Storm anniversary reminds about risks and power grid
It’s hard to believe, but we’re already coming up on the one-year-anniversary of the 100-year storm last February. The anniversary reminds us of risks to the electric grid and renews reasonable questions about electric reliability.
The recent routine cold snap across Texas appears to have caused a short-term natural gas supply interruption, with roughly a quarter of the state’s natural gas operations going offline for a short period of time. Thankfully, this supply interruption did not cause blackouts, but it was concerning nonetheless.
Bloomberg News reported that in Texas “instruments froze, output plunged and companies spewed a miasma of pollutants into the atmosphere in a bid to keep operations stable.” This supply interruption affected roughly 12 facilities and resulted in 85 tons of sulfur dioxide and 11 tons of carbon monoxide being released.
Natural gas production had not dropped that much since February 2021, and the production plunge is raising a new round of questions about state regulators making improvements to the grid and whether consumers face risks to reliable and affordable electricity as the winter continues.
If this can still happen during a routine cold snap, it is reasonable for Texans to ask if our energy system is resilient, appropriately weatherized and utilizing all available sources of energy to ensure adequate reliable electricity supply. While Gov. Greg Abbott, Railroad Commission officials and legislators have all but guaranteed that the grid can hold up, consumers can look at these events and ask legitimate questions.
The point here is not to attack natural gas. All too often politicians have responded to the blackouts by trying to pin the blame on certain energy sources. There was a concerted effort last year to (wrongly) scapegoat wind power for the outages. Instead of pitting different energy sources against each other, we need to focus on making sure that Texas has enough generation capacity to meet the needs of a growing state, and that this capacity can function when called on to do so. Any strategy that punishes one source of energy supply or picks winners and losers ultimately reduces supply and puts the entire grid at risk.