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Buckle Up for Summer Blackouts: Wind Is Already Failing Texas in Spring

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9 minute read

From Heartland Daily News

By Jason Isaac

When the wind blows too much, natural gas plants are forced to shut down because they can’t underbid wind producers that can bid zero or negative. But when the wind doesn’t blow when it is needed, wind generators can afford the loss of revenue because they earn so much from tax subsidies.

It’s been all quiet on the electric grid front for a few months — but don’t get your hopes up. Over the last month, electricity prices came near the $5000/MWh regulatory cap three separate times because the wind wasn’t blowing enough when the sun went down.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not wrong.

You may hear from the drive-by media that the problem is unseasonably warm temperatures, or that there are a lot of power plants down for maintenance. But high 80s in April and low 90s in May are not unusual, and the Texas grid used to manage these weather changes with no problems. From 2014 to 2016, real-time prices only went over $1000/MWh twice, but it’s happened three times already this year.

If the grid is already on shaky ground, with many weeks to go before blistering triple-digit temperatures shoot electric demand through the roof, all signs are pointing to an unpleasant summer. 

The problem with the Texas grid is so simple it’s infuriating: Relying too heavily on unpredictable wind and solar, without enough reliable reserve capacity, means higher volatility — leading to higher prices and increasing need for expensive interventions by ERCOT to avoid outages. This is why your electric bill is going up and up even though wind and solar are supposed to be cheap.

While Texas certainly has a lot of sun, peak solar output almost never aligns with peak electric usage. The Lone Star State also has plenty of wind, but wind generation is wildly unpredictable —  by nature. It’s not unusual for a wind generator’s output to swing 60 percentage points or more in a single week.

Take last month, for example. On Tuesday, April 16, electricity prices reached their cap because ERCOT’s day-ahead wind forecast was off by 50%. Five gigawatts of wind we were counting on to power Texas as the sun went down didn’t show up. That was the equivalent of simultaneously shutting down 10 large natural gas units, or all of the state’s nuclear capacity. If the latter occurred, the news media would be up in arms (and rightfully so). But because the culprit was the political darling of both the left and the right, no one heard about it.

ERCOT hasn’t been the best at predicting wind output, and the problem isn’t entirely its fault. Wind veers so wildly between extremes it’s nearly impossible to plan a sustainable grid around its fickleness — yet wind makes up 26% of our generating capacity.

It’s all because lucrative tax breaks and subsidies at the state and federal level, combined with flaws in ERCOT’s market design, make it almost impossible for wind to lose money — and harder than ever for natural gas to compete, even though it’s far more reliable and affordable. When the wind blows too much, natural gas plants are forced to shut down because they can’t underbid wind producers that can bid zero or negative. But when the wind doesn’t blow when it is needed, wind generators can afford the loss of revenue because they earn so much from tax subsidies.

Imagine trying to open a restaurant when your competitor next door is paying its customers to eat there. It’s no wonder natural gas capacity in ERCOT has barely grown over the past decade, and not enough to make up for losses of coal plants, while demand has been steadily increasing.

All those subsidies are hurting our most reliable, affordable energy producers and putting our economy at risk — leaving you and me, the taxpayers on the hook.

While most political issues are far more complex and nuanced than brazen attack ads and headlines would lead you to believe, in this case, it really does boil down to one simple problem.

And it would be easy to solve — if lawmakers are willing to go against the grain of political correctness and set a clear reliability standard for the wind and solar generators that want to connect to our grid.

Unfortunately, that’s a gargantuan “if.”

As a former lawmaker, I understand the pressures our legislators are under to toe the line on alternative energy. Major utilities embracing World Economic Forum- and United Nations-aligned “energy transition” policies that seek to redefine what’s “clean” and what’s “pollution” are making matters worse. And the incessant misinformation from their well-funded lobby that promise rural “economic development” and “cheap energy” sound too good to be true, because they are.

Elected officials don’t serve the lobby. They serve Texans — or, at least, they should.

