Tag Archives: ERCOT

Summer might be as nasty as winter

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Goodness, I wasn’t ready to hear about this predicament from the folks who manage our electric grid.

Our summer might be as miserable as the winter we endured in North Texas and throughout the rest of the state. That is, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas — our electrical grid managers — might suffer more power outages on the scale of what occurred when the snow and ice ravaged us.

Hmm. How “reliable” is that? Not very.

The Texas Tribune reports: “This summer, I am as worried right now [about the grid] as I was coming into this winter,” said Curt Morgan, CEO of Vistra Corp., an Irving-based power company. “Sounds like I’m the boy that cries wolf, but I’m not. I’ve seen this stuff repeat itself. We can have the same event happen if we don’t fix this.”

More from the Tribune: As state lawmakers continue debating how to improve the grid after February’s storm nearly caused its collapse, on Tuesday Texans were asked to conserve electricity because the supply of power could barely keep up with demand. A significant chunk of the grid’s power plants were offline due to maintenance this week, some a result of damage from the winter storm.

ERCOT messed up royally in February with the way it shut down power supply while temperatures hovered at zero or below. Millions of us lost power and water. It’s not as though Texas is a total stranger to this kind of winter savagery. Still, power plants froze; they weren’t properly winterized. Natural gas lines were rendered inoperable.

Texas could face ERCOT power crisis, blackouts during extreme summer heat | The Texas Tribune

The Texas Legislature is meeting at this moment seeking to strengthen the grid. Its regular session ends on May 31. Legislators will need to return in special session if they don’t have a grid repair strategy on the books. They had better prepare for a long and tiring summer of work on our behalf if they can’t get it done when they gavel the regular session adjourned.

It looks as though whatever the Legislature comes with must include a plan to deal with our long, hot summer.

ERCOT’s warning about potential power outages brought about expressions of anger across the state, the Tribune reported: The warning triggered a torrent of outrage from residents and political leaders across the state who questioned why the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the grid, allowed it to come so close to emergency conditions on a relatively mild spring day. “I appreciate the increased effort toward transparency, but wow this is nervewracking to see in April,” state Rep. Erin Zwiener, D-Driftwood, tweeted Tuesday.

C’mon, ERCOT. None of us wants to see a repeat while we are sweltering of what happened when we were freezing.

ERCOT deserves to be sued

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Here is an item that frustrates and angers me at the same time.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is going to argue, according to the Texas Tribune, that it is immune from lawsuits filed by Texans over ERCOT’s handling of the Texas ice and snow storm this past February.

I am frustrated because a Dallas appeals court has ruled that ERCOT, despite being a private non-profit organization, might be protected because it operates as an arm of state government.

I am angry because ERCOT deserves to be sued over the power outages across the state that forced millions of Texans to endure the bitter cold without electricity.

The Tribune reported: “ERCOT has and will continue to assert that it is entitled to sovereign immunity due to its organization and function as an arm of State government,” the organization wrote in a Wednesday court filing requesting to consolidate several of the lawsuits it’s battling.

ERCOT to argue it is immune from winter storm lawsuits | The Texas Tribune

My wife and I were two of those Texans who struggled without power for a couple of days while the outdoor temperature plunged to zero. To make matters worse, the Princeton municipal water supply went kaput for a day because the electricity to its treatment plant also failed.

ERCOT mismanaged the electrical grid, which it operates throughout the state.

Board members resigned. Other board members fired its CEO. The Public Utility Commission resigned en masse. Gov. Greg Abbott has called for a legislative investigation into ERCOT. The Legislature is meeting right now to craft some needed reforms of the state electrical grid.

And ERCOT is going to declare some sort of sovereign immunity?

Amazing.

Then there were none

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

What the hell?

The last remaining member of the Public Utility Commission of Texas has resigned … at the request of Gov. Greg Abbott.

Holy cow, man! Arthur D’Andrea was the last man standing at the PUC. His two colleagues had quit already, including the chairman DeAnn Walker. Why the exodus?

