Explaining Texas and the power shutdown

Rather than me cobbling something together, someone who actually knows already:

The events of this week also bring to the fore longstanding debates regarding the appropriate generation mix in Texas. Yes, thermal experienced unprecedented outages, but as noted above, it performed both absolutely (measured by capacity utilization) and relatively (measured by decline in utilization) better than wind. Texas would have been better off with less wind and more thermal. Maybe not enough to avoid blackouts altogether, but enough to mitigate substantially their severity.

33 thoughts on “Explaining Texas and the power shutdown”

  1. APPARENTLY (I have no idea but this is what I’ve heard) they also sabotaged their own gas lines by replacing reliable gas-fired pumps with “eco-friendly” electrical pumps, that proved vulnerable to electricity distribution elsewhere in the grid.

    It takes a special genius to ensure the hydrocarbon capital of the Western world has a less reliable leccy infrastructure than Russia, but I assume lots of elite Texans are getting even more filthily rich out of this omnishambles and that’s what really matters at this point.

  2. Will the folks who run our national grid:

    A. Reverse policies which might lead to this sort of thing?

    B. Say it couldn’t happen here?

  3. The folks who run the National Grid will keep very quiet and hope no-one criticises their Green idiocy. Sadly they are forced to that Green idiocy by government policy. I can’t believe a sane power engineer would do this unless forced or ‘encouraged’ to.

  4. @ rhoda klapp
    The folks that run our National Grid are making a lot of effort to prevent it happening here and recognise that it could happen (there was a major regional blackout a couple of years ago when a windfarm suddenly cut-out which was followed almost immediately by a lightning strike on a power line, the combination of which led to a cascade of protective cut-outs). [The Norway interconnector will help although Norway has to look after Denmark which trumpets its wind use and relies on Norway and Sweden for backup.] They are even keeping Drax going so that they can have enough CCGT in reserve to cover the unreliability of windfarms
    HOWEVER, Bojo has committed the UK to the impossible target of being “carbon-neutral” by 20-something after he retires/gets kicked out.
    So don’t blame the National Grid guys who are trying hard, blame Caroline Lucas and Ed Millionaireband and Bojo.

  5. John77, I have no doubt that the engineers know their business but they are not running the National Grid or it wouldn’t be exposed to this sort of thing. Plainly their mission priorities are in thrall to green nonsense.

  6. Dennis, Climate-Change Denying Fruitcake

    Experience is the only (potential) cure for Stupid. Let’s see if Texas learns anything from this.

    My bet is somewhere between “nothing” and “very little” will be learned. The belief in anthropogenic climate change is a religious one, and as such those in its thrall will probably resist any intrusion by reality with a crazed passion.

  7. Bloke in North Dorset

    I think it was Bjorn Lomborg who said something like: We are in more danger from badly thought out climate policies than we are from climate change.

  8. Texas had problems because of a very-unusual (although not unprecedented) period of cold weather, leading to substantially-increased demand.

    Classic thermal generation (coal, natural gas) had some failures due to inadequate planning and foresight – inefficient gas dryers, poor insulation, etc. But these were failures of planning – a little additional work and these systems would be 100% capable of producing their full nameplate output.

    ‘Renewable’ generation (I prefer to call it ‘unreliable’ generation) by contrast, failed in a more fundamental way – these sources were incapable of producing anything-like their nameplate output because their energy sources were simply absent. Even if every solar panel and wind turbine had been at 100% readiness (and they certainly weren’t) they were unable to supply even a tiny fraction of their nameplate output because there weren’t no wind and there weren’t no sun.

