights

by Greg Palast February 20, 2021

Maybe because Texas gave us that wet-lipped huckster Ted Cruz, you think the state deserves to freeze in the dark.

"I get that, but it’s not their fault, at least not the victims burning family heirlooms to stave off frostbite.

“What happened was entirely predictable,” power distribution expert attorney Beth Emory said of the blackouts. She told me this twenty years ago, after the first blackouts in Texas and California, following the cruel experiment called “deregulation” of the power industry.

Until 1992, the USA had just about the lowest electricity prices in the world and the most reliable system.

For a century, power companies had been limited by law to recovering their provable costs plus a “reasonable,” i.e. small, profit. But in 1992, George H. W. Bush, in the last gasps of his failed presidency, began to deregulate the industry.

“Deregulate” is a misnomer. “De-criminalize” describes it best. With the “free market” supposedly setting the price of power, Texas-based Enron was freed to use such techniques as “Ricochet,” “Get Shorty,” and “Death Star” to blow prices through the roof when weather shut down power plants. (This week was not the first game of Texas Gouge’m.)

Enron was not the only Lone Star power pirate. Houston Power & Light was “ramping” plants up and down at odd hours which whistleblowers said was deliberate.

Bush’s son “Shrub,” Texas Gov. George W. Bush, signed a law in 1999 forcing the state’s hapless customers to accept any price the “free” market dictated. Enron’s CEO Ken Lay showed his appreciation by becoming Baby Bush’s number one donor for Dubya’s presidential ambitions.

This week, wholesale electric prices in Texas, normally $50 per megawatt-hour, busted over $9,000/MWHR. Again. It happens with every cold snap and heat wave. One shop owner, Akilah Scott-Amos, showed the Daily Beast her electric bills which blew up from $34 per month to $450 for a single day. (Update: Akilah just reached out to us via Twitter and told us the balance she owes has now risen to a staggering $11,048.75 due to surge pricing!)..."

https://www.gregpalast.com/texas-gets-layd-how-the-bush-family-turned-off-the-lights/

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Telstar and zsomething like this post

PkrBum

PkrBum
Palast is a fraud and propagandist... completely unconcerned with facts while pursuing an agenda.

https://m.dailykos.com/stories/2007/5/26/339382/-

Telstar

Telstar
PkrBum wrote:Palast is a fraud and propagandist... completely unconcerned with facts while pursuing an agenda.

https://m.dailykos.com/stories/2007/5/26/339382/-



Glad to see you are reading Daily Kos instead of your usual source of propaganda, Stormfront and The Michigan Klansman. Twisted Evil

Floridatexan and zsomething like this post

Floridatexan

Floridatexan
PkrBum wrote:Pffft... Texas is a very appealing state because of its infrastructure, limited govt, and fiscal good sense.

Millions have moved there in just the last decade to escape other states govt overreach and mismanagement.

They sure as hell don't need more leftist policies those people fled.

STFU, you stupid SOB. I'm a native Texan. You claimed to be, but you're not. My home state was fine until the GOP took over the state, starting with George W Bush, then Rick Perry, then Greg Abbott. No Texas election can be trusted. The same can be said about Florida, beginning with Jeb Bush and resulting in the Supreme Court declaring his brother the winner of the election in 2000. As long as the GOP holds sway over Florida, or Texas. the country is screwed.

Telstar likes this post

PkrBum

PkrBum
Floridatexan wrote:
PkrBum wrote:Pffft... Texas is a very appealing state because of its infrastructure, limited govt, and fiscal good sense.

Millions have moved there in just the last decade to escape other states govt overreach and mismanagement.

They sure as hell don't need more leftist policies those people fled.

STFU, you stupid SOB.  I'm a native Texan.  You claimed to be, but you're not.  My home state was fine until the GOP took over the state, starting with George W Bush, then Rick Perry, then Greg Abbott.  No Texas election can be trusted.  The same can be said about Florida, beginning with Jeb Bush and resulting in the Supreme Court declaring his brother the winner of the election in 2000.  As long as the GOP holds sway over Florida, or Texas. the country is screwed.  

