Electricity production in Texas in crisis

From Dan Soloman Texas Monthly:

On Monday, good Texas residents, many of whom are still suffering from lingering trauma from the state’s power outage in February 2021, braced for bad news. The Texas Power Reliability Board, the widely maligned organization that operates Texas’ famed independent grid, warned that the situation was dire because of “a projected shortage of spare capacity in the absence of a market solution.” If the situation worsens, rolling blackouts may be required. Not good!

Fortunately, the worst did not happen. There are several reasons why. To reduce demand, many Texans raised their thermostat a few degrees to help save electricity, and ERCOT’s emergency response program paid some large power consumers to cut consumption during peak hours. And importantly, solar, which has so far been the star of the Texas power grid during this endless summer, has continued to set records in energy production. If your air conditioner has been running consistently all summer, you can thank the mighty power of the sun.

“We have twice as much solar power as we had last summer, and about three times as much as we had eighteen months ago,” energy consultant Doug Levin told me on Monday. “Today we set another solar record, and yesterday we set another one. Renewables for most of May and June as we were going through a heat wave was really the difference between [having] a lot of calls for conservation and potential disruptions, rather than their absence.”

Two key renewable energy sources contributing to the Texas power grid are solar and wind power; According to Andrew Dessler, director of the Texas Center for Climate Research at Texas A&M, solar accounts for roughly 25 percent of the renewable resources on the grid, while wind makes up the other three-quarters.

Here is a graph showing the share of Texas electricity supplied from various sources through 2020.

Source: Dallas FRB.

As for the claims that renewable energy sources were the cause of the 2020 disaster, from NEW:

According to regulators, the bulk of electricity losses in Texas came from natural gas suppliers as pipelines froze, making it difficult for power plants to get the fuel they need. The production of coal and nuclear power plants also fell. A similar phenomenon played out in Kansas and other states.

Or from per. Busby et al. “Cascading Risks: Understanding Texas’ 2021 Winter Power Blackout,” Energy Research & Social Science, Volume 77, July 2021, 102106.

At its depth, gas production decreased by almost 50%. [7], which reduced the pressure in the pipelines, making it difficult for natural gas-fired power plants to operate. Overall, the state faced a 30 GW blackout as demand hit an all-time high. [8]. Other sources of electricity – nuclear, coal and wind – also suffered from supply disruptions, but they were less than the loss of generating capacity of gas-fired power plants.

This moment is shown in this figure.

Source: Busby and others (2021).