WHAT DID GREENS USE BEFORE CANDLES? ELECTRICITY! California Power Problems Hit Texas: Another state where unreliable renewable energy leads to power outages.
Temperatures in Texas climbed into the triple digits this week but this isn’t unusual. The problem is that wind power faltered, as it often does during hot spells. Wind accounts for about 30% of Texas’s power supply, but unlike fossil-fuel powered generators, wind can’t provide power when it doesn’t blow. Then gas-powered plants have to pick up the slack.
But gas plants alone couldn’t compensate for wind and meet surging demand for power. Texas’s grid operator had to urge residents to conserve electricity. Bitcoin miners were asked to power down to free up 1,000 megawatts of electricity—enough to power about 200,000 homes on a hot day. Soaring power prices gave them an incentive to do so.
Manufacturers also reported curtailing production owing to grid strains and surging prices. Toyota said Thursday it scaled back production at its San Antonio plant. Reuters reported that Toyota is considering stopping production most days before 2 p.m.—when demand for power increases—and shortening night shifts through mid-August.
One of Texas’s selling points to businesses has been its cheap and reliable energy. Under former Republican Gov. Rick Perry, the state invested heavily in building transmission lines to carry heavily subsidized wind power from West Texas to big cities. For a time, wind pushed down prices in the state’s deregulated power market.
But coal and nuclear plants have struggled to turn a profit running at reduced capacity, causing many to retire. As a result, the grid has become more dependent on gas-fired generators to compensate for unreliable renewables. Meantime, demand for power is increasing as Texas’s population grows. All of this pushed the state’s grid to a near-breaking point.
Gas and power prices are also increasing as regulatory obstacles to building new pipelines constrain supply. Texas’s residential electric rates have surged 70% since last June, costing the typical family $80 more per month.
It’s no surprise that Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke is using this against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott, who isn’t leading in the polls by as much as he probably imagined. Texas needs to fix its emerging power problems lest it become California.