You stfu shrew. Your thinking is the rot that people flee for Texas. I'm more Texan than you could ever be... I was born in Austin and Sam Houston is in my family tree. You'd ruin Texas with your ideology. There's no state tax, no crippling debt, no business killing overregulation... yet. You'd change all of that and more. Why don't you just move to California or NY... they already suck... just like you like things. In the mean time reasonable people that still believe in individual rights and liberty will continue to move to Texas and Florida.

Telstar

Telstar
PkrBum wrote:
Floridatexan wrote:
PkrBum wrote:Pffft... Texas is a very appealing state because of its infrastructure, limited govt, and fiscal good sense.

Millions have moved there in just the last decade to escape other states govt overreach and mismanagement.

They sure as hell don't need more leftist policies those people fled.

STFU, you stupid SOB.  I'm a native Texan.  You claimed to be, but you're not.  My home state was fine until the GOP took over the state, starting with George W Bush, then Rick Perry, then Greg Abbott.  No Texas election can be trusted.  The same can be said about Florida, beginning with Jeb Bush and resulting in the Supreme Court declaring his brother the winner of the election in 2000.  As long as the GOP holds sway over Florida, or Texas. the country is screwed.  

You stfu shrew. Your thinking is the rot that people flee for Texas. I'm more Texan than you could ever be... I was born in Austin and Sam Houston is in my family tree. You'd ruin Texas with your ideology. There's no state tax, no crippling debt, no business killing overregulation... yet. You'd change all of that and more. Why don't you just move to California or NY... they already suck... just like you like things. In the mean time reasonable people that still believe in individual rights and liberty will continue to move to Texas and Florida.



LOL, Sam Houston wouldn't piss in your mouth if your lying tongue was on fire. Dogs will pee on your family tree when they bury your bones underneath it. No wonder the two fiery demons, The Puerto Rican and the French Cajun spit on you and treated you like the used tampon that you were then and you still are, after they divorced your sorry ass. Your short and stout tennis playing granny from New Zeland still claims she never heard of the drug abusing, closeted tennis queen incel from Michigan. Twisted Evil



Blaming the Wind for the Mess in Texas Is Painfully Absurd Sam_ho10

Floridatexan and zsomething like this post

Floridatexan

Floridatexan
PkrBum wrote:
Floridatexan wrote:
PkrBum wrote:Pffft... Texas is a very appealing state because of its infrastructure, limited govt, and fiscal good sense.

Millions have moved there in just the last decade to escape other states govt overreach and mismanagement.

They sure as hell don't need more leftist policies those people fled.

STFU, you stupid SOB.  I'm a native Texan.  You claimed to be, but you're not.  My home state was fine until the GOP took over the state, starting with George W Bush, then Rick Perry, then Greg Abbott.  No Texas election can be trusted.  The same can be said about Florida, beginning with Jeb Bush and resulting in the Supreme Court declaring his brother the winner of the election in 2000.  As long as the GOP holds sway over Florida, or Texas. the country is screwed.  

You stfu shrew. Your thinking is the rot that people flee for Texas. I'm more Texan than you could ever be... I was born in Austin and Sam Houston is in my family tree. You'd ruin Texas with your ideology. There's no state tax, no crippling debt, no business killing overregulation... yet. You'd change all of that and more. Why don't you just move to California or NY... they already suck... just like you like things. In the mean time reasonable people that still believe in individual rights and liberty will continue to move to Texas and Florida.

KMA, Peckerhead. My GGF on my mom's side grew up in Lytton Springs, SE of Austin. My GGF on my dad's side built the church and opened the King's Inn outside Kingsville, where I was born. One of my many cousins is CEO of the King Ranch. If Sam Houston is in your family tree, you have a few broken branches.

zsomething likes this post

PkrBum

PkrBum
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.borderreport.com/hot-topics/immigration/dozens-of-newly-released-migrants-test-positive-for-virus-hundreds-of-border-agents-are-south-texas-bound/amp/

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A confluence of immigration-related events are creating a surge of asylum-seekers in South Texas during this dangerous COVID-19 pandemic, and a South Texas lawmaker says the situation is increasing so rapidly that additional U.S. Border Patrol agents are being sent en masse to the region to assist, Border Report has learned.

