Here’s the headline:

Texas grid operator urges electricity conservation as many power generators

are unexpectedly offline and temperatures rise

Local NBC story about the heat waves and power

Except for the temperature, June seems a lot like February in Texas. Power plants are down; electricity demand is through the roof. The news story says, “Of the plants offline, about 9,600 megawatts of power, or nearly 80% of the outages, are from thermal power sources, which in Texas are largely natural-gas-fired power plants. That’s several times what ERCOT usually sees offline for thermal generation maintenance during a summer day. Typically, only about 3,600 megawatts of thermal generation are offline this time of year.”

The Regional Transmission Organization for Texas – ERCOT – website shows supply and demand in real time and expected. Pretty close on June 15, 2021.

About 12,000 megawatts are out of commission now. That is several million homes-worth of power.

The state enacted legislation to make changes to the electric system following February’s deep freeze. That accounted for hundreds of deaths.

Policymakers claimed the legislation was a fix-it for the state’s power needs. Reality, in the form of Texans sweltering and not washing their clothes or dishes to ease strain on the grid, says it didn’t work.

Clearly, there are several lessons here:

  • Legislation is no substitute for pragmatic oversight from state utility commissions. Policy is not wires and power generation facilities, nor does it generate electricity. (It does make power in a totally different way, I guess.)
  • Texas deregulated itself to cheaper power prices, but at what cost? The cheapest possible power system operates, well, like the cheapest possible power system, especially when the chips are down.
  • A Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) – which some in the Southeast crave – does not guarantee reliable energy operations.

The heat wave elevates the energy debate in Texas. The magazine, Texas Monthly, just this week published a deep dive look at the Texas power issues (power in all its incarnations). That report is good homework for policymakers who may be looking at energy legislation in their states.