It gets really hot in the summer in Texas. Ask anyone who lives there, it’s always very hot in the summer. So when the interim CEO of Electric Reliability Council of Texas, aka ERCOT, said what he said recently, many Texans were puzzled.
Texas is the only state in the continental United States with its own power grid. “In the rest of the continental U.S., power plants connect to a larger grid. There is one grid that serves the Eastern half of the country, and one that powers the Western half. Energy produced in one state can be used in another, and power companies can buy energy from out of state.”
But not in Texas. If Texas runs out of energy, it has no one to get energy from. That’s what happened in February 2021 when hundreds of people died because the power went out during a freeze in Texas. The state couldn’t meet the demand and had no way of getting energy from anywhere else.
Cut to this summer. “The all-time record for demand has already been broken eight times in the past three months.” Brad Jones is ERCOT’s interim CEO who was appointed after the prior CEO was ousted after the February 2021 debacle. Before this, he managed New York’s grid operator, and that may be part of the problem. Jones didn’t think it would get as hot this year as it did in 2011 in Texas. So ERCOT is simply not prepared and holding on by a wing and a prayer.
It’s mid-July and so far the Texas grid has held up. Jones says he has concerns but is hopeful the lone grid in the Lonestar state will hold up. Texans have received several conservation alerts in the past weeks, telling them to turn the air conditioner up, don’t wash or dry clothes from around 2 pm until around 8 pm, same with using the dishwasher. And Jones is proud of how Texans have responded, saying, “It was millions of customers in Texas helping out. And this is where I get impressed by the Texas spirit, the spirit of people who wanted to help each other.”
One would imagine that Texans are terrified at this point, after what happened in February 2021. The whole nation watched and prayed, seeing many die, sometimes simply freezing to death. Pipes froze and burst causing thousands of dollars in damage. It was so bad, that Texans couldn’t even find piping to repair their homes. It’s no wonder they are heeding the alerts! But should they have to? What do you think of the energy operations in Texas?