Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
A Deep Green Freeze: An existential threat to America’s future
Nearly half of Texas’ installed wind power generation capacity has been offline because of frozen wind turbines in West Texas, according to Texas grid operators.
Wind farms across the state generate up to a combined 25,100 megawatts of energy. But unusually moist winter conditions in West Texas brought on by the weekend’s freezing rain and historically low temperatures have iced many of those wind turbines to a halt.
As of Sunday morning, those iced turbines comprise 12,000 megawatts of Texas’ installed wind generation capacity, although those West Texas turbines don’t typically spin to their full generation capacity this time of year.
The storm is taking a heavy toll on electric service in Texas. An estimated 2.6 million homes and businesses in the state had their power interrupted Sunday night and Monday morning because of storm damage or in rotating outages ordered by regulators.
Many of the interruptions were fairly short, lasting between 15 and 45 minutes, but some customers have lost power for hours and are unsure when it will be back on.
Part of the problem arose when wind turbines in West Texas became frozen. Roughly half of the state’s wind generating capacity was knocked offline, shutting off as much as 10,500 megawatts of wind power, a significant chunk of the state’s total electricity supply. Authorities were expected to de-ice the turbines through the day.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state’s power grid, said in a statement that the rotating outages were a “last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole.”
3) Almost 5 million across America plunged into darkness as energy crisis spreads in unprecedented deep freeze Bloomberg, 16 February 2021
The energy crisis crippling Texas’s power system continued to spread, with nearly 5 million people across the U.S plunged into darkness as authorities fought to avoid a total collapse of the grid.
Homes and businesses from North Dakota to Texas are losing power in the middle of an unprecedented deep freeze that has broken daily temperature records in hundreds of places. The blackouts are likely to continue throughout Tuesday with no firm end in sight as the cold weather is forecast to remain through Wednesday.
Officials have reported two people dead, likely from cold, according to the AP news agency. Medical centers are rushing to administer vaccines before they go bad. Flights are grounded. More than a million barrels a day of oil and 10 billion cubic feet of gas production are shut while pipelines have declared force majeure and massive refineries have halted gasoline and diesel output.
“I’ve been following energy markets and grid issues for a while, and I cannot recall an extreme weather event that impacted such a large swath of the nation in this manner — the situation is critical,” said Neil Chatterjee, a member of the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The cold blast is just the latest in a chain of severe weather events that have shaken power grids and upended energy markets globally from Japan to Pakistan and France in recent months. They’ve all underscored how vulnerable the world has become in the face of increasingly unpredictable weather brought on by climate change and it’s raising questions about the global push to electrify everything from transportation to heating and cooling.
About 4 million homes and businesses were without power across Texas on Tuesday, based on utility outage data compiled by Poweroutage.us. Another 400,000 were down in a swathe of states stretching from Louisiana to Ohio and Virginia. About 250,000 were without power in Oregon.
In Mexico, over 4.7 million homes and businesses went dark after Texas’s shortages triggered cascading failures. But about 65 per cent of those affected in Mexico had seen their power restored by midday, according to grid operator Cenace.
The Biden Administration’s plan to banish fossil fuels is a greater existential threat to Americans than climate change.
Gas and power prices have spiked across the central U.S. while Texas regulators ordered rolling blackouts Monday as an Arctic blast has frozen wind turbines. Herein is the paradox of the left’s climate agenda: The less we use fossil fuels, the more we need them.
A mix of ice and snow swept across the country this weekend as temperatures plunged below zero in the upper Midwest and into the teens in Houston. Cold snaps happen—the U.S. also experienced a Polar Vortex in 2019—as do heat waves. Yet the power grid is becoming less reliable due to growing reliance on wind and solar, which can’t provide power 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
While Texas is normally awash in gas and oil, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees the state’s wholesale power market, urged residents this weekend to conserve power to avoid power outages. Regulators rationed gas for commercial and industrial uses to ensure fuel for power plants and household heating.
