"Power Bills To The Moon": Chaos, Shock As Electricity Prices Across US Explode

Very Interesting article as how current Polar Vortex is affecting US energy prices


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I pulled the following from ERCOT’s website.  The spreadsheet is rather large so I summarized it below.  I have included 2021 to date and 2020 data.  All figures are in Gigawatthours.  Please feel free to review the data.  

2021 Jan Energy production.

Source.    Gigawatthours.     Percentage 

Natural gas.  11678.                 38%

Wind.             7702.                 25%

Coal.              6803.                  22%

Nuclear.         3801.                  12%

Solar.              732.                      2%

Other.                                          1%

Total.              30766

2020 data

Source.           Gigawatthours.     Percentages 

Natural gas.          173796.             46%

Wind.                      87090.              23%

Coal.                      68514.               18%

Nuclear.                 41450.                11%

Solar.                      8749.                  2%

Total.                      380590

This storm shut in 15000 megawatt hours of wind generation.  That’s 15% of the supply!!

The questions should be thus:    Did ERCOT fail to notify the non renewable producers to prepare for the ramp up?  If they did notify, did the non renewables fail to bring production online?  Or was the excess capacity shuttered in the push for renewables?  

When you have 25% of you supply as renewables, what is the backup for inclement weather?  If this percentage increases, what will be the failsafes?

What went wrong with the Texas power grid?

Houston Chronicle

Millions of Texans were without heat and electricity Monday as snow, ice and frigid temperatures caused a catastrophic failure of the state’s power grid.

The Texas power grid, powered largely by wind and natural gas, is relatively well equipped to handle the state’s hot and humid summers when demand for power soars. But unlike blistering summers, the severe winter weather delivered a crippling blow to power production, cutting supplies as the falling temperatures increased demand.

Natural gas shortages and frozen wind turbines were already curtailing power output when the Arctic blast began knocking generators offline early Monday morning.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which is responsible for scheduling power and ensuring the reliability of the electrical network, declared a statewide power generation shortfall emergency and asked electricity delivery companies to reduce load through controlled outages.

More than 4 million customers were without power in Texas, including 1.4  million in the Houston area, the worst power crisis in the state in a decade. The forced outages are expected to last at least through part of Tuesday, the state grid manager said.

CenterPoint Energy, the regulated utility that delivers electricity to Houston-area homes and provides natural gas service, started rolling blackouts in the Houston region at the order of state power regulators. It said customers experiencing outages should be prepared to be without power at least through Monday.

“How long is it going to be? I don’t know the answer,” said Kenny Mercado, executive vice president at the Houston utility. “The generators are doing everything they can to get back on. But their work takes time and I don’t know how long it will take. But for us to move forward, we have got to get generation back onto the grid. That is our primary need.”

Video: Houston Chronicle Photo Staff

Dan Woodfin, ERCOT’s senior director of system operations, said the rolling blackouts are taking more power offline for longer periods than ever before. An estimated 34,000 megawatts of power generation — more than a third of the system’s total generating capacity — had been knocked offline by the extreme winter weather amid soaring demand as residents crank up heating systems.

The U.S. Energy Department, in response to an ERCOT request, issued an order late Monday authorizing power plants throughout the state to run at maximum output levels, even if it results in exceeding pollution limits.

Ed Hirs, an energy fellow in the Department of Economics at the University of Houston, blamed the failures on the state’s deregulated power system, which doesn’t provide power generators with the returns needed to invest in maintaining and improving power plants.

“The ERCOT grid has collapsed in exactly the same manner as the old Soviet Union,” said Hirs. “It limped along on underinvestment and neglect until it finally broke under predictable circumstances.

“For more than a decade, generators have not been able to charge what it costs them to produce electricity,” said Hirs. “If you don’t make a return on your money, how can you keep it up? It’s like not taking care of your car. If you don’t change the oil and tires, you can’t expect your car to be ready to evacuate, let alone get you to work.”

