Saturday, July 16, 2022

Rolling Blackouts in Texas?

I live north of San Antonio in south-central Texas.  Actually, we live in the 'hill country' which is a bit cooler than most of the region.  Since the start of June, it has been close to or over 100 every day.  Those are the temperatures we don't normally see until the middle of August.   ERCOT has been sending out notices that to avoid rolling blackouts we need to raise our air conditioning setting to 78 F and limit energy use during peak hours.  Tesla sent out a message to their car owners in Texas asking them not to charge their vehicles during peak hours.  I'm pretty irritated about this.

Last winter we had a multi-day total power outage during 4 F temps.  Everyone lost water pumps and had frozen pipes.  This year, Governor Abbot in February said their wouldn't be any problem, they had 15% more power than needed.  And we didn't have a repeat of the 2021 outage.

Then on May 17th ERCOT provided quotes  in the Texas Tribune about the summer capability:  

"Lake and Jones said asking Texans to conserve electricity is a tool they use to ensure reliability of the power supply and should not be viewed as a sign that the grid is unstable.

Conservation is a good thing,” Jones said. “Conservation is what we should do every day in our lives, conservation is how we treat our use of water in the summers, and when it’s very hot, I hope that each of you will turn to conservation as a way to both lower your [electricity] bill as well as to help all of us in the market.”

I consider that BS.  When we are warned of rolling blackouts if we don't conserve, it's not just a tool to ensure reliability.  It means ERCOT and the power companies have not provided sufficient reliable capacity to handle normal usage.

Another article, and I don't know how reliable the data is (or my memory), said that at times wind supply has fallen to 2,600 MW from its typical 35,000 MW during the summer heat.  That natural gas was supplying about 68,000 MW for a load (state usage) that is typically 86,000 MW.  And a vague memory was that solar was supplying about 15,000 MW.  Since most days have been very sunny, Texas has only a small problem (shortage).

But that 15% buffer that Governor Abbot quoted apparently relies on unreliable renewables.  And apparently, there is NO plan to increase fossil fuel (or nuclear) generating capacity as population and industry increase usage.  Reliability has to fall on the current state plan.

My suggestion would be to NOT conserve.  Although I DO NOT suggest using more electricity than necessary.  But if there is not sufficient reliable capacity to avoid rolling blackouts at current usage levels, it is only going to get worse.  To change the views and plans of whoever controls power investment in the state, the voters need to act.  Rolling blackouts might do the trick in time to change direction and increase reliable capacity.  Doing nothing, won't.  

I don't like the timing of this.  We need to keep republicans in charge in the state, and rolling blackouts might cause losses at the ballot box.  Maybe the state has plans to increase fossil fuel or nuclear power and just isn't advertising it.  If so, they are idiots for not letting the voters know.