And Texans want a reliable, affordable grid. They want to not have to worry about losing power in the heat of the summer or the dead of winter. The Legislature must put a stop to these market-distorting subsidies and make reliability, not popularity, the priority for our electric grid.

Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter on July 6, 2021 to members of the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) directing them to “take immediate action to improve electric reliability across the state.” The second directive was to “Allocate reliability costs to generation resources that cannot guarantee their own availability, such as wind or solar power.” Unfortunately, the PUC hasn’t acted on this directive or even studied it. The costs of scarcity on the grid are estimated to have exceeded $12B in 2023, which is equal to two-thirds of the property tax relief passed in the 88th Legislature, all paid for by ratepayers.

“Unfortunately for Texans, the ERCOT grid is moving from a single grid with gas and coal power plants running efficiently all day to two grids: one for wind and solar and one for expensive backup power that fills in the gaps when there is not enough wind and sun,” says Dr. Brent Bennett, policy director for Life:Powered at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “Every time these scarcity events occur, whether due to real scarcity or artificial scarcity created by ERCOT’s operating policies, ratepayers are shelling out tens to hundreds of millions of dollars for backup power. It is the most expensive way to operate a grid, and Texans will feel the bite as these costs are absorbed over time.”

The Californication of our grid is unfolding before our eyes. If the Legislature and the PUC don’t act fast, the Texas miracle won’t last.

The Honorable Jason Isaac is CEO of the American Energy Institute and a senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. He previously served four terms in the Texas House of Representatives

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Energy

Tech giants’ self-made AI energy crisis

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For years tech giants have been helping climate catastrophists shut down reliable fossil fuel electricity. Now the grid they’ve helped gut cannot possibly supply their growing AI needs.

For years tech giants have been helping climate catastrophists shut down reliable fossil fuel electricity, falsely claiming they can be replaced by solar/wind.

Now the grid they’ve helped gut can’t supply their growing AI needs.¹

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  • For the last decade, tech giants such as Apple, Microsoft, Meta, and Google have, through dedicated anti-fossil-fuel propaganda and political efforts, promoted the shutdown of reliable fossil fuel power plants in favor of unreliable solar and wind.
    Image
  • Tech giants have propagandized against reliable fossil fuel power plants by falsely claiming to be “100% renewable” and implying everyone could do it. In fact, they have just paid utilities to credit them for others’ solar and wind use and blame others for their coal and gas use.²
  • In addition to their “100% renewable” propaganda, tech giants directly endorsed people and policies who shut down reliable fossil fuel power plants.E.g., The RE100 coalition, including Google, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft, advocates for policies to “accelerate change towards zero carbon grids at scale by 2040.”³
  • Companies’ propaganda that solar/wind could rapidly replace fossil fuels has proven false. 

    Statewide blackouts in California (2020) and Texas (2021) were caused by the failure of solar/wind—which can go near zero at any time—to make up for lack of reliable fossil fuel capacity.

  • Thanks in significant part to tech giants’ advocacy, we have now shut down enough reliable power plants to be in a nationwide electricity crisis. 

    For example, most of North America is at elevated/high risk of electricity shortfalls between 2024-2028.⁴

  • The anti-fossil-fuel, pro-unreliable solar and wind political climate that tech giants have fostered is getting much worse, as the Administration has pledged to further reduce reliable electricity supply via power plant shutdowns and add artificial demand through EV mandates.

    Biden’s EV mandate: a dictatorial attack on the American driver and the US grid

    ·
    APR 22
    Biden's EV mandate: a dictatorial attack on the American driver and the US grid
     

    Biden’s de facto mandate of over 50% EVs by 2032 is a dictatorial attack on the American driver and the US grid that will 1. Force Americans to drive inferior cars. 2. Place massive new demand for reliable electricity on a grid that is declining in reliable electricity supply.

