Tag Archives: ERCOT

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.

Texas earns lumps it is taking

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It is no fun listening to media talking heads ripping Texas a new one over the mishandling of its response to the Arctic blast that blew in over the state.

It also is hard for me to admit this, given that I have lived in this state for nearly 37 years and have become quite acclimated to the state’s unique culture … but the state has earned the bludgeoning it is taking.

Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been quick to level criticism at officials from across the political aisle, has been singled out by many over the mismanagement and the resulting suffering that many Texans have endured from the winter blast.

Texas has sold itself to the rest of the nation as an energy-producing titan, with ample supplies of fuel to, um, keep the power plants operating. It turns out that all that energy hasn’t kept enough of those plants open. What’s more, some folks in high places made some bone-headed decisions about monitoring the production capacity; they have shut down too many plants at the very time the temperature was plummeting across the state.

There needs to be some answers about what has happened in this state, how it continues to flounder while so many Texans are suffering with no power, scarce water and next to zero confidence that anything will improve.

Oh, and we also have that pandemic that continues to sicken and kill us.

I have no regrets moving to Texas in 1984 to pursue a journalism career from which I drew great joy and excitement. It still saddens me to see so many others casting proverbial “side glances” at our state while we continue to suffer from nature’s wrath.

I am hoping we can get through this crisis … soon!

ERCOT hardly ‘reliable’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is angry.

He can join millions of other Texans who share his dismay, his disgust with a major supplier of electrical energy to the vast state he governs.

We are going through massive, widespread power outages while the state battles an unprecedented winter freeze. We are going through it in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Millions of us lost power for days. It’s back on at our house in Princeton, but to be brutally honest, I continue to fear it could go sideways in an instant.

Abbott and several state legislators want to launch a thorough investigation into the Electric Reliability Council of Texas; I emphasize the term “Reliability” because ERCOT has been anything but a “reliable” provider of electrical energy.

The Texas Tribune reports: “The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” Abbott said in a statement. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable.”

ERCOT is a non-profit organization that manages the electrical grid that covers about 90 percent of Texas. Hmm. Let’s see, Texas comprises about 269,000 square miles, which means ERCOT manages electricity for about 242,000 of that vast real estate.

It hasn’t done too well as the provider of electricity for a state facing the crises it encountered when the Arctic blast blew in from points way up yonder.

The Tribune reports further: The governor’s latest announcement came hours after Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, asked two committees in the lower chamber to hold a joint hearing later this month to review the outages. Phelan, a Beaumont Republican, requested the House State Affairs and Energy Resources committees convene for the hearing on Feb. 25.

“We must cut through the finger-pointing and hear directly from stakeholders about the factors that contributed to generation staying down at a time when families needed it most, what our state can do to correct these issues and what steps regulators and grid operators are taking to safeguard our electric grid,” Phelan said in a news release.

Texas power outage prompts calls for investigation into ERCOT | The Texas Tribune

I’m just a consumer, a taxpayer, a longtime Texas resident who has come to rely on “reliable” energy to heat my home and to protect my family. ERCOT has failed us.

Let the wind keep blowing

Hey, it’s been windy lately.

You know what? The wind has produced at least one amazing positive result: an increase in megawatts, meaning electricity, meaning less use of fossil fuels.


The Electrical Reliability Council of Texas announced that on March 28, it passed the 10,000-megawatt barrier for the first time ever. Texas, which has been the leader in wind energy in the nation, set the record nationally.

We’re No. 1!

I get that not everyone is enamored with wind energy. It’s expensive to generate electricity from all those turbines planted all across our High Plains plateau. However, the more electricity created by wind, the less of it is created by fossil fuels that, last I heard, remain a finite source of energy. The stuff is going to run out eventually.

The wind? We’ll have it forever and ever.

It’ll keep blowing, sometimes at great velocity. It’ll annoy the daylights out of us, blowing dirt into our motor vehicle air filters and wafting its way into our homes.

But as ERCOT notes, wind can heat and cool our dwellings with a virtually infinite energy supply.

Let it blow.