In the Gulf Coast city of Brownsville, 108 migrants released during the past month have shown to be carrying the coronavirus, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said Wednesday. And he says that is putting the South Texas border community, as well as the volunteers who help them, and the border agents, at risk.

“They tested some of the people who got put at the bus station in Brownsville and according to the rapid tests, about 108 tested positive. So basically that creates a situation that they are letting people who are positive (for coronavirus) get on buses and with the permission of Homeland Security they can go anywhere in the United States,” Cuellar said during an online news conference.

His comments prompted outcry from Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who late Wednesday blamed the Biden administration on social media and called the release of migrants “a callous act.”

Felipe Romero, spokesman for the City of Brownsville, confirmed to Border Report late Wednesday that 108 migrants who were released at the downtown bus station in Brownsville over the past month by DHS officials have tested positive for the coronavirus. He said that nonprofit organizations, such as Team Brownsville and Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, have stepped in to offer hotel rooms to the migrants for them to quarantine. But he said the city cannot stop the migrants from traveling because they have been issued documents by Department of Homeland Security allowing them north into the interior.

“We let them know and we guide them with CDC guidelines and explain to them that it’s really important that they isolate and quarantine, but I want to make clear that we can’t contain them. We can’t stop them,” Romero said.

The City of Brownsville had requested last month and received 10,000 COVID rapid test kits from Abbott’s office. Romero said they have not used the entire supply and said every migrant who appears at the bus station is being tested, as long as they have supplies.

Floridatexan

Floridatexan
Absolute bullshit.  Abbott's lame talking point after he completely botched the power grid fiasco and decided to divert by completely opening up the state, pandemic be damned.  And these power companies have no intention of forgiving the ridiculous power bills for the citizens of Texas.

Blaming the Wind for the Mess in Texas Is Painfully Absurd 23335

Telstar likes this post

Floridatexan

Floridatexan

“Power Companies Get Exactly What They Want”: How Texas Repeatedly Failed to Protect Its Power Grid Against Extreme Weather

Texas regulators and lawmakers knew about the grid’s vulnerabilities for years, but time and again they furthered the interests of large electricity providers.

by Jeremy Schwartz, Kiah Collier and Vianna Davila
Feb. 22, 5:30 p.m. CST

This article is co-published with The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan local newsroom that informs and engages with Texans. Sign up for The Brief weekly to get up to speed on their essential coverage of Texas issues.

In January 2014, power plants owned by Texas’ largest electricity producer buckled under frigid temperatures. Its generators failed more than a dozen times in 12 hours, helping to bring the state’s electric grid to the brink of collapse.

The incident was the second in three years for North Texas-based Luminant, whose equipment malfunctions during a more severe storm in 2011 resulted in a $750,000 fine from state energy regulators for failing to deliver promised power to the grid.

In the earlier cold snap, the grid was pushed to the limit and rolling blackouts swept the state, spurring an angry Legislature to order a study of what went wrong.

Experts hired by the Texas Public Utility Commission, which oversees the state’s electric and water utilities, concluded that power-generating companies like Luminant had failed to understand the “critical failure points” that could cause equipment to stop working in cold weather.

In May 2014, the PUC sought changes that would require energy companies to identify and address all potential failure points, including any effects of “weather design limits.”

Luminant argued against the proposal.

In comments to the commission, the company said the requirement was unnecessary and “may or may not identify the ‘weak links’ in protections against extreme temperatures.”

“Each weather event [is] dynamic,” company representatives told regulators. “Any engineering analysis that attempted to identify a specific weather design limit would be rendered meaningless.”

By the end of the process, the PUC agreed to soften the proposed changes. Instead of identifying all possible failure points in their equipment, power companies would need only to address any that were previously known.