Well, the PUC overseas the management of the electrical grid, which is run by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. ERCOT, though, made some boneheaded decisions during the February snow and ice storm that paralyzed most of the state. Millions of Texans lost power. More of them lost water.

The PUC along with ERCOT became the whipping kids.

According to the Texas Tribune: “Tonight, I asked for and accepted the resignation of PUC Commissioner Arthur D’Andrea,” the governor said in a statement, adding that he plans to name “a replacement in the coming days who will have the responsibility of charting a new and fresh course for the agency.”

Abbott added: “Texans deserve to have trust and confidence in the Public Utility Commission, and this action is one of many steps that will be taken to achieve that goal.”

I’m glad spring is about to arrive. There is no time to dawdle. We need to “chart a new and fresh course” for the PUC.

It’s time to get busy. As in, um, right now!

Legislature’s storm response agenda takes shape

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The 181 men and women who serve in the Texas Legislature are talking at least about how they intend to repair the state’s electrical infrastructure.

One hundred fifty of them serve in the House of Representatives; 31 serve in the Senate. I wish them all the best, not because I care about their political standing. I want them to take measures that keep our lights on and the heat flowing the next time our temperatures plunge to zero or below.

House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, has unveiled the House’s legislative agenda that deals with the infrastructure. It’s not long on specifics just yet, given that many of the measures haven’t been filed as legislative proposals.

One of them, House Bill 10, seeks to overhaul the structure of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, like requiring that all of ERCOT’s board members live in the state. You’ll recall what happened to us a month ago, with the state freezing and ERCOT decision makers living far away.

House Bill 11, according to the Texas Tribune, is a bit more complicated. The Tribune reports: Some other ideas could prove challenging. House Bill 11, for instance, would order the PUC to require power generators to implement measures to avoid service outages during extreme weather events, including winter storms and heat waves. But retroactively equipping power plants and the state’s energy system to withstand cold temperatures is likely to be difficult and costly, energy experts have said. Building energy infrastructure that from the start is designed to perform in winter conditions is easier and cheaper, they have said.

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan lays out seven bills after power outage | The Texas Tribune

Ah, yes. Winterization could be “difficult and costly.” Do ya think?

I want the Legislature to do what it must do to avoid the near calamity that could have befallen our energy grid. ERCOT said it was just minutes away from the grid imploding on itself during the coldest portion of the winter storm.

Many communities throughout the state were left to deal with the power outages and the failure of water systems. It hasn’t been pretty. Princeton, where my wife and I live, managed to get through the mess and mayhem in fairly short order. But … we did not appreciate living in a frigid house even for the short period of time our city was dark.

The Legislature needs to spend no time considering, for instance, foolishness such as requiring the playing the “Star Spangled Banner” at public events. Not while we have valuable heating and cooling infrastructure that needs the state’s immediate attention.

Legislature feels the heat from the storm

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

What do you suppose is on the minds of the 181 men and women meeting in the State Capitol for the next few weeks? I think I know.

One of those things has to do with electricity, and whether Texas can avoid the problems it encountered when a monstrous winter storm blew in over the state in the middle of February. Millions of Texans lost their electricity, the ability to heat their homes. What’s more, the water went out in millions of other homes and businesses.

Legislators convened their session in early January and Gov. Greg Abbott tasked them during the storm to get busy looking for solutions to the crisis, which he deemed “unacceptable.”

I have set out trying to learn what Northeast Texas legislators are thinking about how to solve the problem. One possible – albeit preliminary – idea comes from freshman state Sen. Drew Springer, who has filed a Senate bill requiring that all members of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas actually live in the state where ERCOT manages the electrical grid.

Springer, a Republican from Muenster, moved to the state Senate from the state House of Representatives after winning a special election in Senate District 30 to replace former state Sen. Pat Fallon, who was elected to the U.S. House.

Seven members of the ERCOT board have quit; six of them live outside the state. Springer wants to invoke a residency requirement, a notion endorsed enthusiastically by state Rep. Scott Sanford, a Republican from McKinney.

At issue are ways to prevent catastrophic failure, which ERCOT said could have happened, that the state electrical grid was literally minutes away from complete collapse.