    Poor installation and poor planning at a gas turbine plant can be fixed. No wind and no sun cannot. Continued and increased reliance on ‘renewable’ energy sources simply increases the unreliability of the energy supply, and there’s no engineering or managerial fix that can counter that. Put simply, the more we rely on ‘renewable’ energy sources, the more people will freeze to death in the winter or die of heatstroke in the summer, and large parts of the world will revert to their previously-more-or-less-uninhabitable state because living there at any sort of density requires reliable energy sources.

    llater,

    llamas

  9. @ rhoda
    National Grid is a private company dominated (below board level) by engineers. But it does not generate electricity, it distributes it. So it cannot dictate what generating sources are available: it can only work with what exists and encourage reliable sources so that it is *less likely* to have black-outs or brown-outs. Energy policy is set by government amid the screams of deluded greens and journalists (not always the same people).
    The UK system is to have competing generators (the successors to CEGB and NSHEB), the National Grid which distributes power, and a raft of competing marketing companies which bill us for the electricity we use.
    National Grid has organised half-a-dozen interconnectors (four, including Norway which is under construction) between England and bits of the continent, one between Scotland and Northern Ireland and one between Wales and Eire) to reduce the risk of brownouts and help balance supply and demand (Europe’s peaks and troughs in demand are 1 hour earlier than ours); and has added two more pumped storage systems to the two it had on privatisation.
    That’s not bad.
    What it cannot do is prevent the generating market being distorted by Ed Miliband’s subsidies or change the weather. It’s not in thrall to the greens, just shackled.

  10. Fossil fuels are dead because in much of the world they cost more than solar and wind. The price of both kwt and storage will keep falling. It makes no sense to run a gas peaker plant when you can use utility scale batteries that get their energy off peak for free.

  11. Jb,

    Maybe you should cost batteries on the scale of the entire country’s energy usage for a fortnight and build all of the transmission infrastructure needed to get solar power from the south to the north all winter.

    And that usage can be before we all transition to electric vehicles.

  12. Texas is notable in that the state was essentially uninhabitable before the invention of the air conditioner and the construction of electricity distribution to supply it. Take out the leccy, take out the air conditioning, Texas becomes a barren hell-hole.

  13. Of course, if Texas really has been hit by a “100 year storm” then economists will assure us that what is happening is nothing to worry about and that Texan energy policy is appropriate. No sense in spending for something that only happens once a century, etc.

    See also: similar attitudes to smart motorways, domestic food security, etc, etc.

  14. So Much For Subtlety

    Jb February 19, 2021 at 7:51 pm – “Fossil fuels are dead because in much of the world they cost more than solar and wind. The price of both kwt and storage will keep falling. It makes no sense to run a gas peaker plant when you can use utility scale batteries that get their energy off peak for free.”

    This is so delusional it is giving that Tranny a run for his money. There is so much wrong with this it is hard to know even where to start. Perhaps with the delusional idea that batteries provide anything for free.

  15. Saw an interesting analysis by an industry insider that the two major issues in Texas are related to traditional thermal plants. First is that a significant chunk of the thermal generation was down for maintenance (and this is the traditional time for this, as noted above air conditioning is a major load in Texas and the Feb – April period is when most maintenance is scheduled) and takes significant time (14-28 days or more) to restart once maintenance has started. Second is water, all the thermal plants AND Nuclear rely on water for cooling, without adequate water supplies and flows they can’t generate. And this cold wave has seriously reduced the amount of running water available. I say running because there’s quite a bit of water around, only a good deal of the normally easily accessible supplies are in solid form or access to them is in solid form.

    The last big Texas outage was due to excessive heat and dry conditions, so all the recent contingency planning has been based around mitigating that. So planning to mitigate for issues with cold and icing has not been done to the extent necessary.

    That’s why such a significant fraction of the thermal power supply is out, and also explains why the Nuclear plants are not at 100% – they have to throttle output to match their ability to cool.

    This doesn’t meet the publicity needs of those who wish to either bash renewables or bash thermal, but it does seem to be a reasonable explanation of the issue.

  16. Fossil fuels are dead because in much of the world they cost more than solar and wind.

    This is a Poe, surely?

    One thing that bothers me is the idea that the oil and the gas in the ground aren’t free, but that wind and sun is.

    The oil and gas are free. It sometimes costs to extract them — though with open cast coal mining, almost nothing. Until we found a use for them, they were not just free but useless.

    Wind and sun are free. It costs to turn them into power. More than it costs for fossil fuels, as it happens.

