In Texas: Extreme Heat, but Wind and Solar Keeping Costs Down

June 15, 2022

CNN:

Texans are cranking on the air conditioning this week amid an unusually early heat wave, setting new records for electricity demand in the state, which surpassed 75 gigawatts on Sunday and smashed the 2019 record. Texas grid operator ERCOT projects it could approach that peak again on Tuesday.

But unlike previous extreme weather events in Texas which led to deadly blackouts, the grid is holding up remarkably well this week. Several experts told CNN that it’s owed in large part to strong performances from wind and solar, which generated 27 gigawatts of electricity during Sunday’s peak demand – close to 40% of the total needed.

“Texas is, by rhetoric, anti-renewables. But frankly, renewables are bailing us out,” said Michael Webber, an energy expert and professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “They’re rocking. That really spares us a lot of heartache and a lot of money.”

Despite the Texas Republican rhetoric that wind and solar are unreliable, Texas has a massive and growing fleet of renewables. Zero-carbon electricity sources (wind, solar, and nuclear) powered about 38% of the state’s power in 2021, rivaling natural gas at 42%.

This is a relatively recent phenomenon for the state.

“Wind and solar would not have been available in years in the past, so the growing capacity helps to alleviate reliance on natural gas and coal,” said Jonathan DeVilbiss, operations research analyst at the US Energy Information Administration.

Not only have renewables helped keep the power on during a scorching and early heatwave, they have also helped keep costs low. Prices for natural gas and coal are high amid a worldwide energy crunch, but renewables – powered by the wind and sun – have no fuel cost.

“Because the price of wind and sunlight hasn’t doubled in the past year like other resources, they are acting as a hedge against high fuel prices,” said Joshua Rhodes, an energy researcher at UT Austin.

Texas and other states have been sweltering in triple-digit temperatures and dangerous heat indices. Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon told CNN that San Antonio has been a particular hot spot; it recently hit 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, setting a new pre-July record. 

Texas is used to heat, but this year they’re “getting August weather in May and June,” Webber told CNN.

Houston Chronicle (Paywall):

At the heart of surging prices is the natural gas market, which has seen a spike in prices and volatility since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, said David Kinchen, chief operating officer of Energy Ogre, which analyzes retail power plans for consumers. About 44 percent of the electricity within the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, comes from natural gas, so the price of that fuel drives electricity prices overall across the state.

The price for 1 billion British thermal units in June 2021 was $3.26, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By Friday at noon, it was $8.76, down from a high of $9.32 four days earlier — the highest price logged in the United States since the summer of 2008.

“The price is swinging 10 to 12 percent in a day, which historically is an incredible amount of volatility,” Kinchen said.

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One Response to “In Texas: Extreme Heat, but Wind and Solar Keeping Costs Down”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    “Despite the Texas Republican rhetoric that wind and solar are unreliable, Texas has a massive and growing fleet of renewables. “

    Will Texas pols shift from their oil&gas Sugar Daddies to supporting renewables and storage? Will the solar and wind farm people know how much to bribe legislators to push through more transmission line projects? Gotta buy more popcorn!


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