Texas’s energy emergency could last all week as the weather is forecast to remain frigid. “My understanding is, the wind turbines are all frozen,” Public Utility Commission Chairman DeAnn Walker said Friday. “We are working already to try and ensure we have enough power but it’s taken a lot of coordination.”
Blame a perfect storm of bad government policies, timing and weather. Coal and nuclear are the most reliable sources of power. But competition from heavily subsidized wind power and inexpensive natural gas, combined with stricter emissions regulation, has caused coal’s share of Texas’s electricity to plunge by more than half in a decade to 18%.
Wind’s share has tripled to about 25% since 2010 and accounted for 42% of power last week before the freeze set in. About half of Texans rely on electric pumps for heating, which liberals want to mandate everywhere. But the pumps use a lot of power in frigid weather. So while wind turbines were freezing, demand for power was surging.
Gas-fired power plants ramped up, but the Arctic freeze increased demand for gas across the country. Producers couldn’t easily increase supply since a third of rigs across the country were taken out of production during the pandemic amid lower energy demand. Some gas wells and pipelines in Texas and Oklahoma also shut down in frosty conditions.
Enormous new demand coupled with constrained supply caused natural gas spot prices to spike to nearly $600 per million British thermal units in the central U.S. from about $3 a couple weeks ago. Future wholesale power prices in Texas for early this week soared to $9,000 per megawatt hour from a seasonal average of $25.
Prices jumped in the Midwest too, though less dramatically because there are more coal and nuclear plants. Illinois and Michigan have more gas storage than Texas, which exports much of its shale gas to other states and, increasingly, around the world in liquefied form.
Europe and Asia are also importing more fossil fuels for heat and power this winter. U.S. LNG exports increased 25% year-over-year in December while prices tripled in northern Asian spot markets and doubled in Europe. Germany’s public broadcasting recently reported that “Germany’s green energies strained by winter.” The report noted that power is “currently coming mainly from coal, and the power plants in Lausitz” are now “running at full capacity.”
Coal still accounts for 60% of China’s energy, and imports tripled in December. China has some 250 gigawatts of coal-fired plants under development, enough to power all of Germany. Unlike Democrats in the U.S., Chinese leaders understand that fossil fuels are needed to support intermittent renewables. “Power shortages and incredibly high spot gas prices this winter are reminding governments, businesses and consumers of the importance of coal,” a Wood Mackenzie consultant told Reuters recently.
California progressives long ago banished coal. But a heat wave last summer strained the state’s power grid as wind flagged and solar ebbed in the evenings. After imposing rolling blackouts, grid regulators resorted to importing coal power from Utah and running diesel emergency generators.
Liberals claim that prices of renewables and fossil fuels are now comparable, which may be true due to subsidies, but they are no free lunch, as this week’s energy emergency shows. The Biden Administration’s plan to banish fossil fuels is a greater existential threat to Americans than climate change.
Germany is held up as the world’s solar and wind capital by “renewables luvvies” but Germans are freezing through winter due to “millions of solar panels blanketed in snow” and turbines sitting idle, according to Rowan Dean.
“Germany’s long been held up by the likes of these renewable luvvies, they say Germany’s the world’s great wind and solar capital,” Mr Dean said.
“But as we speak millions of solar panels are blanketed in snow and 30,000 wind turbines are sitting idle because there’s no wind.
“Freezing Germans shivering in their lederhosen’s are desperate for coal fired power to heat up their wurst and sauerkraut.”
The Green NewDeal has come, believe it or not, to the state of Texas. How's it working out so far?
Well, the good news is all that alternative energy seems to have had a remarkable effect on the climate. Sunday night, parts of Texas got the temperatures that we typically see in Alaska. In fact, they were the same as they were in Alaska. So global warming is no longer a pressing concern in Houston.