    Twenty years ago I believed this “wind being the future” thing. My wife and I bought shares in a wind plant in the windiest part of NZ (it being a pretty windy country all over). It still hasn’t made me any money. So much for being “free” energy! And this is one of the windier parts of the world.

  17. jb=Just Bullshit.

    Some Greenfreak troll.

    Time that the hand of Marxism as the greenfreaks origin became known everywhere on the world stage. And that their plan is ruin for Western economies while the CCP takes not the slightest notice of their bullshit plans.

    Should Chinese domestic eco-freaks cause the least trouble to Xi their organs will also be on the way to the black market. After all the supply of Falun Gongers cant last forever.

  18. >the delusional idea that batteries provide anything for free.
    As stated in the article,
    >insidiously, wind and solar generation depress prices–often to below zero

  19. john77 @ 5:15

    Actually it was the other way round. The strike near Stevenage caused Eaton Socon power station to drop off. That transient travelled up the transmission line and the windfarm reacted, but inappropriately due to a design fault, so it shut down. Then lots of minor windfarms, solar etc dropped off because the rate of change of frequency was too high.

    That last is going to become worse in future as more and more local small generators connect at 11 & 33kV.

  20. See Gridwatch for where the leccy originates in the UK. There’s so little spare capacity now, due to political interference, that the UK relies on France, The Netherlands, etc. via inter-connectors.
    When it’s cold, dark and windless, it’s touch-and-go to avoid blackouts – check if the OCGTs are in use, they are only used when absolutely necessary due to high costs.

    https://gridwatch.co.uk

    Re those damned electric vehicles: 1 litre of diesel provides approximately 11kWh. How much more leccy will we need to replace just the diesel used for transport, let alone heating etc.? A quick ‘napkin’ calculation suggests it’ll be necessary to double the generating capacity (hopefully with sensible new-style-safe nuclear power), double the distribution grid to cope with all the charging points and also charge 3 – 5 times as much as now. Brave New World ahead!

  21. Fossil fuels are dead because in much of the world they cost more than solar and wind. The price of both kwt and storage will keep falling.

    Fantastic. Then we are done here; no more subsidies, no more trans-national interventions, no more propaganda. Climate crisis is over, folks. You read it here first.

  22. @Ed P
    A few weeks ago, on NotALotofPeopleKnowThat, (I think) there was an analysis of UK energy use, electricity, grid gas and transport fuels.
    Roughly 1:6:6

    So, ignoring additional inefficiencies in creating/deleivering and utilisng this in electric ways, and assuming battery HGV, helicopters, wide-body airliners, container ships and ferries are even possible, this is an increase in electricity generation of some 13 times. That’s for today’s usage (&climate!), not what the population will need in the future.

    I think that worked out as one new 2GW nuclear power station built, fuelled & brought on line EVERY DAY from now until December 2030.

    Time was, the ‘date in the future’ was safely beyond any politician’s career, so absurd virtue-signalling lies were OK: the cheque wouldn’t bounce until long after. Time has run out.
    The current crop of politicos will be presented the bill. And they are beginning to realise this.
    Not hoping for any common sense though. I suspect double down headless chicken mode will be order of the day. It’s all the fault of those .

  23. @Ed P
    A few weeks ago, on NotALotofPeopleKnowThat (I think it was), there was an analysis of UK energy use, electricity, grid gas and transport fuels.
    Roughly 1:6:6

    So, ignoring additional inefficiencies in creating/delivering and utilising this in electric ways, and assuming battery HGV, helicopters, wide-body airliners, container ships and ferries are even possible, this is an increase in electricity generation of some 13 times. That’s for today’s usage (&climate!), not what the population will need in the future.

    I think that worked out as one new 2GW nuclear power station built, fuelled & brought on line EVERY DAY from now until December 2030.

    Time was, the ‘date in the future’ was safely beyond any politician’s career, so absurd virtue-signalling lies were OK: the cheque wouldn’t bounce until long after. Time has run out.
    The current crop of politicos will be presented the bill. And they are beginning to realise this.
    Not hoping for any common sense though. I suspect double down headless chicken mode will be order of the day. It’s all the fault of those (Insert targetted victim group here).

