California transplant recipients who moved to Texas no doubt thought they had escaped blackouts. think again Texans were told this week to crank up their thermostats amid a brutal heat wave to avoid rollouts. An ultimatum: sweat or bake without electricity.
Texas temperatures soared into the triple digits this week, but that’s not unusual. The problem is that, as is so often the case in hot spells, wind power has stalled. Wind accounts for about 30% of Texas’ electricity supply, but unlike fossil fuel generators, wind cannot provide electricity unless it’s blowing. Then gas-powered systems have to fill the gap.
But gas plants alone could not compensate for the wind and meet the increasing demand for electricity. The Texas grid operator had to ask residents to save electricity. Bitcoin miners were asked to shut down to unleash 1,000 megawatts of electricity — enough to power about 200,000 homes on a hot day. Rising electricity prices gave them an incentive to do so.
Manufacturers also reported slowing production due to grid congestion and rising prices. Toyota said Thursday it had scaled back production at its San Antonio plant. Reuters reported that Toyota is considering halting production before 2 p.m. most days – when demand for electricity picks up – and cutting night shifts by mid-August.
One of Texas’s selling points for business was its cheap and reliable power. Under former Republican Gov. Rick Perry, the state invested heavily in building transmission lines to carry heavily subsidized wind power from West Texas to major cities. On the country’s deregulated electricity market, the wind pushed prices down at times.
But coal and nuclear plants are struggling to turn a profit at reduced capacity, prompting many to retire. As a result, the grid has become more dependent on gas-fired generators to offset unreliable renewable energy. Meanwhile, demand for electricity is increasing as Texas’ population grows. All of this brought the state’s power grid to a near breaking point.
Gas and electricity prices are also rising as regulatory barriers to building new pipelines limit supply. Texas home electricity rates have risen 70% since last June, costing the typical family $80 more per month.
It’s no surprise that Democratic nominee Beto O’Rourke is using this against incumbent Governor Greg Abbott, who isn’t leading in the polls as far as he probably imagined. Texas needs to fix its emerging energy problems lest it become California.
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Appeared in the July 16, 2022 print edition as “#CaliforniaPowerProblems Hit Texas.”
https://www.wsj.com/articles/californiapowerproblems-hit-texas-blackouts-electricity-heat-wave-11657919178 California Power Problems Hit Texas