Thursday, February 18, 2021

Isolated and ... without power

This should not happen but Texas, via ERCOT, decided to isolate and, in effect, privatize their electric grid with emphasis on profits, which means equipment not being hardened against the weather while not connected to the nation's power grid because "you don't want the government messing in your affairs." Ask the folks who are freezing their asses off to see how they feel about this sorry situation now, especially when Terrible Ted splits for Cancun even though his state's frozen emergency from hell started long before the esteemed senator left for balmier skies.

One key reason for this is because Texas maintains its own power grid largely in isolation from those of its neighbor states. In North America, most customers are served by two major grids that operate on the same alternating current frequency—one serving the eastern half of the continent (including the US, Canada, and parts of Mexico) and the other serving the western half. However, Texas—along with Quebec—both maintain power grids that are largely separate from these larger networks.

As we mentioned above, the natural gas market saw power generators competing with home users for a limited supply of natural gas. That gas supply ended up being even more limited by the fact that as much as half the state's natural gas production may have ground to a halt. Natural gas doesn't come out of the wells as a pure gas, and one of its major contaminants is water. As temperatures dropped, that water froze in inopportune places, choking off the flow of gas.

Why not harden the tech?

In addition, the Texas grid, like the rest of the US, has become increasingly reliant on natural gas supplies over the last decade. According to the FERC report, in 2011, Texas lost over a million Megawatt-hours to frozen hardware and mechanical failures; it lost only 120,000 Megawatt-hours to fuel supply problems. The reported problems with natural gas supplies this time around suggest that those numbers will now look very different.

The typical polticians' answer ...

So far, the signs for change aren't good. In addition to Perry's quip about Texans being willing to suffer through blackouts to avoid any oversight, the present Texas governor, Greg Abbott, is busy blaming renewable power for failures that disproportionately affected fossil fuel generation.

It's all about the money, and ... you can't fix stupid.

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