My conversation with Daniel Swain PhD of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, (as well as UCLA) took as a starting point the general topic “2021WTF”.

Dr. Swain cited the “really just astonishing” heatwave of June in the Pacific Northwest, which was the subject of a Yale Climate Connections video.

The Texas freeze and widespread energy system failures

As I mentioned the other day, in continued fallout from last winter’s deadly and catastrophic Texas power grid debacle, a pipeline operator had, in the face of an oncoming winter freeze, threatened to cut off gas supplies to generators supplying power to 400,000 Texans.

The company in question, Energy Transfer, is a big contributor to Governor Greg Abbot, who was, I imagine, on the phone to his buds yesterday as the media blew up on this.

Energy Transfer has walked back their threat for now. They still claim the generators owe them money, but will continue to sell gas for now, at spot market prices, meaning, quite a bit higher than the normal rate. (gas pros weigh in here)

Texas Tribune:

After threatening to cut off fuel to roughly a third of the power plants owned by Texas’ biggest power generator, a major pipeline company said Thursday it will continue selling natural gas to the plants through the end of March. But the companies have still not resolved their underlying financial dispute stemming from last February’s deadly winter storm.

Energy Transfer LP subsidiaries walked back their threat after Luminant, a Vistra Corp. subsidiary, on Wednesday asked state regulators to prevent the pipeline company from cutting off fuel to five Vistra power plants, which produce enough electricity to power 400,000 Texas homes, businesses and critical infrastructure such as schools and hospitals.

The pipeline companies had told Vistra that gas would stop flowing to the power plants on Monday unless Vistra paid Energy Transfer $21.6 million that they claim Vistra owes them, according to Vistra’s complaint to the Railroad Commission of Texas, which regulates the state’s oil and gas industry.

The “threat to terminate service in the middle of winter is illegal and grossly irresponsible and should be prohibited by this Commission,” Vistra said in the complaint. It called the move by Energy Transfer, run by billionaire Kelcy Warren, “a form of commercial extortion.”

Energy Transfer responded Thursday in a short filing with the Railroad Commission, saying it would continue selling natural gas to Vistra on the spot market — a one-time open market transaction for immediate delivery of gas purchased “on the spot.”

That would nullify the Monday deadline imposed by Energy Transfer. Vistra has been paying those spot market prices to Energy Transfer since Dec. 1, when its long-term contract for gas expired, and Energy Transfer said it would not negotiate another contract until Vistra paid the $21.6 million.

For Vistra, paying spot prices means buying gas from Energy Transfer at between $15 and $25 per million British Thermal Units (BTUs), compared to the average national price of $3.91 per million BTUs in 2021, according to the Energy Information Administration.

GM chooses Blink (BLNK) as the vendor for charging stations at 4600 dealerships. Perhaps 10 bays per location. Do the math.

Another tidbit from Blink CEO Michael Farkas, “British Petroleum,…who own a decent amount of charging stations, says the profitability on their charging stations will outweigh the profitability on their gas pumps.”

More from my conversation with John Morales. Before he was Chief Meteorologist for NBC 6 in Miami, John worked for a time at the Spanish language channel Unavision, and knows his community well.

Polling suggests that the Hispanic community has a higher awareness and concern on climate issues than other populations in the US. John agrees, but adds some nuance.

More from my interview with John Morales, Chief Meteorologist at NBC 6 in Miami, on the half billion dollar project to keep Miami Beach from drowning in rising seas. I also include remarks from Jeff Goodell, Senior Rolling Stone writer, with whom I spent some time in Miami Beach in 2016.

Below, more from my talk with Jeff Goodell in 2016.

Waiting for Boba Fett to show up.

PV Magazine:

Dutch architectural firm MVRDV has designed and deployed a building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) system on a building owned by Taiwan’s state-owned power utility Taipower.

“We cladded the entire façade with photovoltaics, maximising the energy gains to make it not only self-sustainable, for its own usage, but also allowing the building to become a tool of energy production, exporting electricity to the rest of the grid,” said MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas.

The Sun Rock building is located at the Changhua Coastal Industrial Park, near Taichung, and its primary purpose is for the storage and maintenance of sustainable energy equipment. “The site for Taipower’s new facility receives a significant amount of solar exposure throughout the year, and so the rounded shape of Sun Rock is designed to maximise how much of that sunlight can be harnessed for energy,” MVRDV said in a statement.

The BIPV system was built with a series of pleats that support photovoltaic panels and the modules mixed in with windows, where required, on their upper surface.

“The angle of these pleats is adjusted on all parts of the façade to maximise the energy-generating potential of the solar panels,” MVRDV explained. “As a result of these measures, the building can support at least 4,000 square meters of PV panels that would generate almost 1 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy per year.”

Indicating perhaps that as long as incentives are this perverse, Texas power problems may be resist definitive solutions.

Bloomberg:

Kinder Morgan Inc. posted a record annual profit after revenue was inflated by the deadly winter storm that paralyzed Texas almost a year ago, sending natural gas prices soaring. 