    Damn triangular brackets!

  24. TtC: I read today that Princess Nut Nut’s mates are increasing their influence in No 10. Since BoJo knows the square root of fuck-all about anything technical, he has neither the knowledge nor the inclination to do the back-of-envelope calculations that would demonstrate to him the Green Dream is a nightmare.

  25. TBF my car gets 3x the mileage from 10kWh of electricity as it does from a litre of petrol, so it probably wouldn’t be 13x increase in generating capacity, more like 4-5x. Still totally implausible, of course.

    And electricity (absent some breakthrough in fundamental science*) just isn’t a feasible solution for HGVs that average 400 miles a day, let alone air transport. If we still have flying machines in 2050 they’ll be powered by liquid hydrocarbons, because nothing else in the known universe delivers the necessary energy density to make them work. Said hydrocarbons don’t have to be produced by digging up dead dinosaurs, but growing plants for ethanol won’t work, either.

    * TBH it’s more likely that we’ll invent a Star Trek style transporter beam than a way of storing electrical energy with 10x the energy density of the best technology today

  26. Just to amend my previous comment before someone does the maths…

    I was conflating two separate articles.
    One was about the UK, and the amount grid gas, and transport fuels, are massively greater then the electrical grid demand, which was roughly the rations I mentioned.

    The second article was about the WORLDWIDE ‘pledge’ of zero carbon by 2030.
    So the ‘one nuke a day helps you work rest and play’ is worldwide. Always assuming the 3rd world is content to remain poor. If they want to converge to first world living standards, the dosage goes up to several 2GW power stations a day.

    Same result though: it ain’t gonna happen.

  27. @ EdP 11.56
    The numbers don’t show that we depend on the interconnectors – in fact when our demand/supply balance is difficult we are often exporting power. Mostly we are taking some of France’s surplus when that is at a high level and it can’t give it away on the continent (probably saves us a bit of money).
    It’s not the OCGTs that are a worry so much as Drax burning coal and imported woodchips so that we can keep lots of CCGT in reserve to cope with wild fluctuations in windfarm output.

  28. Turns out, according to wiki, that it was only a few million Texans had outages, and only a few of those for long (though it was bastard cold), so all this fuss is somewhat a first world problem.
    Wonder how often they have outages in Nigeria, Pakistan etc and how many millions they affect.
    ( Was in India many years ago, load shedding was a daily occurrence – anybody know anything of this sort of thing nowadays? )

  29. From some other blog –
    ‘Wind power is not to blame because wind power is not expected to provide capacity in times of need.’
    Indeed.
    So, to be fair, Texas had enough conventional capacity to keep the light on, they had to have, as the wind turbines are inherently intermittent, it was indeed a failure of ‘conventional’ generation.
    The only way to pin this on the greens is to consider the regulatory framework for electricity generation in Texas, for which see Gary Moran’s most excellent link ( https://judithcurry.com/2021/02/18/assigning-blame-for-the-blackouts-in-texas/ ) – seems that rewards for keeping ‘standby’ power were deprecated to the benefit of ‘intermittent’ sources. So maybe we can blame the greens, maybe we should also blame the Texan electricity regulators.

  30. Was looking at the members of ERCOT (electric reliability council of Texas). Chairman is a woman who read ‘Natural resources policy studies’ for bachelors, and ‘Public affairs’ for masters. She has made a career out of these sort of jobs and one wonders if she is actually any good at anything other than getting nice jobs. To be fair, the CEO is man, and he would be the one to really deserve any blame, and he is extremely well paid.
    It is fair to wonder whether either of them know the difference between a diesel and a gasoline engine, and also to wonder that in the bad old days those jobs might have been filled by engineers with a long career in generating and distributing electricity.

  31. I heard, dunno if true, that when the grid went down, then the pumps to pump the gas for generating stopped.
    If that is true, engineers are prolly to blame.

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