Solutions will cost money. They might involve investment of huge sums of money to winterize the power generating system. Sanford is open to dipping into the state’s Rainy Day Fund. “Whatever we decide,” Sanford said, “Texans are going to pay, either through taxes or utility costs.” The Rainy Day Fund, though, could be available to help defray some of that cost. “It didn’t rain, but we had an emergency on a large scale,” Sanford said.

State Rep. Bryan Slaton, a Royse City Republican, said he isn’t terribly concerned about the price tag associated with the repair of the grid, declaring that the state simply has to get the job done.

Slaton, serving in his first legislative session, said he lost power at his Royse City home “for just a little while,” but added that the apartment where he lives during the session with his wife and children lost power and water for several days. “I wasn’t in Austin when the power went out,” Slaton said, adding that “it took me six hours to drive from Austin to home,” noting that it usually takes a lot less time.

Slaton said he is willing to work “as long as it takes” to find a solution to the electrical grid problems.

He said the failures were across the board and all the energy sources need attention. As for whether “green energy” was a major culprit, as suggested by Gov. Greg Abbott, Slaton said “green energy has proven to be unreliable.” He said wind and solar plants froze up, as did natural gas stations. Slaton believes nuclear energy, which provides even less power to the grid than solar or wind energy, is “the most reliable source” that Texans can use.

“A lot of things went wrong with the grid,” Slaton said. He said that in 2019, state Sen. Bob Hall of Van Zandt County and state Rep. Tony Tinderholt – both Republicans – commissioned a study to look at ways to “harden the grid.” Slaton said he is unclear on the status of the report they submitted but suggested it might provide a good starting point for the 2021 Legislature to consider.

He also said that he has filed a bill to require that the Public Utility Commission of Texas become an elected rather than an appointed body. “That way, when things go wrong, we can hold the PUC board accountable at the ballot box,” Slaton said.

Sanford, who is executive pastor (which he said is akin to being business manager) of Cottonwood Creek Church in Allen, is serving in his fifth legislative session after winning election in 2012. He said, “The first thing we have to do is understand what happened and examine the policies that contributed to the crisis.” He said the state hasn’t yet “reached that point” of determining which policies to change.

Indeed, Sanford experienced some personal misery at his home in McKinney, which he said suffered from a burst water pipe. So, it is safe to presume that the lawmaker also has some skin in this legislative game of looking for solutions to the state’s electrical grid.

Sanford did say that ERCOT and the PUC need to develop greater ability to “send up red flags” and then communicate to Texans in advance of these weather events how to deal with them. “The warning system needs to be transformed,” Sanford said.

Slaton and Sanford seem to disagree – if only a little a bit – on whether Gov. Abbott was correct to blame the Green New Deal for the failure of the electrical system, although Sanford is reluctant to get into a partisan battle. “The last thing we need to do is get into a Democrat vs. Republican deal,” Sanford said, imploring the Legislature to “put Texans first.” Sanford did say that he prefers “reliable” energy over “renewable” energy, which he suggested has proven so far to be an unreliable source for Texans.

Sanford said he is “intrigued” by the idea that Slaton has pitched, making the PUC an elected body, and he “absolutely” believes the state should require ERCOT board members to live in Texas.

Slaton said he is willing to work “for as long as it takes” to find solutions to the disaster that the state came within minutes of experiencing.

It seems a safe bet to presume that Rep. Slaton’s legislative colleagues are willing as well to stay on the job until they fix the problem. Millions of Texas residents will demand it.

Rest assured I will be among them.

BLOGGER’S NOTE: A version of this blog was published initially on KETR-FM’s website.

Special legislative session awaits

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I am not a huge fan of special legislative sessions in Texas.

We send our legislators to Austin for 140 days every other year to take care of legislative business. We don’t pay ’em very much money; I mean, they’re “citizen legislators” and we pay them a pittance to do our work.

The 2021 Legislature has a huge task ahead of it that it might be able to finish in time for the regular session to adjourn sine die.