The second-largest U.S. pipeline operator by market value reported adjusted earnings of $3 billion for last year, up from $2 billion in 2020, the company said in a statement Wednesday. Its fourth-quarter profit of $609 million beat the $569.7 million average of analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Kinder Morgan, which moves about 40% of U.S. natural gas through more than 70,000 miles of pipelines, was one of the biggest winnersfrom the freeze offs that disrupted gas deliveries in Texas during a deep freeze last winter, pushing prices for the fuel available in storage to unprecedented levels. In contrast, power producers and utilities across the state incurred billions of dollars in losses amid ballooning costs.

Shares of Kinder Morgan have risen 9.9% this year, underperforming the S&P 500 Energy Index’s 16% gain. 

Kinder Morgan’s net income may reach $1.09 per share this year, up from 78 cents in 2021, following the $1.2 billion acquisition of Stagecoach Gas Services LLC and the completion of projects, the company said last month. The company plans to spend $1.3 billion in projects and as much as $750 million in opportunities including share buybacks.  

Washington Post:

After last year’s deadly storm left millions of Texans freezing in the dark for days, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, made improvements to its power grid. Now, the council said, 321 out of 324 electric generation units and transmission facilities have fully passed inspection to meet new regulations.

“The Texas electric grid is more prepared for winter operations than ever before,” interim ERCOT chief executive Brad Jones said in a statement.

But Michael Webber, an energy resources professor at the University of Texas at Austin, cautioned that although the electrical grid is better equipped for winter storms, the natural gas side of Texas’s energy system was not upgraded and could freeze in extreme conditions — which could strain the whole system. Companies that operate the natural gas systems that froze last February, cutting off supply to power plants, do not face the same regulations as those that provide power to homes and businesses.

“It’s like fixing your car, but the tank is empty,” Webber said.

Already below-normal temperatures caused some natural gas production equipment to freeze two weeks ago in the Permian Basin region of West Texas, where Bloomberg reported gas production plunged to its lowest levels since last year’s historic freeze.

On Wednesday, pipeline operator Kinder Morgan warned customers that“potential exists for supply shortfalls due to freeze‐offs” ahead of this upcoming cold onslaught.

However, this freeze, when temperatures may plunge to the teens in some areas near the southern border, will not be a repeat of last year’s winter weather, unusual for its extensive damage and duration.

“I’m not really too panicky,” Webber said. “But I will be curious to see how the gas systems perform. That’s the weak link in the system, and all eyes should be on that.”

The current storm is not at the scale of the Valentine’s Day freeze of last year, but it may provide a test of the upgrades that have been made to the Texas (ERCOT) grid since then.
Hardware is easy – other things take more time.

Bloomberg:

Vistra Corp. said two units of Energy Transfer LP are threatening to cut off natural gas supplies to power generation facilities it owns in Texas because of a payment dispute over last year’s catastrophic winter storm. 

Vistra subsidiaries including Luminant Energy asked Texas oil and gas regulators to prevent Energy Transfer from terminating gas service to Luminant’s power plants, which serve about 400,000 Texas homes, according to a complaint filed with the Texas Railroad Commission on Wednesday. 

The “threat to terminate service in the middle of winter is illegal and grossly irresponsible and should be prohibited by this commission,” Vistra said in the complaint. 

Energy Transfer said by email that it “will continue to sell them gas pursuant to the same process, terms and conditions that have been in place since Dec. 1, 2021.”

The two units, Energy Transfer Fuel and Oasis Pipeline, are threatening to cease gas service by Jan. 24 because Vistra won’t pay $21.6 million in fees stemming from the February winter storm, when freezing temperatures knocked off gas supplies, contributing to widespread blackouts. The dispute comes as Texas is bracing for a new round of cold and sleet that will test the state’s power grid over the next several days.

Vistra alleges in the filing that the fee is illegal and stems from the power generator securing and delivering gas into the pipeline operators’ systems during the storm.

From the complaint:

Respondents threaten to terminate natural gas service to Luminant’s electric generation facilities as of January 24, 2022. These plants provide up to approximately 2,000 MWs of electricity, serving approximately 400,000 Texas homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure such as hospitals and schools. Respondents’ threat to terminate service in the middle of winter is illegal and grossly irresponsible and should be prohibited by this Commission.

First alerted last night by Michael Webber at University of Texas.

UPDATE: below

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My friend Susan Joy Hassol was interviewed by BBC on the fine art of climate Communication. It’s not as simple as we’d like to believe.

Twitter’s cut and paste links are kind of clunky, but I think readers can find their way thru this.

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At the beginning of the year, I made a folder for my next Yale Climate Connections video, and just titled it “2021WTF” – because the last 8 months or so of climate extremes have left a lot of folks speechless, and not a little bit worried.

Since then I’ve bagged about 7 or 8 hours of interviews, with scientists, and also local weather casters, who are often doing some of the most relevant analysis of climate change as the majority of people experience it – not as graphs or computer models, but in specific events in particular places, that are often beyond the scale of living memory.
Not sure exactly what I’ll end up with, but there will be a lot of gems coming out of this, like the one above – John’s discussion of the increased pressure on Florida and Coastal homeowners, as well as anyone across the US who lives near a flood plain, squeezed between increasingly doubtful real estate prices and rising insurance costs.