From Scott Carlberg

There’s instant coffee, instant mashed potatoes, instant oatmeal, and after the Texas deep freeze a year ago, instant energy experts.

So it seemed when those darned renewables supposedly let down Texas when it got cold. Petro-thinking blocked energy thinking, unfortunately. That’s hard for me to admit because I started my career at a big oil company.

The bottom line: Pinning all the blackout blame just on renewables misses the point (and serves an agenda oftentimes).

Happily, clearer heads have prevailed but the word has not gotten out completely. Let’s help that happen.

The instant blame in the Texas blackout was assigned to wind generators freezing up. Did some? Yes.

And coal, gas, nuclear, and pipeline facilities were among those frozen, too. So was the Texas regulatory and market system, for years. After all, when a similar deadly freeze happened in 2011 recommendations were issued, and not much done.

Ditto, happened again.

What now? For some interesting reading dig into an extensive report by Texas Monthly that just appeared: The Texas Electric Grid Failure Was a Warm-up: One year after the deadly blackout, officials have done little to prevent the next one—which could be far worse

The Texas Monthly report gets especially interesting. It notes that Texas had, in fact, invested in new power transmission to the tune of almost $7 billion and renewable energy possibilities in Texas were leading the nation. Some Texas experts even winterized an oil complex in Russia that operates in frigid winter temperatures.

State pride has been, in part, built on being a self-sufficient island of energy because it self-regulates.

Texas had developed a Rolls Royce of electric systems.

Here’s the kicker stated in that Texas Monthly report: “And then came the February blackouts. Our folly was laid bare: it’s as if we’d built a powerful, expensive car and then tried to pinch pennies by not buying antifreeze for it.”

The talk, the money, the self-confidence led to instant failure.

On the horizon, though, there may be light. The future of the electric grid is in renewables and flexible options to manage power.

Many renewable power additions in Texas

The Energy Information Administration reports:

  • 6 GW of wind capacity in the U.S. should come online in 2022 – about half is in Texas.
  • Just across the Red River in oil country, Oklahoma’s 999 MW Traverse Wind Energy Center – the largest wind project expected to come online in 2022, is scheduled to begin commercial operations in April.
  • S. utility-scale solar capacity is expected to grow by 21.5 GW in 2022, more than 2021’s 15.5 GW. Most solar additions in 2022 will be in Texas (6.1 GW, or 28% of the national total).

Storage, paired with wind and solar, will also be a part of the future grid.  One Texas energy expert told Houston Public Media in early 2022 that, “Storage continues to come down significantly in price, especially when you look at larger utility-scale storage systems. …Some of it’s co-located with renewable systems, with solar systems, or wind farms. Others are located independently and kind of strategically placed in areas where there’s congestion or other types of grid constraints.”

Not a drop of oil is noted in those comments about the future of power in Texas, by the way.

The old adage of “Put your money where your mouth is,” may show where success is really found. The malaise of the February 2021 Arctic vortex may have warmed some people’s hearts to the way renewables really do fit in a power system.

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Feature image is a control room for the Texas regional transmission organization – ERCOT – the Electric Reliability Council of Texas