The change, which experts say has left Texas power plants more susceptible to the kind of extreme and deadly weather events that bore down on the state last week, is one in a series of cascading failures to shield the state’s electric grid from winter storms, ProPublica and The Texas Tribune found.

Lawmakers and regulators, including the PUC and the industry-friendly Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry, have repeatedly ignored, dismissed or watered down efforts to address weaknesses in the state’s sprawling electric grid, which is isolated from the rest of the country.

About 46,000 megawatts of power — enough to provide electricity to 9 million homes on a high-demand day — were taken off the grid last week due to power-generating failures stemming from winter storms that battered the state for nearly seven consecutive days. Dozens of deaths, including that of an 11-year-old boy, have been tied to the weather. At the height of the crisis, more than 4.5 million customers across the state were without power.

As millions of Texans endured days without power and water, experts and news organizations pointed to unheeded warnings in a federal report that examined the 2011 winter storm and offered recommendations for preventing future problems. The report by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation concluded, among other things, that power companies and natural gas producers hadn’t properly readied their facilities for cold weather, including failing to install extra insulation, wind breaks and heaters.

Another federal report released three years later made similar recommendations with few results. Lawmakers also failed to pass measures over the past two decades that would have required the operator of the state’s main power grid to ensure adequate reserves to shield against blackouts, provided better representation for residential and small commercial consumers on the board that oversees that agency and allowed the state’s top emergency-planning agency to make sure power plants were adequately “hardened” against disaster.

Experts and consumer advocates say the challenge to the 2014 proposal by Luminant and other companies, which hasn’t been previously reported, is an example of the industry’s outsize influence over the regulatory bodies that oversee them.

“Too often, power companies get exactly what they want out of the PUC,” said Tim Morstad, associate director of AARP Texas. “Even well-intentioned PUC staff are outgunned by armies of power company lawyers and their experts. The sad truth is that if power companies object to something, in this case simply providing information about the durability of certain equipment, they are extremely likely to get what they want.”

Luminant representatives declined to answer questions about the company’s opposition to the weatherization proposal. PUC officials also declined to comment.

Michael Webber, an energy expert and mechanical engineering professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said the original proposal could have helped in identifying trouble spots within the state’s power plants.

“Good engineering requires detailed understanding of the performance limits of each individual component that goes into a system,” Webber said. “Even if 99.9% of the equipment is properly rated for the operational temperatures, that one part out of 1,000 can bring the whole thing down."

Luminant defended its performance during last week’s deep freeze, saying it produced about 25% to 30% of the power on the grid Monday and Tuesday, compared with its typical market share of about 18%.

In a public statement, officials said the company executed a “significant winter preparedness strategy to keep the electricity flowing during this unprecedented, extended weather event.” They declined to disclose whether any of the company’s generating units failed during last week’s winter storms.

State officials are again promising reforms. Lawmakers have called on officials with the PUC and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the power grid that spans most of the state, to testify at hearings later this week. Gov. Greg Abbott has called on lawmakers to mandate the winterization of generators and power plants, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was launching an investigation into ERCOT and almost a dozen power companies, including Luminant. Separately, the PUC announced its own investigation into ERCOT.

Texas is the only state in the continental U.S. that operates its own electric grid, making it difficult for other regions to send excess power in times of crisis, especially when they are facing their own shortages, as they were last week. All other states in the Lower 48, as well as peripheral areas of Texas, are connected to one of two grids that span the eastern and western halves of the country.

Because Texas operates its own grid, the state isn’t subject to federal oversight by FERC, which can investigate power outages but can’t mandate reforms. Many energy experts say the very nature of the state’s deregulated electric market is perhaps most to blame for last week’s power crisis.

In Texas, a handful of mega-utilities controlled the distribution and pricing of the power they produced until two decades ago, when the Legislature shifted to a system where companies would compete for customers on the open market. Lawmakers said the change would result in lower power bills and better service, a promise that some experts and advocates say hasn’t been kept.

