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A Tale of Two Renewable Energy Blackouts: California vs Texas

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Energy
California Blackouts Highlight Contrast with Texas Energy, Provide Forewarning
Last summer, Texans nearly experienced similar rolling blackouts to what Californians faced just a few weeks ago.

BRAD JOHNSON SEPTEMBER 7, 2020

Driving north from San Antonio to Austin on I-35, a billboard towers over passing traffic broadcasting a simple message: “Don’t California our Texas.” In California’s recent rolling energy grid blackouts, Texans might recognize a warning for its own power supply.

Californians faced rolling blackouts in mid- to late-August as the summer’s heat sweltered, leading to unsustainable electricity usage. Its energy grid is primarily powered by a mix of 35 percent natural gas and 31 percent renewables, like wind, solar, and geothermal sources.

Democratic politicians in California have mandated that 60 percent of the state’s grid be made up of energy generated by renewables by 2030. Similarly-aligned but more vague proposals have been made at the national level including by Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden.

The unreliability of the state’s renewables spurred the dearth in supply and was made worse by surrounding states from which California imports ancillary power also experiencing high demand.

This perfect storm was compounded by the state’s concerted effort to shutter natural gas and nuclear plants which can provide power on demand, especially for emergency situations.

[…]

Texas, meanwhile, experienced a similar emergency last summer, again because electricity use skyrocketed as Texans retreated indoors to escape the blistering heat.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the nation’s largest non-capacity energy market in which producers are paid by consumers based on their usage, rather than paid upfront for a contractually set amount of production, warned of possible blackouts last summer, but ultimately avoided them.

That close call was caused by a deficiency in the projected wind and solar production and a fossil fuel-powered energy plant malfunction.

Contrasting with the West Coast giant, Stein stated, “In Texas, the state regulator makes an effort to incentivize extra capacity.”

[…]

Renewables make up nearly a quarter of the total output of Texas’ energy grid, while natural gas accounts for over half of the electricity generation. A big reason California bolstered its renewable grid share at the expense of natural gas was to eliminate emissions.

Texas far outpaces California on total carbon dioxide emissions — producing 13 percent of the U.S.’s emissions and 22 percent of its energy, compared with California’s 3 percent in generation and 7 percent in emissions.

And while renewables share of California’s grid is higher than Texas’, our state generates about 3,000 MWh more electricity from its renewables. That’s enough to power nearly 2 million more homes at any given time.

[…]

Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.

The Texan

This was ERCOT’s August 2019 “warning”…

August 13, 2019

Extreme heat across the state results in high usage, need for conservation

Austin, TX, Aug. 13, 2019 – The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) canceled its Energy Emergency Alert (EEA1) at 5 p.m. today and returned to normal grid operations by 5:30 p.m.

“Extreme heat across the state resulted in high usage today,” said ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness. “Declaring an EEA1 allowed us to access tools to maintain reliability, and we appreciate everyone’s response to the conservation appeal.”

At 3:10 p.m. today, ERCOT issued an EEA1 due to operating reserves below 2,300 MW. During normal grid conditions, ERCOT’s operating reserves are at or above 3,000 MW. This is the first time ERCOT has issued an EEA1 since January 2014.

One megawatt (MW) is enough to power 200 homes on a hot summer day.

When ERCOT issues an EEA, it is then able to take advantage of additional resources that are only available during tight operating conditions.

This afternoon, the average real-time market energy price reached the $9,000/MWh offer cap for multiple 15-minute settlement intervals.

ERCOT set a new all-time peak demand record on Monday, Aug. 12, when demand reached 74,531 MW between 4 and 5 p.m. Today’s peak came in at 74,181 MW between 3 and 4 p.m.

Consumers can monitor real-time grid conditions by downloading the ERCOT mobile app in the Apple Store and Google Play and/or by following ERCOT on Twitter.

ERCOT

Last summer, Texans nearly experienced similar rolling blackouts to what Californians faced just a few weeks ago.

When I read the sentence above, I immediately thought of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

“The Brave Sir Robin: The One who nearly fought the fierce Dragon of Angor, Almost stood up to the vicious chicken of Bristol…” Imgur

I knew this wasn’t a coincidence after reading the brief bio of Brad Johnson, author of The Texan article.

In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.

California experienced an actual ~4,400 MW deficiency in generating capacity. Texas experienced a brief period (less than 3 hours) when our operating reserves fell below 2,300 MW… It was ERCOT’s first Energy Emergency Alert (EEA1) since 2014.

While, we’ve experienced many power failures due to ice, lightning and/or wind damage, rolling blackouts are almost unheard of here. I’ve lived in Dallas County since 1981, and the only rolling blackout I can remember was during Super Bowl week 2011. The rolling blackouts were due to bitter cold that inhibited the startup of idle coal-fired power plants… Oddly enough, the blackouts did not affect venues related to Super Bowl festivities.

Functional

Texas

Dysfunctional

Calizuela

At the same scale…

Texas is in red, California is in blue.

California = Blue, Texas = Red

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