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Energy

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

Automotive

‘Save Our Cars’ Is A Winning Campaign Message In An Age Of EV Mandates

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From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By KEVIN MOONEY

 

Automobile consumers who treasure the open roads during the summertime could upend the presidential campaign and U.S. Senate races in surprising places if public opposition to electric-vehicle mandates and other regulations continues to rise.

That is what some recent polls suggest and it certainly helps to explain why the Biden administration is poised to artificially reduce fuel prices by selling one million barrels of gasoline from an energy reserve in New England timed with the summer driving season and in anticipation of the November elections.

Since the East Coast consumed in excess of three million barrels a day of gasoline last June, it is not evident that having an additional one million barrels on the market will make an appreciable difference.

Moreover, there is an argument to be made that by tapping into the reserve Team Biden is leaving the region open to cyberattacks that would disrupt energy supplies. (Recall, that is precisely what happened throughout the southeast in 2021 when a ransomware attack hit the Colonial Pipeline.)

But even in the absence of any cyber drama, the cumulative effect of President Joe Biden’s anti-energy agenda is already registering with consumers who benefit from affordable, reliable energy. This is particularly true where conventional, gas-powered cars are concerned.

On holiday weekends, cars erase differences, bring families together and improve the quality of life. The American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts almost 50 million people will travel 50 miles or more from their homes to celebrate Independence Day over the weekend of June 30 to July 4.

This would represent an increase of 3.7% from 2021 bringing travel volumes to where they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019. This increase will be particularly acute with AAA expecting 42 million Americans to hit the roads this coming Independence Day.

But what about those EV mandates?

President Biden and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a fellow Democrat, remain undeterred by the paucity of charging stations, the limited range of EV’s, their exorbitant costs, and the vulnerability of foreign supply chains leading back to China as they press ahead with new regulatory initiatives. Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency finalized a tailpipe emissions rule in March aimed at coercing automakers into selling more EVs while the California Air Resources Board is pressing ahead with a “zero emissions” rule the board approved last year to meet Newsom’s stated climate goals.

California is clearly working hand in glove with the Biden administration to achieve zero emissions goals for vehicles by 2035. This effort will most certainly limit consumer choice and raise costs.

Despite all the subsidies and regulatory schemes developed to favor EV’s, they represent only about 1% of the 290 million vehicles in the U.S. today. Meanwhile EV costs continue to soar.

Recent studies also show that EVs, on average, are more expensive to own and operate than their gas-powered counterparts. So how should consumers respond to the regulatory onslaught?

Enter the “Save Our Cars Coalition,” which includes 31 national and state organizations devoted to preserving the ability of consumers to select the vehicles most suitable to their needs.

Tom Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, a coalition member that favors free market energy policies, views cars as an integral component of American life. The Biden-Newsom regulations amount to what Pyle describes as “an assault on American freedom.”

“In a nation as expansive as the United States, cars are not merely vehicles, they are integral to the American way of life,” Pyle says. “They play a pivotal role in our daily lives, especially in suburban and rural settings. This modern-day prohibition would outlaw a product and a value–in this case, gasoline-powered cars and trucks that have created personal mobility on an unprecedented scale – that it cannot persuade people to forego themselves.”

The coalition is perfectly positioned to make EV mandates a campaign issue in areas where the affordability of cars capable of traversing long distances without frequent stops is very much on the minds of voters. State officials who continue to double-down on California-type regulations will only serve to bolster the coalition’s arguments.

By contrast, states that break free from California’s emissions standards could become surprisingly competitive in the presidential race. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, recently announced that he would end California’s EV mandate in his state by the end of this year. Although Virginia hasn’t backed a Republican for president since George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004, polls show Biden and  Donald Trump are in a dead heat. The former, and perhaps future Republican president, is on record opposing Biden’s EV mandates.

By contrast, Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, a Democrat elected in 2017 and re-elected in 2021, is moving full speed ahead with a California-type mandate requiring all new car sales to be electric by 2035. Polls show Murphy’s Jersey constituents are not keen on the policy change. In fact, more than half of state residents say they are not inclined to buy an electric car even with the mandates.

New Jersey has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since George Bush Sr. won the state in 1988. But fresh polls show Biden leading Trump by just seven points in the Garden State. It is worth noting that New Jersey has a large block of unaffiliated voters that can be pliable in tight races such as the most recent gubernatorial campaign.

Murphy almost lost his re-election bid to Republican Jack Ciattarelli, a former assemblyman and businessman, who came within a few percentage points of pulling off an upset. Trump’s campaign rally in Wildwood, N.J., that attracted more than 100,000 people could also serve as a barometer for a potentially close election. A beach resort community, Wildwood is practically inaccessible without the kind of vehicles Biden and Newsom are attempting to ban.

The big prize though may be Pennsylvania where Trump is leading Biden in recent polls. There is also a competitive U.S. Senate race in that state between Sen. Robert Casey Jr., the Democratic incumbent, and Dave McCormick, the Republican challenger.

Polls show Casey is only ahead by six points. So far, Casey has been ducking and avoiding any questions about his position on EV mandates. With Trump already leading, and McCormick gaining in the Keystone State, anyone running on a platform of “Save Our Cars” could have a field day.

Kevin Mooney is the Senior Investigative Reporter at the Commonwealth Foundation’s free-market think tank and writes for several national publications. Twitter: @KevinMooneyDC

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Energy

Industry groups sue over Biden regulation requiring electric school buses, trucks

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From The Center Square

By

A coalition of industry groups have filed a lawsuit challenging a Biden administration rule.

A dozen groups joined together to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for the Biden administration’s new rule, finalized earlier this year, which requires model 2027 trucks to meet strict emissions standards that critics say are meant to push out diesel and gas vehicles and to replace them with electric vehicles.

The EPA’s “Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles – Phase 3” is the rule in question.

“The new standards will be applicable to HD vocational vehicles (such as delivery trucks, refuse haulers, public utility trucks, transit, shuttle, school buses, etc.) and tractors (such as day cabs and sleeper cabs on tractor-trailer trucks),” EPA said.

Critics argue the rules are so strict that the only option will be to go electric, part of a nationwide effort by the Biden administration to push Americans into electric vehicles. However, currently the electric grid could not handle a wholesale transition of to electric vehicles, posing a major infrastructure problem.

Notably, as The Center Square previously reported, a coalition of 19 states filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Tuesday to challenge a recent federal rule giving the federal government broad power over the electric grid.

“FERC has never been granted the authority to revamp the structure of state energy grids or force states and their ratepayers to subsidize large-scale transmission lines that don’t transport enough energy to justify the cost,” the states argue. “This encroachment upon state authority far exceeds FERC’s limited purview and damages the ability of states to regulate their electric grids efficiently, all in the name of advancing costly climate goals.”

The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers is one of the groups that joined to protest the Biden EPA rule. They argue the EPA overstepped its authority and that it will spike costs for Americans.

“The Heavy Duty Vehicle (HDV) regulation finalized this spring aims to phase out trucks that run on American-made, American-grown diesel, biodiesel, renewable diesel and renewable natural gas,” Rich Moskowitz, AFPM General Counsel, said in a statement. “Americans will pay dearly because of it.”

Moskowitz said the federal government cannot enact such a drastic change without explicit direction from Congress.

“This policy will increase costs for consumers, dramatically strain the U.S. electric grid, contribute to more traffic and congestion on roads, undermine our energy independence, and impact every sector of the U.S. economy,” he said.

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