The situation on the Texas power grid this week poses a critical challenge for its managers at ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) and underscores the vulnerability of the grid, not just in terms of renewable energy, but in its overall resilience. As weather conditions worsen across the state, ERCOT has issued a conservation request to cope with peak power demand, shedding light on the grid’s dependence on various energy sources.
ERCOT attributes the recent setback in the state’s wind industry to “unseasonably low wind” conditions. However, the well-known fact that wind tends to diminish in colder temperatures is evident. ERCOT cannot control weather patterns, but they can anticipate reduced wind contribution during less-than-ideal weather. Equally apparent is the lack of generation from solar farms when sunlight is unavailable, and the limitations of battery storage during extreme weather conditions, be it too hot or too cold.
Examining ERCOT’s generation mix at a critical time reveals 0 percent contribution from solar, 0.8 percent from power storage, and just 6.8 percent from wind. In contrast, “fossil fuels,” particularly the natural gas industry, contribute 84.9 percent of total generation, highlighting the grid’s dependence on natural gas.
Despite the push for renewables, the reality on the Texas grid remains centered around the performance of natural gas. Consumers’ experiences hinge on whether natural gas producers can maintain production, pipeline companies can keep gas flowing, and power generators can prevent plant freezing. This reality was starkly evident during Winter Storm Uri in February 2021, where failures in these aspects led to massive blackouts and tragic consequences.
Efforts have been made since then to prevent a repeat of such failures, with critical grid sites identified and measures taken to ensure uninterrupted service. The success or failure of the Texas power grid in challenging times is linked to the performance of natural gas, not renewables. This serves as a reminder that irrespective of the energy mix, the reliability of the grid relies on the robustness of natural gas infrastructure.
For you and your family, this underscores the need to be prepared with a backup power supply. In the cold of winter, you’re going to need some way to supply power to your home. As America’s power grid becomes increasingly unstable and creaky, it’s nearly inevitable that you will experience some kind of massive power disruption at some point in the near future.
How are you and your family preparing for the grid going down? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.