Two Years Ago, “Reliable Baseload” Gas, Coal, and Nuclear Failed in Texas Cold Outbreak

February 15, 2023

Two years ago I was listening to chatter on Twitter (back when twitter was a lot more useful than it has become today) and picking up some serious concerns from experts that I knew around Texas, and around the country – that something unusual and potentially devastating was happening to the Texas grid, which was buckling under the pressure of an unusually severe polar air outbreak.

I called a well-informed friend in Austin who had a utility background, and he confirmed. He was watching the ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) grid collapsing in real time.
At that point, I was following the most important Texas media outlets full time for most of a week – KHOU in Houston, WFAA in Dallas, KVUE in Austin, and of course, the Houston Chronicle and the Dallas Morning News.
I continued to monitor for months, and produced the video above as pushback against the the fossil fuel messaging megaphone that blamed hundreds of deaths on Texas’ clean energy infrastructure. Such was not the case.

If you watch the collection of expert analysis, contemporaneous media reports, and the press conferences that Governor Abbott himself was conducting, you get it that the overwhelming failure was in the thermal fleet – those power plants burning gas in particular, but also coal and nuclear – which were simply not weatherized to stand up to conditions.
Those conditions were probably amplified by climate change, but in fact, they were not that unusual – Texas has endured severe freezes on a regular basis for as long as records have been kept.
Yet, Texas lawmakers have never made it mandatory for generators to be ready for severe conditions.

It’s really remarkable to watch Governor Abbott’s remarks to savvy, well informed Texas journalists, who knew what was going on, and compare, below, to the statements he made on Fox News the very same day, when he knew he had an audience of fools, charlatans and boobs. Draw your own conclusions.


4 Responses to “Two Years Ago, “Reliable Baseload” Gas, Coal, and Nuclear Failed in Texas Cold Outbreak”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Distribution is a problem, too, as I learned when my central Austin neighborhood was without power for over 6 days after the ice storm the night of January 31st (still major piles of tree limbs on curbs today). The big difference, of course was that the weather warmed up beautifully afterward, and there were no issues with people freezing or pipes bursting.

  2. The wind and solar worked just like they was supposed to. The only thing is, they’re not supposed to help when there’s no wind and sun, which means they didn’t help. Also, there’s the TRUE dichotomy that money spent on wind and solar is money not spent on hardening gas and nuclear against icy weather.

    • Mark Mev Says:

      What mental state do you have to be in to believe that Texas or ERCOT or the generating utilities there did not spend money hardening their thermal fuel generators and gas lines because money was spent on renewables?

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      You don’t understand how Texas and ERCOT work: Private companies running power plants have little incentive to winterize and be reliable. It’s a competitive market, period.

      People invest in different power plants (wind, solar, thermal, whatever) in Texas to make money. Right now wind and solar have the quickest ROI.

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