The Political Making of a Texas Power Outage

I got this from Instapundit where he quoted extensively (in full?) from the original. I assume I can quote what he quoted. It’s an editorial from the Wall St Journal, so the assertions made are not documented. I assume they know what they are talking about. I have highlighted the parts I found most interesting.

Mr. Abbott blamed his state’s extensive power outages on generators freezing early Monday morning, noting “this includes the natural gas & coal generators.” But frigid temperatures and icy conditions have descended on most of the country. Why couldn’t Texas handle them while other states did?

The problem is Texas’s overreliance on wind power that has left the grid more vulnerable to bad weather. Half of wind turbines froze last week, causing wind’s share of electricity to plunge to 8% from 42%. Power prices in the wholesale market spiked, and grid regulators on Friday warned of rolling blackouts. Natural gas and coal generators ramped up to cover the supply gap but couldn’t meet the surging demand for electricity—which half of households rely on for heating—even as many families powered up their gas furnaces. Then some gas wells and pipelines froze.

In short, there wasn’t sufficient baseload power from coal and nuclear to support the grid. Baseload power is needed to stabilize grid frequency amid changes in demand and supply. When there’s not enough baseload power, the grid gets unbalanced and power sources can fail. The more the grid relies on intermittent renewables like wind and solar, the more baseload power is needed to back them up.

But politicians don’t care about grid reliability until the power goes out. And for three decades politicians from both parties have pushed subsidies for renewables that have made the grid less stable.

Start with the 1992 Energy Policy Act signed by George H.W. Bush, which created a production tax credit to boost the infant wind industry. Generators collect up to $25 per megawatt hour of power they produce regardless of market demand. The credit was supposed to expire in 1999, but nothing lasts longer than a temporary government program, as Ronald Reagan once quipped.

The renewables lobby found GOP allies in windy states like Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa. Former Enron CEO Ken Lay, who had made a big bet on wind, begged then Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 1998 to lobby Congress to extend the credit for five years. Congress has since extended it more than a dozen times, most recently in December.

Wind producers persuaded former Gov. Rick Perry to back a $5 billion network of transmission lines to connect turbines in western Texas to cities. This enabled them to build more turbines—and collect more tax credits. Because the Texas grid is often oversupplied, wind producers sometimes pay to off-load their power, though they still turn a profit with the tax credits.

Coal and nuclear are more strictly regulated and can’t compete, and many coal plants have shut down in Texas and elsewhere. Over the last decade about 100 gigawatts of coal power nationwide has been retired—enough to power 60 million homes. Many nuclear plants are scheduled to shut down, including large reactors in New York and Illinois this year.

Instapundit adds that “[w]e need more nice, reliable, environmentally friendly nuclear plants”.

Update (a few minutes later) from Alpha News:

It seems “green energy” fails when times get tough. You know what doesn’t have that issue? Coal and nuclear power.

Rest of article below the fold, but without the in-line links.

In case you weren’t counting, here in Minnesota we’re approaching two full weeks of sub-zero temps. In some parts of the state, thermometer readings are the lowest in over a century for this or any time of year. And to think, springtime is allegedly just four weeks away.

Not only are the Great Lakes and Northern Plains frigid, but all the way down the “heartland corridor” to Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, they saw snow, ice or single digit readings — some 30-60 degrees below normal for mid-February. Nearly three-quarters of the contiguous United Sates currently is covered in snow.

There were temperatures around zero in San Antonio; in Galveston, they saw snow on their famous boardwalk pier; and Houston was perhaps hit the hardest. A friend there said he can’t recall weather this cold since he moved to Space City in 1975. About 25 people have died from the Arctic blast, and he’s one of more than 3 million Texans without power since Monday morning.

Rolling blackouts occurred across Texas due to extreme cold. Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency for all 254 Lone Star State counties, and the president approved the disaster declaration.

It seems “green energy” fails when times get tough. You know what doesn’t have that issue? Coal and nuclear power.

As the Minnesota-based Center of the American Experiment (CAE) reported this month, “Wind turbines are shut down when temperatures are below -22° F because it is too cold to operate them safely. This means it will be too cold for the wind turbines built by the power companies to generate any electricity.”

And when the last Polar Vortex hit two years ago, wind and solar provided almost no power to heat homes.

CAE also noted:

“Wind turbines will actually consume electricity at these temperatures because the turbines use electric heaters in their gearboxes to keep the oil in the housing from freezing, which would cause damage to the turbine. Wind turbines are a liability on the grid when the power is needed most.”

Nearly half of Texas’ installed wind-power generation capacity went offline earlier this week due to frozen wind turbines.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation notes this “never would have been an issue had our grid not been so deeply penetrated by renewable energy sources that contribute the least when they are needed the most, yet are propped up by billions in taxpayer-funded subsidies every year.”

Solar power is even less reliable in severe weather conditions. Sunny skies usually give way to cold, clear nights; no sunlight means snow and ice can destroy solar panels.

Does this mean if Democrats abolish fossil fuels, we Minnesotans — along with the rugged folks in the Dakotas and elsewhere across the northern tundra — may be stuck building fires for warmth?

Let’s live in the 21st century.

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