Gov. Greg Abbott needs to ensure they finish the one major task: That would be finding money to pay for a major overhaul/reform/strengthening of our state’s electrical grid.

The grid came within about four minutes of collapsing a couple of weeks ago. It damn near failed the entire state, throwing us into prolonged darkness and cold. How did that happen? Well, the jury is still pondering that one, but one element seems clear: The state has not “winterized” its generating system to cope with the zero-degree temperature that blanketed much of the state.

Special legislative sessions too often are the product of lawmakers running out of time because they spend so much time dawdling at the beginning of these regular sessions. The 2021 Legislature doesn’t have time to waste. It has begun some key hearings peppering utility officials with questions about what went so damn wrong this past month.

Texas has a Rainy Day Fund that it can use to help pay for the cost of weatherizing its energy plants. There needs to be some serious priority-setting as well.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the electrical grid, is under intense fire from critics who wonder about some of the bone-headed decisions that reduce energy output at critical times during the deep freeze.

We have lots of energy in this state. We also have some pretty good minds in key places that can figure out what went so terribly wrong and find solutions to fix it.

If it takes a special session to finish the job, I would hope — and I expect — Gov. Abbott will be quick to summon legislators back to get it done.

Texas feels the shame

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas continues to take its lumps over the near-disaster we experienced a week ago.

You see, a state that has prided itself on its ruggedness, its independence and its know-how is being pounded over the failure of an electrical grid that was supposed to carry the state through the worst weather imaginable.

It sure didn’t do the job.

Indeed, now we hear that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas was about four minutes away from a total collapse.

As Ezra Klein wrote in the New York Times: Second, it could have been so much worse. Bill Magness, the president and chief executive of ERCOT, said Texas was “seconds and minutes” from complete energy system collapse — the kind where the system needs to be rebuilt, not just rebooted. “If we had allowed a catastrophic blackout to happen, we wouldn’t be talking today about hopefully getting most customers their power back,” Mr. Magness said. “We’d be talking about how many months it might be before you get your power back.”

How does Texas save its face? How does it recover from this mess, which darkened electrical output for 4 million Texans?

One thought might be to join the two other major electrical grids and give up this notion of Texas running its own grid. ERCOT already is suffering from resignations of seven board members, all of whom quit in the wake of the power failure.

It doesn’t make me feel at all good about my adopted home state.

As Klein writes: It wasn’t even the worst cold Texas experienced in living memory: in 1989 temperatures and electricity generation (as a percentage of peak demand) dropped even further than they did in 2011. Texas hadn’t just failed to prepare for the far future. It failed to prepare for the recent past.

Opinion | Texas Is a Rich State in a Rich Country, and Look What Happened – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

Let us demand some actual leadership from our, um, leaders on this matter.

Yes, we’re a rich state. However, we seem to suffer from a poverty-level absence of bright ideas on how to prevent a recurrence of what we all endured. No one likes freezing.

Shouldn’t they live here?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Let’s start with a fundamental concept involved in governing people’s lives. Those who make decisions that affect others ought at least have to suffer — as well as enjoy — the impact of those decisions.

Six members of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas have resigned. What do these individuals have in common? None of them lives in Texas, the state where ERCOT manages the electrical grid that became the source of a whole lot of heartache and misery for Texans suffering from the bitter storm that swept into the state this past week.

I won’t get into the particulars of the decisions that ERCOT made that could have contributed to the massive power failures that occurred in Texas. Indeed, North Texas — where I live — went dark for several days as the electrical utilities sought to restore power.

ERCOT is a non-profit organization. It also is subject to regulation by the state. Gov. Greg Abbott has called on the Texas Legislature to investigate ERCOT’s decision-making and, I presume, make recommendations for changes that could prevent an unacceptable loss of power in the future.

Here’s a thought: Require all ERCOT board members to reside in Texas.

Resigning ERCOT members acknowledge “pain and suffering” of power outages | The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune reports: “I want to acknowledge the pain and suffering of Texans during this tragedy that continues for many,” said Sally Talberg, ERCOT’s board chair, who was among the members who resigned. “All of our hearts go out to all of you who have had to go without electricity, heat, water, medicine and food from frigid temperatures and continue to face the tragic consequences.”