     

    Read full story
  • While for years tech giants didn’t seem to have any concern about the electricity supply disaster their propaganda and policies were bringing about, they are now very interested because of the accelerating power requirements of computing, above all the hyper-competitive AI space.
  • To function at its potential, AI requires massive amounts of power. E.g., state-of-the-art data centers can require as much electricity as a large nuclear reactor.⁵
  • Electricity demand from US data centers already doubled between 2014 and 2023. Now with the fast growth of energy-hungry AI, demand from data centers could triple from 2.5% to 7.5% of our electricity use by 2030, according to Boston Consulting Group.⁶
  • In large part due to AI, nationwide electricity demand is projected to skyrocket. Official 10-year projections for the US have summer and winter peak demand rising by over 79 gigawatt and over 90 gigawatt. 90 gigawatt is equivalent to adding the entire power generating capacity of California (!)⁷
  • Given the woeful underpowered grid that AI giants have helped bring about, dramatically rising demand from AI will not only contribute to massive electricity shortages, but it will also destroy a lot of potential for AI to occur in the United States.
  • Limited and expensive electricity will force data centers to operate with higher cost or lower capacity within the US—or take a performance hit in the form of increased latency (which can drastically reduce the value of the product) by moving offshore.
  • Not only is offshoring data centers destructive from an economic standpoint, it also poses a substantial security risk. E.g., Building a data center in China—which we already depend on dangerously for critical minerals—gives the CCP physical power over more parts of our economy.
  • Economically, data centers are a gold mine of opportunities.Globally, data centers employed 2M people full-time in 2019, many in high-skill/high-pay jobs—and this number is forecast to increase nearly 300K by 2025.

    Our gutted grid will cost many Americans these opportunities.⁸

  • In the face of woefully inadequate electricity supply for their AI goals, tech giant CEOs are finally speaking up about the lack of power. 

    E.g., Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview that energy will be the #1 bottleneck to AI progress.

  • It is not enough for tech giants to warn us about the lack of reliable power. They need to take responsibility for their anti-fossil-fuel advocacy that helped caused it. And they need to support energy freedom policies that allow all fuels to compete to provide reliable power. 

    End preferences for unreliable electricity

    ·
    DECEMBER 14, 2022
    End preferences for unreliable electricity
     

    Today’s grids are being ruined by systemic preferences for unreliable electricity: 1) no price penalty for being unreliable 2) huge subsidies for unreliables 3) mandates for unreliables Congress should end these now. The Opportunity America, given its combination of abundant domestic energy resources, technological ingenuity, and free-market competition, has …

     

    Read full story
  • An example of a tech giant influencer not taking any responsibility for causing the electricity crisis is BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, who pushed companies and governments to adopt “net-zero” policies using mostly solar/wind, but now admits they can’t power AI data centers!
  • A better attitude toward electricity was expressed by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman: “There will always be people who wait and sit around and say ‘we shouldn’t do AI because we may burn a little more carbon’… the anti-progress streak” and this “is something that we can all fight against.”⁹
  • America faces a choice. We can either continue our current trajectory, descend into a Third World grid, and become totally inhospitable for AI, or we can adopt energy freedom policies and become a world leader in both AI and electricity.
  • Share this article with tech giant CEOs and tell them to publicly apologize for damaging our grid and to commit to energy freedom policies.Google: @sundarpichai ([email protected])
    Apple: @tim_cook ([email protected])
    Meta: @finkd ([email protected])
    Microsoft: @satyanadella ([email protected])

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Michelle Hung contributed to this piece.

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Economy

Oil Lobby Working With Republicans Behind-The-Scenes To Push ‘Gateway’ To Carbon Tax

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From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By NICK POPE

 

America’s leading oil and gas trade group is working behind the scenes with moderate House Republicans to push support for a bill that critics say could lead to a domestic carbon tax, according to an email obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation and sources familiar with the matter.

On May 14, Chris Boness, the director of federal relations for the American Petroleum Institute (API), sent an email to an API mailing list that named several House lawmakers intending to co-sponsor the PROVE IT Act alongside Republican Utah Rep. John Curtis. The trade group has also met with staffers to try to secure support for the bill, which API supports, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Assuming the House version is the same as the already-introduced Senate version, the bill would instruct the Department of Energy (DOE) to study the carbon intensity of goods — including aluminum, steel, plastic and crude oil — produced in the U.S. and the carbon intensity of products from other countries, according to E&E News.

