Texas Heat Crisis Knocks More Thermal Plants Offline. Energy Transition Now an Election Issue.

May 14, 2022

Spring is usually time when generators on the Texas Grid (the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT) can take thermal power plants offline and do maintenance before the heatwaves and expected peak demand periods of summer.

But with climate change, those heat waves are coming hotter and sooner than in the past. This week the grid operators pleaded with power providers to bring those plants back on line, perhaps before they were ready, as heat soared to records across the state.

There have been problems. More than one fire broke out at coal plants near Houston. Wind and solar have been steady, and hopefully will stay that way. On Friday things got worse as more thermal plants broke.

Texans still have fresh memories of the grid collapse of winter 2021 (see below) which was largely a function of gas failure, but also coal and nuclear breakdowns. And there’s an election coming, in which challenger democrat Beto O’Rourke has been making the power grid an issue.

Houston Chronicle:

Texans are again being asked to scale back their electricity consumption after six power generators went offline Friday amid unseasonably hot weather and strong demand for energy, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

ERCOT said the failures resulted in the loss of approximately 2,900 megawatts of generating capacity One megawatt is about enough electricity to power 200 homes on a hot day.

Prices climbed quickly in wholesale electricity markets Friday afternoon and into the evening, running as high as $5,000 per megawatt hour, according to ERCOT. Wholesale prices typically average around $30 per megawatt hour.

ERCOT asked that Texans keep their thermostats set above 78 degrees and avoid using large appliances such as dishwashers or dryers during peak hours of 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. this weekend, with temperatures again forecast for the 90s.

Last week, the agency warned of potential issues with the electric grid as temperatures around the state climbed to near-record highs. The agency has faced criticism and lawsuits since the Texas electric grid failed during last year’s winter storm that left millions without power for days at a time.

At least 246 people died as a result of that power failure, though some estimates of the death toll have been more than double that number.

Friday was the third time since the freeze of 2021 that ERCOT has issued notices asking households and businesses to conserve because of tight power supplies. The grid manager issued one last April when a high number of power plants went offline and demand rose higher than expected. Another one, which lasted for five days in mid-June, was sparked after about 15 percent of the system’s generating capacity went offline, while demand inched toward a record 73,000 megawatts.

With unusually hot weather forecast, ERCOT last week asked generators to put off scheduled maintenance and keep power plants operating to meet the high demand. Power consumption on Monday reached 71,000 megawatts, a record for May.

Bloomberg:

On Thursday, the Public Utility Commission of Texas expressed concern that generators haven’t had enough time to perform seasonal maintenance ahead of summer. The risk: summertime maintenance amid stronger heat can lead to supply shortages and potentially rolling blackouts.

The spring maintenance season typically ends in late May, but outages this year will likely slip into the first half of June, said Michele Richmond, executive director of Texas Competitive Power Advocates, a generator industry group.

Texas is already experiencing heat. The high in Houston on Friday reached 92 degrees Fahrenheit (33.3 degrees Celsius), six degrees above average, according to AccuWeather. Widespread heat is expected to intensify over the weekend and next week, according to Ercot. Highs of 95 to 105 degrees will be common next week, with places in West Texas reaching 110 degrees.

More details here:

Below, experts on the Valentine’s Day blackout of 2021.

4 Responses to “Texas Heat Crisis Knocks More Thermal Plants Offline. Energy Transition Now an Election Issue.”

  1. jimbills Says:

    I can’t find examples on YouTube to share here, but the airwaves around Dallas are flooded with election ads for right-wingers saying they’ll fight for oil and gas and things like “Biden’s Green New Deal” are a menace.

    As bad as the grid might be here, and as far-right reactionary as Governor Abbott has become the past few years, I don’t see Beto winning Texas, or the race even being close. I wish I’m wrong.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    I like Beto O’Rourke and would prefer to have him as Governor of Texas over Abbott. Of course, I would prefer a dead squirrel as governor over Abbott.

    • jimbills Says:

      I’m picturing Dead Squirrel getting Trump’s “Complete and Total Endorsement!” and all the subsequent ads with Trump’s smarmy mug holding a thumb up next to a brown smudge on pavement.

      Then, all the voters vacillating between voting for Dead Squirrel (‘Mr. Dead Squirrel doesn’t say much, but Trump likes him’) and Abbott (‘He wuz a liberal nut about Covid in 2020, but he sure does hate the illegals’).

      Could be a tight race.

      The problem with Beto (and I will vote for him) is that he’s known quantity now. In predominately conservative areas, known quantities have long since been rejected by the majority of voters. They will not vote for him under any circumstances. Unless Abbott throws the race somehow (unlikely), he’ll win by 5% or so, and Beto will chalk up yet another loss on his resume. I haven’t been thrilled with some of Matthew McConaughey’s statements lately, but he would have had a real shot against Abbott.

      It has nothing to do with political positions, but both Abbott and Beto have speech patterns that drive me a bit nuts. Abbott pauses between every two words like William Shatner, and Beto throws his hands all over the place non-stop. Just, arggh.


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