Thanks, Ms. Talberg, for the expression of concern. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and presume she means it. That doesn’t cut it, though, given that she resides out of state and wasn’t feeling the “pain and suffering” of those of  us who live inside Texas’s borders.

A big part of me is drawn to the notion that there ought to be a residency requirement placed on those who set the policies that have an effect on those who must endure their effects.

Doesn’t that make sense? It does to me.

Ask others, Texas

(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This bit of wisdom comes from a social media acquaintance of mine.

He writes: How ’bout asking people from colder climates how they supply themselves with renewable energy and take a step toward a future that is in their past? If Texas can’t lead, can it at least follow?

Texas politicians, utility regulators, energy suppliers and most certainly customers are trying to blunder their way out of the mess we’ve just endured in this state. Our power went out. Utility executives seemingly made bone-headed decisions on the power grid. Our infrastructure froze and failed. Many of us remain without adequate potable water supplies.

Granted, we aren’t used to these kinds of plummeting temperatures in Texas. We need to prepare better for the next time it happens.

So, as my acquaintance has suggested, Texas pols ought to get on the horn with their colleagues in, say, all the northern tier of states where this kind of winter event is commonplace.

No politician — especially, I have discovered, those in Texas — wants to depend on others for such advice. They want to stand on their own feet. They want to deal head-on with even the most complicated and thorny issues.

It’s like the male driver who refuses to ask directions when he’s hopelessly lost. Take it from me, that kind of “independence” is vastly overrated; I say that as someone who is not bashful about asking for directions.

So, if we cannot come up with solutions here about how to protect our energy infrastructure from future calamity, ask those who know how to do it and ask them how they have managed to produce renewable energy at a level that powers their communities — and keeps their customers warm at night.

Infrastructure needs help!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texans from Amarillo to McAllen, from Texarkana to Texico and from Orange to El Paso all got a serious wakeup call this week.

It is that “infrastructure improvement” includes much more than roads, bridges, airports and ship channels. It also includes natural gas pumping stations, wind farms and perhaps even petroleum pump jacks.

Texas claims to be proud of its energy production machinery. However, we seem to have neglected taking sufficient care that it works during rough weather.

Yep. We had some rough weather this week … you know?

I’ll set aside until later a discussion about the mismanagement of the power capacity, which was the result of some pi**-poor decision making at the top of the electricity grid management chain of command.

The state’s energy infrastructure needs to be winterized, upgraded,  made to withstand what well could become more frequent dramatic climate events such as what we endured.

It won’t be an easy task. As the Texas Tribune reports: Energy experts said that in some cases, retrofitting plants to withstand cold could be extremely difficult and expensive in Texas. Many of those plants already skimped on such upgrades due to the infrequency of prolonged and widespread subfreezing temperatures in the state.

What it means to winterize Texas’ energy plants | The Texas Tribune

I get that events such as what we saw don’t happen all that often in Texas, except perhaps in  the Panhandle — where my wife and I lived for 23 years before we moved to Collin County in 2018.

Texas’s utility system operates under the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which is independent of other major regional electricity management concerns. It failed us, folks. It didn’t turn out to be so, um, “reliable.

How do we winterize the network? Many experts believe the natural gas transmission system should be Priority No. 1, given that LNG provides the bulk of the energy that Texas uses to power its electrical plants. One thought is to enclose the plants during the winter, protecting them from nature’s cruel blasts.

Look, I am not an engineer. I don’t have specific solutions to offer. All I know for certain is what my wife and I experienced at the first part of this hellish experience. Our power went out because of system failure, as did our water … for the same reason. 

A state that proclaims to be energy dominant should not expose its residents to the nightmare that millions of them are experiencing at this very moment.

If we’re going to invest in infrastructure, we ought to start — and perhaps even finish — with our energy grid. It needs help to withstand the wrath that well could present itself with more frequency in the future.

That’s what is likely to occur when Earth’s climate is changing. More on that, too, to come.