By Paul Homewood
There have been more blackouts in Texas this week, as another spell of cold weather shut down wind power:
It’s not just a cold front. Over a decade of misguided green energy policies are wreaking havoc in Texas and the lower Midwest right now — despite non-stop claims to the contrary.
The immediate cause for the power outages in Texas this week was extreme cold and insufficient winterization of the state’s energy systems. But there’s still no escaping the fact that, for years, Texas regulators have favored the construction of heavily subsidized renewable energy sources over more reliable electricity generation. These policies have pushed the state away from nuclear and coal and now millions in Texas and the Great Plains states are learning just how badly exposed they are when extreme weather hits.
Renewable’s defenders retort that Texas’ wind resource is “reliably unreliable.” Translation: It can’t be counted on when it’s needed most. The state has spent tens of billions of dollars on wind turbines that don’t work when millions of people desperately need electricity. As the cold weather has gotten worse, half the state’s wind generation has sat frozen and immobile. Where wind provided 42% of the state’s electricity on Feb. 7, it fell to 8% on Feb.11.
The Texas power outage was inevitable
Unsurprisingly, the failure of wind has sparked a competing narrative that fossil fuel plants were the real cause of power outages. This claim can be quickly dispelled with a look at data from ERCOT, the state’s electricity regulator. Even though the extreme cold had frozen cooling systems on coal plants and natural gas pipelines, the state’s coal plants still upped their output by 47% in response to increasing demand. Natural gas plants across the state increased their output by an amazing 450%. Fossil fuels have done yeoman’s work to make up for wind’s reliable unreliability.
Sadly, even these herculean efforts weren’t enough. The loss of wind has been compounded by the loss of some natural gas and coal generation, and one nuclear reactor, which experienced a cold-related safety issue and shut down. Things are improving, but rolling power outages are still impacting millions. Had the state invested more heavily in nuclear plants instead of pushing wind power, Texans would have ample, reliable, safe, emission-free electricity powering their lives through the cold. Instead, over 20 have died.
This sad outcome was inevitable. Renewable energy sources have taken off in popularity largely because of state mandates and federal subsidies. As they’ve become more popular, reliable energy like nuclear power and coal have felt the squeeze.
Last year, wind overtook coal as Texas’ second largest source of electricity generation. The most recent federal data indicates that, in October last year, natural gas provided 52% of the Lonestar state’s electricity, while wind generated about 22%, coal kicked in 17%, and nuclear added 8%. The rise of wind means unreliable energy is increasingly relied on for the energy grid.
The US EIA data confirms that wind power virtually disappeared from the grid as the cold weather hit Texas on Feb 11th:
It was natural gas which kept the grid going, being ramped up from 18 GW at 6pm to 28 GW two hours later. Coal and nuclear generation remained stable throughout the period.
According to ABC, at least 22 people have died directly because of the cold weather, either from hypothermia or carbon monoxide poisoning, Without that gas power, the total would have been in the thousands.
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February 17, 2023 at 07:47AM