The bad news is, they don't have electricity. The windmills froze, so the power grid failed. Millions of Texans woke up Monday morning having to boil their water because with no electricity, it couldn't be purified.
The ironically named Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees the grid, had no solution to any of this. They simply told people to stop using so much power to keep warm. So in Houston, hundreds of shivering Texans headed to the convention center like refugees to keep from freezing to death. Some Texans almost certainly did freeze to death. Later this week, we'll likely learn just how many more were killed as they tried to keep warm with jury-rigged heaters and barbecues and car exhaust.
That happens every time when the power goes out; even advanced societies become primitive and dangerous, and people die. We've seen it happen repeatedly in California for years now, rolling blackouts in a purportedly First World state that is slipping steadily into chaos.
But who saw that coming in Texas? If there's one thing you would think Texas would be able to do, it's keep the lights on. Most electricity comes from natural gas and Texas produces more of that than any place on the continent. There are huge natural gas deposits all over the state. Running out of energy in Texas is like starving to death at the grocery store: You can only do it on purpose, and Texas did.
Rather than celebrate and benefit from their state's vast natural resources, politicians took the fashionable route and became recklessly reliant on so-called alternative energy, meaning windmills. Fifteen years ago, there were virtually no wind farms in Texas. Last year, roughly a quarter of all electricity generated in the state came from wind. Local politicians were pleased by this. They bragged about it like there was something virtuous about destroying the landscape and degrading the power grid. Just last week, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott proudly accepted something called the Wind Leadership Award, given with gratitude by Tri Global Energy, a company getting rich from green energy.
So it was all working great until the day it got cold outside. The windmills failed like the silly fashion accessories they are, and people in Texas died. This is not to beat up on the state of Texas -- it's a great state, actually -- but to give you some sense of what's about to happen to you.
The massive blast of Siberia-like cold that is wreaking havoc across North America is proving that if we humans want to keep surviving frigid winters, we are going to have to keep burning natural gas — and lots of it — for decades to come.
That cold reality contradicts the “electrify everything” scenario that’s being promoted by climate change activists, politicians, and academics. They claim that to avert the possibility of catastrophic climate change, we must stop burning hydrocarbons and convert all of our transportation, residential, commercial, and industrial systems so that they are powered solely on electricity, with most of that juice coming, of course, from forests of wind turbines and oceans of solar panels.
But attempting to electrify everything would concentrate our energy risks on an electricity grid that is already breaking under the surge in demand caused by the crazy cold weather. Across America, countless people don’t have electricity. I’m one of them. Our power here in central Austin went out at about 3 am. I am writing this under a blanket, have multiple layers of clothes on, and am nervously watching my laptop’s battery indicator.
This blizzard proves that attempting to electrify everything would be the opposite of anti-fragile. Rather than make our networks and critical systems more resilient and less vulnerable to disruptions caused by extreme weather, bad actors, falling trees, or simple negligence, electrifying everything would concentrate our dependence on a single network, the electric grid, and in doing so make nearly every aspect of our society prone to catastrophic failure if — or rather, when — a widespread or extended blackout occurs.
This blizzard proves that we have not been taking our energy security seriously enough. The concept of energy security has many aspects. But the most fundamental one is that we all have enough reliable and affordable energy (of whatever type) so that we don’t freeze to death during cold spells like the one now wreaking havoc across the continent.
This blizzard proves that during extreme weather winter, solar panels and wind turbines are of little or no value to the electric grid.
This blizzard proves that our natural gas grid is part of our critical infrastructure and that we shut it down at our peril. The natural gas network is essential because it can deliver big surges in energy supplies during periods of peak demand. In January 2019, U.S. natural gas demand set a record of 145 billion cubic feet per day. That record will be smashed during this blizzard, and daily volumes will exceed 150 Bcf. That is an enormous amount of energy. In fact, on the coldest days of winter, the amount of energy delivered by the gas grid is roughly three times as great as the energy consumed during the hottest days of the summer.