Woodfin said ERCOT and generators followed best practices for winterization, but the severity of the weather was unprecedented — “well beyond the design parameters of an extreme Texas winter.”

The hit to power generation came as frigid weather froze wind turbines and forced outages among natural gas and other power plants. Most of the power knocked offline came from thermal sources, Woodfin said, particularly natural gas.

Natural gas supplies for electric generation are already strained in the winter, the peak season for gas used for heating, adding pressure to supplies used to generate electricity.

The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and natural gas in the state, said Monday afternoon that some producers, especially in the Permian Basin and Panhandle, were experiencing unprecedented freezing conditions, causing concern for employee safety and affecting production.

As part of its statewide response, the commissioners issued an emergency order on Friday evening to manage shortages of natural gas, requiring gas to first be delivered to residences, hospitals, schools, churches and other locations that meet human needs, then to power plants and then to industrial users.

The RRC also issued a notice asking oil and gas operators to monitor and maintain operations as safety permits.

ERCOT and utility officials called on Texans to do as much as they can to conserve energy.

“Every single watt of savings is one watt that we don’t have to go take out at somebody’s house,” Mercado said. “For those who still have power, whether it is commercial, a school, residential, if they can bring their demand for electricity down, that would help us. That is what we need for the rest of today. I want to emphasize this.”

With demand high and supplies short, wholesale electricity prices have spiked, and because of the nature of electric power contracts, those increases may be felt by consumers well after the region has thawed. Wholesale electricity sold are near the $9,000-per-megawatt hour maximum in power markets across the state Monday as the system struggled to meet demand, according to ERCOT.

The system hit a new record early Monday morning of more than 69,000 megawatt hours, well above the previous winter record of about 66,000 megawatt hours set in 2018.

ERCOT entered emergency conditions and initiated rotating outages at 1:25 a.m. Monday. As the regulator calls for reductions in demand, each supplier is responsible for reducing its share of the gap by its share of the market. In the case of CenterPoint, that’s about 25 percent, ERCOT’s Woodfin said.

Oncor, which serves the Dallas area and beyond, is responsible for 36 percent.

Rotating outages could be initiated until this weather emergency ends, with Monday and Tuesday mornings at the highest risk periods for rlling blackouts, Mayor Sylvester Turner said. Blackouts could last between 15 minutes and an hour and could happen more than once.

“These are not rolling blackouts. We are dealing with system-wide power outages across the state,” Turner tweeted at 8:11 a.m.

Downed power lines caused by icing could keep some customers in the cold and dark for an extended time.

Hirs said Houston residents can expect more power outages in the future.

“The year 2011 was a miserable cold snap and there were blackouts,” said Hirs. “It happened before and will continue to happen until Texas restructures its electricity market.”

Wind turbines in northern states are not susceptible to cold weather events because they are designed with de-icing protection.  It is not the cold air temps that can cause wind turbines to shut down, it is the accumulation of ice.  Most Texas wind turbines do not appear to have protections from icing.  The problem is the wild west, unregulated nature of the electricity market.  I'll post a list of providers below, if it doesn't exceed the character limits for a reply box.  This de-regulated electricity market while good for consumers electric costs in effect means that providers cut as many cost corners as possible to be competitive and boost profits.  They took the risk that saving costs on extreme cold weather events would not result in what we are seeing now because Texas does not normally see days of temps this extremely low with no highs above freezing.  Coal is unusable when the piles are frozen and natural gas is not usable when it is frozen in the pipeline.  Those electricity providers didn't prepare for extreme cold events either and for the same reason.  De-regulation disincentivizes investment in infrastructure hardening.

The number of Option One Electric providers exceeds the character limit, there are over 1000.  And there are also Option Two and Option Three lists.

Where does Texas get most of its electricity?


What types of electricity are generated in Texas? Natural-gas-fired power plants generated 40% of Texas's electricity in 2020, according to Ercot, the largest single source. Wind turbines were second at 23%, followed by coal at 18% and nuclear at 11%.