But under this system, power companies aren’t required to produce enough electricity to get the state through crises like the one last week. In fact, they are incentivized to ramp up generation only when dwindling power supplies have driven up prices.

Other states with deregulated power markets, including California, have made reforms and added additional safeguards after experiencing similar catastrophes.

“The fault on this one is at the feet of the Legislature and the regulators for their failure to protect the people rather than profits, the utility companies, rather than investing millions of dollars in weatherization that had been recommended in review after review of these kinds of incidents,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, a longtime Texas consumer advocate and environmental activist. “They have chosen not to do that because it would be too expensive for the utilities and ultimately to the consumers.”

“We’ll Be Opportunistic”
Three years after the 2011 storms, the Texas electric grid faced another major cold weather test when a polar vortex swept across the state. Freezing temperatures helped to knock out nearly 50 generating units at Texas power plants in the first week of 2014, bringing ERCOT perilously close to ordering rotating outages.

The event quickly faded from public attention because it was a near-miss that didn’t actually leave people without electricity or heat. But because the state had come so close to blackouts, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which has some authority to regulate power companies in the country, launched an investigation. The probe found similar problems to those that dogged the state after the 2011 storms, primarily equipment that failed to stand up to the freezing temperatures.

Despite the equipment failures that brought the electric grid to the brink of disaster, the polar vortex was a financial windfall for power-generation companies. In the months that followed the storm, some of the companies stressed to investors the financial benefits of the two days of cold weather and accompanying high energy prices.

“This business benefited significantly from increased basis and storage spreads during the polar vortex earlier this year,” Joe McGoldrick, an executive with Houston-based CenterPoint Energy, said in a November 2014 earnings call. “To the extent that we get another polar vortex or whatever, absolutely, we’ll be opportunistic and take advantage of those conditions.”

A CenterPoint spokeswoman said McGoldrick was the head of the company’s gas marketing division but has since left the company. She said that division was sold last year and had no role in responding to last week’s storms.

“The remarks made in 2014 do not reflect the core values of CenterPoint Energy,” Natalie Hedde, communications director, said.

Texas has relied on the principle that higher prices will spur greater power generation when the state needs it most, a structure that helps explain the persistence of blackouts, said Ed Hirs, a University of Houston energy expert.

In extreme weather events like last week’s freeze, prices per megawatt hour jumped from an average of around $35 to ERCOT’s maximum of $9,000.

Hirs said it’s in the power generators’ interest to “push ERCOT into a tight situation where price goes up dramatically.”

“They are giving generators incentive to withdraw service,” he added. “How else do you get the price to go up?”

Texans have already been hit with sky-high bills since last week’s event, with some climbing as high as $16,000, according to The New York Times. At an emergency meeting Sunday, the three-member PUC ordered electric companies to suspend disconnections for nonpayment and delay sending invoices or bill estimates.

Power companies weren’t the only ones that saw the 2014 event more as a success story than a sign of weakness.

ERCOT concluded that operators “handled a difficult situation well” and took “prompt and decisive actions” that had prevented systemwide blackouts. In the “lessons learned” section of its final report, the agency promoted the continuation of its winterization site visits, which are not mandatory.

Winterization efforts were paying dividends in the form of fewer generating units falling victim to cold weather, the report stated.

Federal regulators agreed. During a meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in February 2014, a month after the storm, a top-ranking official from NERC stated that the response showed “industry is learning [and] using the resources and tools available to improve their preparations and operations of the grid during a significant weather event.”

But NERC’s investigation exposed problems that would bring Texas to a crisis point last week.

In the 2014 report, NERC methodically laid out how power-generating equipment failed during the cold snap, detailing 62 examples that included frozen circulating water that caused a supply loss and moisture in the air causing valves to freeze. In all, those cold-related failures were responsible for the vast majority of lost power during the event, the agency found.

The incident also highlighted the need to improve winter performance of natural gas pipelines, which NERC found hampered the ability of gas-fired power plants to generate electricity. The agency declined to comment, saying it doesn’t discuss investigations.

Natural gas and power generation are highly dependent on each other: Natural gas processing requires electricity, which may be produced in turn by burning natural gas.