Dozens of the PROVE IT Act’s critics have described the bill as a possible “gateway” to domestic carbon taxes because it would effectively instruct the federal government to calculate an implicit cost of carbon with few restrictions on how that official metric is used in the future.

“Thanks for those that joined today’s meeting,” Boness wrote in the email obtained by the DCNF. “Here is the list of current [Republican] cosponsors of the PROVE IT Act: Curtis, [Michigan Rep. Tim] Walburg (sic), [Ohio Rep. Bob] Latta, [New York Rep. Andrew] Garbarino, [Florida Rep. Maria Elvira] Salazar, [Michigan Rep. Mariannette] Miller-Meeks, [Indiana Rep. Larry] Bucshon, [Oregon Rep. Lori] Chavez-DeRemer. Additionally, [Georgia Rep. Buddy] Carter, [New York Rep. Mike] Lawler and [Pennsylvania Rep. Dan] Meuser seemed interested. Will keep you updated if others join and send updates on introduction.”

API representatives have had meetings addressing the PROVE IT Act with lawmakers’ offices, sources familiar with the matter told the DCNF. The offices of Curtis, Walberg, Latta, Garbarino, Salazar, Miller-Meeks, Bucshon and Chavez-DeRemer did not respond to questions about why they apparently support the bill.

Carbon pricing is broadly unpopular with Republicans, according to E&E News. Generally, polling indicates that Republicans do not consider climate change to be a problem in need of major government-led solutions and that energy affordability, for example, is a much stronger concern.

API Email re: PROVE IT Act by Nick Pope on Scribd

 

The bill’s proponents tout it as a measure to reward American companies for producing products more cleanly than foreign competitors, but opponents are strongly concerned that the bill instructs the federal government to effectively set a price on carbon with insufficient restrictions what the government can do in the future.

Notably, Republican West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito introduced an amendment to the Senate version that would prevent the data collected from being used as the basis for carbon taxes or tariffs, but Democrats killed that proposal while the bill sat in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Despite concerns from those opposed to the bill that it could be a first step to carbon taxes or tariffs, API supports the PROVE IT Act. Notably, API is in favor of carbon pricing.

“America’s oil and natural gas is produced under some of the highest environmental standards in the world,” a spokesperson for API told the DCNF. “Efforts like the PROVE IT Act are bipartisan opportunities to help study and quantify that advantage and demonstrate our industry’s commitment to producing cleaner, safer, and more affordable energy here at home while still supplying the energy our world needs.”

Some of the lawmakers API suggested could be interested in co-sponsoring the PROVE IT Act are wary, however.

Rep. Meuser, whose district includes energy-rich parts of Pennsylvania, is opposed to the bill as it stands, despite API’s suggestion that he is potentially interested in supporting it, a source familiar with Meuser’s thinking told the DCNF.

Rep. Carter is skeptical of policies that could lead to a carbon tax.

“Mr. Carter is reviewing the legislation,” a spokesperson for Carter told the DCNF. “He is absolutely opposed to anything that could lead to a carbon tax.”

In the eyes of those opposed to the bill, the PROVE IT Act would make it easier for a second-term Biden administration to pursue carbon taxes or tariffs that would hurt American consumers and certain types of energy producers.

“Our opposition to the PROVE IT Act is clear and concise. The latest attempt by some in Congress who are trying to create a structure that would lead to a domestic carbon tax will have price implications on our energy, particularly our fuel,” Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, told the DCNF. “I do think that it is important to recognize that John Podesta made it clear that this is a second term agenda item for the Biden administration. And why would any Republican want to be the lead on helping President Biden further his war on affordable energy?”

Mike McKenna, a GOP strategist with extensive experience in the energy sector, expressed a similar view.

“The big problem with the bill is that it creates infrastructure to impose a carbon dioxide tax,” McKenna told the DCNF. “As everyone who has had more than ten seconds of exposure to the federal government knows, once that infrastructure can be put in place, it’s going to be used.”

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