All sources of electricity are affected because none of them planned for prolonged periods of extreme cold.  This is a failure of government to require providers to plan for and guard against outages caused by extreme weather events.  De-regulation is great.... until it isn't.  Lessons learned the hard way tend to stick and results in changes that protect consumers.  77% of Texas electricity comes from non-wind sources.

Insane GOP lies about Texas offer a depressing preview of coming climate debates

Opinion by Paul Waldman  Feb. 17, 2021  washingtonpost.com

You might think of Texas as a conservative state, one where every statewide elected official is a Republican, the GOP controls the state legislature, and the last Democratic governor left office 26 years ago.

But if you’re a Fox News viewer, you have now learned that while no one was looking, hippies took over Texas and implemented the Green New Deal there, leading to the power outages that affected over four million people in the wake of a terrible snowstorm.

This is one of the most bonkers propaganda campaigns you’ll ever see, and though it’s centered on Fox it extends far beyond it. The purpose is to spin the tragic story unfolding in Texas into a reason to hate and fear liberal policy ideas which have absolutely nothing to do with what’s happening there.

This, as the saying goes, is why we can’t have nice things — like a well-designed and reliable power grid. It’s a disturbing preview of the miserable debates we’ll have over restoring our infrastructure and dealing with climate change, as Democrats try to confront those problems and Republicans try to stop them from doing so.

So what happened in Texas? What it comes down to is that the state’s power system is not built for cold weather, and when the snowstorm hit, not only did demand spike but large portions of the generating system went offline. Natural gas, coal, and nuclear plants were all crippled by frozen instruments and pipes, and some wind turbines froze.

“We’ve had some issues with pretty much every kind of generating capacity in the course of this multi-day event,” said one official.

But, importantly, natural gas provides the largest portion of Texas’ power, and that’s where the biggest problem was. As the Texas Tribune reported:

Officials for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages most of Texas’ grid, said the primary cause of the outages Tuesday appeared to be the state’s natural gas providers.

What are the policy implications of this event? The most direct one is that we need to modernize our power grid to enable it to handle severe weather and demand spikes — something experts have been saying for years.

But that wasn’t good enough for those in the conservative propaganda machine, which swung into action to blame everything on diabolical liberals shoving wind power down everyone’s throat. Here’s a taste of the lunacy being poured into the eyeballs of Fox’s audience:

And it’s not just Fox. The far-right Wall Street Journal editorial board penned an editorial blaming the Texas outages on renewable energy. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) acknowledged that the failures ran across all the different types of energy Texas uses, then bizarrely concluded, “Bottom line: Thank God for baseload energy made up of fossil fuels.”

It’s as if you choked on a piece of steak, and I told you, “That’s why you can’t trust all those hippies who forced you to eat kale!”

And lest anyone be tempted to engage in any mindless bothsidesism, Democrats are most certainly not responding to the events in Texas by saying it shows why we need more renewable energy. Their response is focused on what’s actually happening and why. They’re arguing that we need to examine the weaknesses in our electrical grids — both the one in Texas and the national grid — and modernize them to make blackouts less likely in the future.

Which is how a sane polity reacts to crises: You examine what happened, determine the lessons that can be learned, and apply that knowledge to build policy solutions.

Unfortunately, Republicans are utterly unwilling to engage in anything resembling a reasoned policy debate, both because in most cases they know they’d lose, and because they are unencumbered by the kind of ethics that might prevent them from simply lying, extravagantly and constantly.

So when the Biden administration attempts to take steps to confront climate change, they’ll say, “Don’t you remember what happened in Texas? If we burn less fossil fuels there will be constant blackouts and we’ll all freeze to death!”

Unfortunately, we’ve reached a point where pretty much every policy debate plays out that way. Democrats say, “This is a little complicated, but we think this is the most effective solution to this problem.” Then Republicans respond, “Here’s a bunch of insane lies about how Democratic proposals will kill you and your family.”

