by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
As Texans reel from ongoing blackouts at the worst possible time, during a nationwide cold snap that has sent temperatures plummeting to single digits, the news has left people in other states wondering: How could this happen in Texas, the nation’s energy powerhouse?
But policy experts have seen this moment coming for years. The only surprise is that the house of cards collapsed in the dead of winter, not the toasty Texas summers that usually shatter peak electricity demand records.
The blackouts, which have left as many as 4 million Texans trapped in the cold, show the numerous chilling consequences of putting too many eggs in the renewable basket. …
… [O]perational errors overshadow the decades of policy blunders that made these blackouts inevitable. Thanks to market-distorting policies that favor and subsidize wind and solar energy, Texas has added more than 20,000 megawatts (MW) of those intermittent resources since 2015 while barely adding any natural gas and retiring significant coal generation.
Increased Reliance on Unreliable Renewables
On the whole, Texas is losing reliable generation and counting solely on wind and solar to keep up with its growing electricity demand. I wrote last summer about how ERCOT was failing to account for the increasing likelihood that an event combining record demand with low wind and solar generation would lead to blackouts. The only surprise was that such a situation occurred during a rare winter freeze and not during the predictable Texas summer heat waves. …
… We knew solar would not produce anything during the night, when demand was peaking. Intermittency is not a technical problem but a fundamental reality when trying to generate electricity from wind and solar. This is a known and predictable problem, but Texas regulators fooled themselves into thinking that the risk of such low wind and solar production at the time it was needed most was not significant.