US Energy-rich Texas suffers energy nightmare with ongoing power outages
Blackouts Cascade Beyond Texas in Deepening Power Crisis
Blackouts trigged by frigid weather are spreading across the central U.S. and into Mexico as an energy crisis that’s already brought Texas’s power grid to its knees deepens. © Photographer: KENA BETANCUR/AFP People cross the street as snow falls in North Bergen, New Jersey on February 7, 2021. As more than 2 million homes in Texas are already without power, the operator of an grid spanning 14 states from North Dakota to Oklahoma ordered utilities to start rotating outages to protect the system from failing amid surging demand for electricity. The outages have also spread into Mexico.
Even mighty Texas, the energy powerhouse of America, is feeling the wrath of Mother Nature.
A deep freeze this week in the Lone Star state, which relies on electricity to heat many homes, is causing power demand to skyrocket. At the same time, natural gas, coal, wind and nuclear facilities in Texas have been
Texas governor faces criticism over handling of winter storm fallout
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is coming under intense scrutiny over his handling of mass power outages in the state caused by harsh winter weather conditions, as he prepares to run for reelection next year on the heels of two major disasters.The state's Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa accused Abbott of "playing politics with alternative sources of energy" in a statement on Monday, saying that as Lone Star State residents struggle, the governor "continues to relax and wait.
This situation could have wide-reaching implications as the US power industry attempts to slash carbon emissions in response to the climate crisis.
That nightmarish supply-demand situation has sent electricity prices in energy-rich Texas tocompared with before the unprecedented temperatures hit. Texas has been hit with life-threatening blackouts. in the state were without power early Tuesday.
Although some are attempting to pin the blame on one fuel source or another, the reality is that the Arctic temperatures are hobbling fossil fuels and renewable energy alike.
"The extreme cold is causing the entire system to freeze up," said Jason Bordoff, a former energy official in the Obama administration and director of Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy. "All sources of energy are underperforming in the extreme cold because they're not designed to handle these unusual conditions."
Texas utility: Power outages could last another week or more
Texas utility company Austin Energy announced on Wednesday that customers should prepare to remain without power for the rest of Wednesday and potentially another week or more.In a series of tweets, Austin Energy stated that a Wednesday morning ice storm in addition to the snow that has hit the state in recent days has caused more power outages in its service area.What to know this morning:⚡If you've had power during the controlled outage, you could be impacted by the ice storm⚡Customers who have sustained outages should expect outages to continue until the situation improves.
The ripple effects are being felt around the nation as Texas' prolific oil-and-gas industry stumbles.
Motiva's sprawling Port Arthur oil refinery, the, shut down Monday, citing "unprecedented freezing temperatures." About 2.5 million barrels per day of refining capacity was shut between Houston and Louisiana, according to Rystad Energy.
Countless drillers went offline as temperatures in the Permian Basin, the, plunged below zero. The supply shortfall helped send for the first time since January 2020.
Prices at the pump are also on the rise. The national average could easily rise 15 cents per gallon over the next week or two, according to Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.
Texas is No. 1 in natural gas, oil and wind
It's striking that these power outages are happening in a state with abundant energy resources.— generating almost twice as much as Florida, the next-closest, according to federal statistics.
Republicans use Texas power outages to spread false claims about green energy
Republican politicians are using the widespread power outages in Texas to place false blame on renewable energy. Millions in the state were without power following a massive winter storm that brought snow and freezing temperatures to the region as a second storm loomed nearby.
Texas is the No. 1 US state in both crude oil and natural gas, according to the US Energy Information Administration. The state accounted for a staggering 41% of America's oil production in 2019 and a quarter of its marketed natural gas output.
Wind power is also booming in Texas, which produced about 28% of all the US wind-powered electricity in 2019, the EIA said.
But the problem is that not only is Texas an energy superpower, it tends to be an above-average temperature state. That means its infrastructure is ill-prepared for the cold spell currently wreaking havoc. And the consequences are being felt by millions.
It's not just wind power
Critics of renewable energy have pointed out that wind turbines have frozen or needed to be shut down due to the extreme weather.
And that is significant because almost a quarter (23%) of the power in Texas last year was generated by wind power, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).
Even though other places with colder weather (like Iowa and Denmark) rely on wind for even larger shares of power, experts said the turbines in Texas were not winterized for the unexpected freeze.
Winter storms devastate US after a year of Covid lockdown -- and it's nowhere near over
There is no fine time for a devastating barrage of winter storms, but it's hard to imagine the weather icing over much of the United States coming at a less opportune moment. © THOMAS SHEA/AFP/Getty Images Customers wait in line to enter Frontier Fiesta on February 17, 2021 in Houston, Texas. - A winter storm has caused rolling black-outs through out the Houston and the surrounding areas for the past 48 hours.
But this is not just about wind turbines going down. Natural gas and coal-fired power plants need water to stay online. Yet those water facilities froze in the cold temperatures and others lost access to the electricity they require to operate.
"The ability of some companies that generate the power has been frozen. This includes the natural gas & coal generators," Texas Governor Greg Abbott wrote on.
And that's an even bigger deal to Texas than frozen wind turbines because combined cycle natural gas (40%) and coal (18%) generated more than half of the state's power in 2020, according to ERCOT.
'Power prices going to the moon'
Nuclear also depends on water to operate and at least one unit in South Texas shut down, according to the. Texas gets about 11% of its power from nuclear.
"Even if Texas did not have wind power, you would still have power prices going to the moon," said Matthew Hoza, manager of energy analysis at BTU Analytics.
The problem, according to Hoza, is that a lot of companies in Texas did not invest in cold protection for power plants and natural gas facilities.
"When you're in West Texas, are you really going to spend money on that equipment?" Hoza said.
Isolated from the national grid
It's too early to definitively say what went wrong in Texas and how to prevent similar outages. More information will need to be released by state authorities.
Still, some experts say the criticism of wind power appears overdone already.
"In terms of the blame game, the focus on wind is a red herring. It's more of a political issue than what is causing the power problems on the grid," said Dan Cohan, associate professor of environmental engineering at Rice University.
Cohan said there was a far greater shortfall in terms of the amount of power Texas was expecting from natural gas than wind.
The energy crisis in Texas raises questions about the nature of the state's deregulated and decentralized electric grid. Unlike other states, Texas has made a conscious decision to isolate its grid from the rest of the country.
That means that when things are running smoothly, Texas can't export excess power to neighboring states. And in the current crisis, it can't import power either.
"When it comes to electricity, what happens in Texas stays in Texas," Cohan said. "That has really come back to bite us."
Texas Pays the Price of the Culture War .
Instead of focusing on governance, Republican politicians in the Lone Star State spent their time inflaming grievances.We were among the millions of Texans who lost power when a massive winter storm brought the temperature down to the single digits. In Houston, a woman and child accidentally suffocated themselves with carbon monoxide trying to stay warm in their car. Two people in Austin died in a fire that likely resulted from an attempt to stay warm. Here in San Antonio, a man in his 70s was found dead, apparently from exposure.