To be clear, the GOP was doing this (remember “death panels"?) long before Donald Trump came along. But the critical thing for Democrats to remember is that on policy challenges like infrastructure and energy, Republicans will claim they want to have a real debate, but they don’t. They will say just about anything to protect the status quo. They will not compromise. The only way to get to effective policy solutions is to beat them.

Interesting article. It warmed me up enough to heat my cold house.   I don't agree with all he says but I'm not going to a lot of places he went or go political.  It seems Texas acted responsibly (sort of) by at least providing a good mix of options for electrical needs.  Coal, oil, natural gas (very clean-for for the environment) solar, wind and thermal.  The writer left out thermal.  I had no idea 20% or so of electricity came from wind turbines.  Grateful it wasn't 50% like some wanted.  Texas just never planned for the "cold day in hell" to ever happen.  And who knew... heat our wind turbines?  Maybe up north, but not here? At least heaters would solve the frozen wind turbines.   We talk about massive EMP attacks on our grid but do nothing about it.   I don't think there's a plan for the next catastrophe we can't predict.   We try our best... suffer and recover and blame and spend more money and it all goes to hell again.  Republicans aren't the only ones to blame as the writer says... Democrats have a voice too and use it often. Where was it before the Polar Vortex came  to visit and stayed too long?  Sorry to vent. 

The Democrats' voice was the one warning of unpredictable changes in weather patterns in addition to the long term ravages of climate warming.  That voice is not much heard in Texas as least as far as elected officials at the state and federal level go.  The state can continue to diversify the electric generation mix, all forms simply need to be hardened against the more extreme cold snaps and heat waves that are in our future.  In this case, the future is now.  It's a wake up call.  What comes next could very well be as bad, if not worse.

Texas has the money... we have the will to fix this.  I just hope we do it!

And yes,  this is a wake-up call.  And I thought 2020 was behind us.

The challenge isn't 2020, it is what is headed our way in the future.  The money required to fix the Texas electric provider network will come from rate payers.  All those years of cheap electricity will now become years of higher costs to consumers and business to ensure that the grid is prepared for the greater weather challenges to come.

JHH, it is certainly fine to disagree with Democrats on some policy issues while agreeing with them on others.  I'm a registered Independent and I don't agree on a national $15/HR minimum wage nor do I agree with forgiving $50K of student load indebtedness for everyone.  I do think both issues should be addressed but this is similar to the debate over who should get a $1400 check in the Covid Relief legislation.  I am not a rich man and would like to have the $1400 but if politicians are doing the job we elected them to do, they will spend something less and limit it to our fellow citizens that need it the most.  Not just low income as defined by income tax filings but those who are out of work especially the long term unemployed.  Don't throw money at everything and everyone, target it to those in greatest need.

We have known about this problem since the 2011 freeze.  While this was a big freeze, there have been several that were longer duration and lower temperature.  The issue is, if the state mandates changes the cost of power goes up the customers get mad and the politicians are not re-elected.  The federal government subsidizes wind and solar.  When the government picks winners the market does not allocate capital efficiently.

On another note this is not just a power problem. I have not had water for two days -- water plant froze.  The city of Austin will wait for the roads to thaw naturally since they do not have any equipment for snow/ice removal.

Republicans aren't the only ones to blame 

Ok, who do you want to add to the blame list?  Obama? Clinton?  AOC?  

The state of Texas has been governed by Republicans for almost 30 years.  Any thing that goes wrong is on their shoulders.  That's how it works.  Ask Ted Cruz. 

Someone here please explain.  I look at the Henry Hub price for natural gas and it shows one figure.  I look at the daily price for nat. gas... I guess march contracts... and it says another thing... and then I see a spot price at almost a thousand dollars... sometimes thousands.  What is the difference?  I think I've asked a bunch of questions... but I have one more.  What does all of this mean for a monthly bill for the average homeowner who has a mix of natural gas and electrical.


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