Citing preliminary figures from ERCOT that show natural-gas-fired power plants performed worse than those fueled by other types of energy during this year’s power crisis, energy experts say producers and distributors of that fossil fuel played a major role in the catastrophe.

Natural gas producers and pipeline companies in Texas are regulated by the Railroad Commission.

R.J. DeSilva, a spokesperson for the agency, declined to say whether it requires natural gas producers and pipeline companies to weatherize wellheads or pipelines. He noted that poor road conditions made it impossible for crews from natural gas companies to inspect wells and said some producers reported “the inability to produce gas because they did not have power.”

Because so many homes are heated with natural gas, fossil fuel plays a much more central role in the winter than it does in the hot summer months.

“When all this began, millions of Texans wrapped their pipes to keep them from freezing, and the Railroad Commission didn’t order — has never ordered — the gas companies, the gas producers and gas pipeline companies … to wrap their pipes to protect them from freezing,” said Smith, the consumer advocate.

Failed Legislation
After days of scrambling to address the myriad crises that pummeled his city last week, former longtime state Rep. Sylvester Turner — now mayor of Houston, the state’s largest city — had a message for his former colleagues.

“You need to dust off my bill, and you need to refile it,” the Democrat said during a press conference Friday, referring to legislation he filed in 2011 that would have required the PUC to ensure ERCOT maintained adequate reserve power to prevent blackouts. “Because it’s not about just holding hearings.”

The state’s deregulated market is to blame for the crisis, according to some experts who say the catastrophe shows that the system ultimately prizes profits over people. But some of the architects of the system are doubling down.

In a blog post published last week on the website of U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry suggested that the current disaster was worth it if it keeps rates low and federal regulators from requiring changes to the system.

“Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business,” said Perry, who was governor from 2000-15 and presided over the early days of energy deregulation in Texas. “Try not to let whatever the crisis of the day is take your eye off of having a resilient grid that keeps America safe personally, economically, and strategically.”

Perry, who returned to his job on the board of Dallas-based pipeline giant Energy Transfer LP after serving as energy secretary in the Trump administration, received at least $141,000 in campaign contributions from Luminant’s former parent company, TXU Corp., between 2002 and 2009, when he was governor.

On Saturday, Turner warned about the soaring residential utility bills that Texans would be getting in the coming weeks. In 2012, when Turner was still a state representative, he wrote a letter to the then-chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, raising concerns about PUC rule changes that increased the price caps companies could charge for power to $9,000 per megawatt hour.

Those price caps remain the same today.

This time, Turner called on lawmakers to pursue substantive reforms that don’t simply “scapegoat” ERCOT, referring to the increasing calls for an investigation into the council, including by Abbott. “You must include the Public Utility Commission in these reforms because they provide direct oversight over ERCOT, and all of those commissioners are appointed by the governor,” Turner said.

In 2013, Turner attempted, unsuccessfully, to pass a measure that would have replaced the governor’s appointees on the PUC with an elected commissioner. The same year, he tried to salvage a measure that would have increased the administrative penalty for electric industry participants that violate state law or PUC rules.

The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, which audits state agencies every 12 years to determine how they can better function or if they should be abolished, recommended in 2013 that the PUC exercise additional oversight of ERCOT, including a review and approval of annual budgets and annual review of “PUC-approved performance measures tracking ERCOT’s operations.”

One of the recommendations called on the PUC to increase the administrative penalty to $100,000 a day per violation, stating that the $25,000 daily penalty “may not be sufficient for violations that affect grid reliability, which can cause serious grid failures, such as blackouts.”

Lawmakers passed a bill during that year’s legislative session that adopted many of those recommendations, but the change in penalties was left out. An amendment by Turner to restore the higher fee in the bill failed.

Another former Democratic lawmaker who now leads a major Texas city similarly tried and failed to pass legislation that would bring greater accountability to the state.

In 2015, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, then a state representative, authored a bill that would have required state agencies, including the PUC, to plan and budget for severe weather using state climatologist data.

