To weather a future freeze, Texas needs to embrace a variety of energy sources

Nine months after the Great Freeze of 2021, after a full legislative session, three special sessions, resignations from the Texas Electric Reliability Council, ERCOT, and a full leadership change at the Texas Public Utility Commission, or PUC, the powers up Austin still hasn’t learned the right lessons or taken enough action to prevent a repeat of this needless disaster.

Most Texans are aware that, as then-ERCOT CEO Bill Magness testified earlier this year, the state’s power grid was “less than five minutes” from a blackout that would have resulted in power outages lasting weeks or months.

The legislature’s solution, Senate Bill 3, requires electric generators, natural gas facilities and pipelines to air-condition their plants to ensure they can handle extreme weather, with a fine $1 million a day for non-compliant factories.

But in a hint that cold-weather winterization requests may not be enough, just days after Governor Greg Abbott signed SB 3, ERCOT asked Texans to conserve energy due to the combination of extreme heat and several power plants being offline. for repairs.

Besides the tragic deaths of more than 200 Texans and massive property damage, perhaps the most disheartening feature of the freeze was the rush by politicians and opinion makers to force their favorite narratives about the disaster.

Many were quick to blame renewables for dropping the ball. But almost a third of power plant outages were due to an inability of natural gas plants to obtain fuel.

Attempts to blame renewables also overlook that ERCOT’s grid forecast did not rely heavily on renewables to meet electricity needs in February. While wind and solar make sense in Texas, at least for the near future, they won’t meet the bulk of Texas’ energy demand. Most of Texas’ electricity comes from so-called thermal plants — coal, natural gas and nuclear — which is why widespread outages at these plants have been so devastating.

Blaming renewables is not just wrong, it also establishes a flawed narrative that leads to flawed, or at least incomplete, solutions.

Since the Texas grid is largely unconnected to other regional grids, it is doubly important that Texas has an abundant portfolio of energy sources to ensure adequate electrical production.

And while SB 3 will help in dire situations, our state needs to focus more directly on ensuring plentiful electricity production and increasing that supply to meet the demands of a growing population. This means encouraging more of everything – gas, wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear and other new and innovative technologies, like battery mass storage.

There is a new generation in the works, mainly focused on renewable energies. But we also need new gas plants to have a diversified generation portfolio to respond to seasonal circumstances. It is reasonable to assume that better management by ERCOT, simplified authorization processes and reasonable incentives to invest will result in increased production and better coordination between producers.

Above all, we must ensure that we do nothing politically to reduce supply. The bad lesson from freezing is that we need less renewable energy sources. It is an error of political judgment to pit one energy source for electricity generation against another. We need an “all of the above” strategy for generation and distribution, and no policy should be designed to take a single megawatt of generation capacity out of the market, regardless of technology.

Our abundance of fossil fuels was driven by innovation, and policy should encourage continued innovation in all forms of energy production. We need more of everything to ensure Texas’ continued economic leadership and dynamism into the future.

Tom Giovanetti is president of the Institute for Policy Innovation, a free market think tank in Irving.

Comments are closed.