During peak cold events like this one, the gas grid delivers about 80 Bcf/d to homes and businesses. In energy equivalent terms, that’s roughly 83 trillion Btu, or the energy output of about 1 terawatt of electric generation capacity for 24 hours. Put another way, to equal the 80 Bcf/d of gas delivered during cold snaps, the U.S. would need an electric grid as large as all existing generation in the country, which is currently about 1.2 terawatts.
Thanks to excellent geology, a century of gas production, and a fully developed transmission and distribution grid, the domestic natural gas sector can deliver surges of the fuel that are, in fact, lifesaving. That is due, in large part, to the fact that we can store vast amounts of gas and only tiny quantities of electricity. In short, our electric grid simply cannot deliver the massive amounts of energy needed during the winter to keep us from freezing to death. That means we need to keep burning natural gas. If you prefer to rely on batteries, be my guest.
Everyone wants clean energy, but reliability is what really counts in a crisis. As renewably sourced energy captures a larger share of the power grid, outages become inevitable.
Renewable energy is great, but it just can’t compete with traditional sources. Texas just became the poster child for the consequences of change that happens too rapidly.
Take wind power as an example; just ten years ago wind power accounted for under ten percent of electricity production in Texas. Now its share is approaching 25 percent, which seemed like a good thing until the current record breaking arctic blast came along. Freezing rain ahead of plunging temperatures has literally frozen some wind turbines solid, meaning there isn’t enough electricity being produced at the very time when it’s needed the most. Incidental reports coming out of Texas indicate that as many as half of Texan wind turbines may have been rendered temporarily inoperable by icy weather.
This is the problem with renewable energy; it isn’t always there when the going gets tough. The ramifications of changing our current electric grid from carbon and nuclear based sources to wind, solar and other more environmentally and politically correct sources are not esoteric; they are real, consequential, and life threatening.
New data and analysis from the US government shows that during the Bomb Cyclone storm of late December 2017 and early January 2018, the electricity system of the eastern half of the country avoided blackouts only because of increased output from conventional sources, particularly coal and, incredibly enough, oil. The performance of renewables was disappointing. The warning for Europe is loud and clear.
From the 27th of December 2017 to the 8th of January 2018, the eastern half of the United States was severely affected by a major winter storm, referred to as a Bomb Cyclone . The high winds and low temperatures resulted in a substantial increase in consumer demand for energy, putting the electricity system, in particular, under major additional pressure.
The system succeeded in meeting this demand, but the way it did so, through increased use of conventional energy, and in spite of mediocre to poor performance from renewables, has raised serious questions about the country’s ability to withstand similar shocks in the future, when much conventional capacity, mostly coal, will have retired without replacement.
In the wake of this very narrow escape, the United States government will be doing some hard thinking. Improvements in natural gas pipelines in the New England area are now, obviously, a priority. Storms such as the Bomb Cyclone are thankfully infrequent, but, as the report notes they are not that unusual and indeed are “periodically certain” (p. 3). This will happen again. The question that the NETL study correctly raises is whether the conventional electricity sector in the US will be of sufficient scale in the future to guarantee security of supply as it did this winter.
As in Europe, and also thanks to decades of climate-dominated energy policy, the US power markets have weak to non-existent investment signals for conventional power, and NETL underlines the importance of rectifying this problem. President Trump’s support for coal, dismissed by many as mere politics, will certainly be reinforced by the experience of the Bomb Cyclone, and may even seem now to be rather prudent and far-sighted.
For European analysts and policy makers, the practical performance of the US system serves to bring into sharp focus what has been long suspected on theoretical grounds. In practice, the contribution of renewables to security of supply at times of extreme difficulty is negligible. Indeed, it is worse than that, since the presence of renewables imposes what the NETL authors drily term a “resilience penalty” (p. 15). The US electricity system would actually have been more robust without renewables. There is no reason for thinking that the European case is any different.