From RTO Insider:

Beth Garza and Peter Cramton have unique insight into the extreme weather event that affected Texas in mid-February. A winter storm, followed by historically low temperatures, plunged the state into an energy crisis. It then grew into a natural gas market disaster punctuated by financial tumult, political turmoil and scapegoating renewable energy resources.

Garza and Cramton spoke Wednesday during a Northeast Energy and Commerce Association webinar, “Lessons Learned from Texas,” that focused on the calamitous weather event.

Garza, director of ERCOT’s Independent Market Monitor from 2014 to 2019 and now a senior fellow on electricity policy for R Street Institute, still lives in Austin and did not have electricity for 81 hours. She said that ERCOT went from serving record winter peak demand on the evening of Feb. 14 to shedding 10 GW of firm load six hours later.

“The magnitude of curtailment was just huge, and that played into the effects of this event being so large,” Garza said. “Just to compare, the amount of load shed was probably about 30% of expected demand … for almost three days.”

Garza said the last time that “any kind of curtailment of firm demand” occurred was 2011 during another winter storm, but that was “6 to 8% of expected demand,” and the total curtailment period was about four hours.

One thing she said she is learning from this is that “every good crisis has to start with blaming someone.” She said all forms of generation were affected “in some respect,” with the loss of almost half of ERCOT’s natural gas-fired generation the most significant portion of it. Power was cut to gas infrastructure not listed as critical load.

Garza added that the increased codependence of electricity and natural gas systems is a “dysfunctional relationship framework.”

“Two industries are absolutely reliant on each other. They do not work well together and are not well coordinated,” she said. It is also hard to deal with the present repercussions and future changes when the Public Utility Commission of Texas and ERCOT were “basically decapitated” in the aftermath of the storm.

“If you were to ask me who made money in this event, my flippant answer is the natural gas companies made money, and lawyers are going to make money going forward,” Garza said. “I won’t dwell on any of the specifics. Just know that it’s a mess and will be a mess. Sorting these things out will take years to accomplish.”

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