“It would have forced state agencies to prepare for an event like what just happened and to account for that in their agency plans,” Johnson said during a Thursday press conference addressing the crisis. “It was quite unfortunate, because we can’t say that it would have prevented this situation but certainly may have.”

Then, two years ago, facilities owned or controlled by utilities regulated by the PUC were exempted from legislation that requires the Texas Division of Emergency Management to “identify methods for hardening utility facilities and critical infrastructure in order to maintain essential services during disasters.”

The bill’s author, Republican state Rep. Dennis Paul, declined to comment. State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., who co-sponsored the measure, said he did not know why the PUC was exempted.

“Demanding Answers”
For the past two decades, consumer groups have fought without success for a larger role in how the state manages its power grid. Giving residents a stronger presence on the ERCOT board would have forced the agency to take the lessons of extreme winter storms in 2011 and 2014 more seriously, said Randall Chapman, a ratepayer attorney and longtime consumer advocate.

“It would have changed things entirely,” Chapman said. “Residential consumers are the ones who have been through outages before. They are the ones with the broken water pipes, the ones freezing in their homes. They would be demanding answers.”

Chapman said the groups were stymied when the Legislature agreed to reserve only a single seat on the ERCOT board for a representative of residential consumers. In comparison, eight seats, including alternates, are filled by representatives of energy retailers, power generators and investor-owned utility companies.

“Residential consumers need a stronger voice over at ERCOT,” Morstad of AARP Texas said. “Decisions are made every week that affect the health and safety of millions of Texans. You need a strong voice there to call B.S. when companies aren’t following through on winterizing or other things that are critical to reliability of the electric system.”

In 2011, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar co-authored a bill while serving in the state legislature that would have increased the size of the ERCOT board and allowed for more consumer representation. It didn’t pass.

Hegar said the failures displayed in the last week once again bring the significance of representation to the forefront.

“As a result of this extremely unfortunate event where so many people were out of power and now have damage to their homes and their businesses, there needs to be a broader range of representation on the board and to bring those voices as we move forward in trying to decide what we want our electric grid to be,” Hegar said.

CORRECTION
Feb. 24, 2021: This story originally misstated the unit of measurement used in pricing electricity. Prices are in dollars per megawatt hour, not dollars per megawatt.

Update, Feb. 24, 2021: This story has been updated to include comment from CenterPoint Energy.

https://www.propublica.org/article/power-companies-get-exactly-what-they-want-how-texas-repeatedly-failed-to-protect-its-power-grid-against-extreme-weather

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Telstar likes this post

PkrBum

PkrBum
The Texas grid is run like every utility monopoly in the country. The common flaw is no competition. No incentive to improve... much less innovate. They run with impunity no matter the level of service. Texas also stupidly went after the federal dollars to implement green technology which is neither practical or cost effective at this time. They'd have been much smarter to build the new generation nuclear generators.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.pbs.org/newshour/amp/science/how-the-next-generation-of-nuclear-reactors-could-be-smaller-greener-and-safer

Telstar

Telstar
PkrBum wrote:The Texas grid is run like every utility monopoly in the country. The common flaw is no competition. No incentive to improve... much less innovate. They run with impunity no matter the level of service. Texas also stupidly went after the federal dollars to implement green technology which is neither practical or cost effective at this time. They'd have been much smarter to build the new generation nuclear generators.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.pbs.org/newshour/amp/science/how-the-next-generation-of-nuclear-reactors-could-be-smaller-greener-and-safer



Some day they will break down this droop's door and find he succumbed to an OD of smart pills. Twisted Evil

Blaming the Wind for the Mess in Texas Is Painfully Absurd Pkr_bu51

zsomething likes this post

zsomething


Telstar wrote:

Some day they will break down this droop's door and find he succumbed to an OD of smart pills.  Twisted Evil


He takes smart pills? I see no evidence of this!

Now if you told me he was smacking himself in the skull four times a day with a geologist's hammer, that I could believe.

Floridatexan and Telstar like this post

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