2011 Report Warned of Texas Grid Freeze Vulnerabilities, Yet Nothing Was Done [VIDEO]

2011 Report Warned of Texas Grid Freeze Vulnerabilities, Yet Nothing Was Done [VIDEO]

An August 2011 report (you can read the report HERE) warned that Texas could experience power outages, like we’re experiencing right now, due to weaknesses in our grid caused by freezing temperatures yet nothing was done to prepare.  The report by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation was prepared in response to similar freeze related power outages that took place on February 1-5, 2011 and affected some 4.4 million customers.  The report stated:

“Going into the February 2011 storm, neither ERCOT nor the other electric
entities that initiated rolling blackouts during the event expected to have a problem meeting customer demand. They all had adequate reserve margins, based on anticipated generator availability. But those reserves proved insufficient for the extraordinary amount of capacity that was lost during the event from trips, derates, and failures to start…The actions of the entities in calling for and carrying out the rolling blackouts were largely effective and timely. However, the massive amount of generator failures that were experienced raises the question whether it would have been helpful to increase reserve levels going into the event. This action would have brought more units online earlier, might have prevented some of the freezing
problems the generators experienced, and could have exposed operational
problems in time to implement corrections before the units were needed to meet customer demand…The February event underscores the need to have sufficient black start units available, particularly in the face of an anticipated severe weather event. “

But, the 2011 event wasn’t the only incident.  The report states that:

“There were prior severe cold weather events in the Southwest in 1983, 1989, 2003, 2006, 2008, and 2010.  The worst of these was in 1989, the prior event most comparable to 2011. That year marked the first time ERCOT resorted to system-wide rolling blackouts to prevent more widespread customer outages. In all of those prior years, the natural gas delivery system experienced production declines; however, curtailments to natural gas customers in the region were essentially limited to the years 1989 and 2003.”

So, ERCOT has been aware of these issues for some time yet seems to have taken very few, if any, steps to prepare.  “Of course they should have designed for this, I mean, this happens every 8, 9, 10 years in Texas.” stated Ed Hirs, a UH Energy Fellow when speaking to ABC 13 in an interview.  So, why has nothing been done?  Why hasn’t the State Of Texas forced these changes to happen?  Cost.  “The Consumer is going to have to bear the cost…[but] every incumbent politician knows that if the cost of electricity goes up at the meter or the price of gasoline goes up at the pump they don’t get re-elected.”  You can watch the interview below:

Governor Abbott has called for an ERCOT ’emergency item’ in the wake of this power crisis.  “The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” said Abbott on Tuesday. “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. Reviewing the preparations and decisions by ERCOT is an emergency item so we can get a full picture of what caused this problem and find long-term solutions. I thank my partners in the House and Senate for acting quickly on this challenge, and I will work with them to enhance Texas’ electric grid and ensure that our state never experiences power outages like this again.”

A closer examination of ERCOT reveals another issue, a third of its board lives outside of the state.  The Austin American Statesman pointed this our in an article

“Unacceptable!” said state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, in a tweet. “This must be addressed.”

So, the finger pointing that is sure to follow in the coming weeks and months one thing needs to be kept in mind.  We have known about these issues for quite some time and will now be the time that we decide to address them or will we kick the can down the road?