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Everyone's Talking About Texas
- Feb 7, 2023 2:48 am GMT
Your colleagues, your competitors, your meteorologist, and your investors, they are all talking about Texas. Unusually cold temperatures are creeping into the forecast, forcing many to relive fears from the February 2021 winter storm. The state endured another extreme cold snap the following winter and today, in Austin, the temperature lows will be in the 30’s.
To eliminate the risk of another deadly power outage, regulators are moving forward with plans to incentivize more natural gas plants on the power grid. “The PCM builds reliability into the successful competitive market in Texas, paying for the reliability that ERCOT needs to power Texas when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, but without paying resources for merely existing,” said TCPA Executive Director Michele Richmond in a statement. Critics are calling it a step backwards as renewables have proven to be efficient and closer to net zero goals. “As a public utility, Austin Energy’s decades-long shift towards renewable energy reflects the priorities of our customers and our city,” Matt Mitchell, a spokesperson for Austin Energy, said in an email. It’s important to note, that Texas leads the US in oil and natural gas production, but it’s also number one in wind power. In 2019, wind started to beat out coal and is now the second-largest source of electricity behind natural gas in the state.
Although state regulators are looking to natural gas for reliability, Energy Analyst, Maria Chavez, believes solar-plus-storage plus efficiency is the right formula. Because it requires no fuel, power generation to this home would not be interrupted by a fossil-fuel supply line disruption. A home with an energy storage system can expect reliability and conservation. In an emergency blackout, energy efficiency can provide “passive survivability,” that is, maintain livable conditions in the event of an extended loss of power or interruptions in heating fuel.
To help residents prepare, Dallas rolled out the White Home Dallas program to assist with the up-fronts costs of weatherization and energy efficiency. “Dallas residents are seeing more extreme weather and we see it every day with either droughts or heat or like just last week, the cold snap that we experienced,” Dallas City Council Member Paula Blackmon said.
“There have been significant improvements to the Texas electrical grid over the past two years,” wrote Garrett Golding, senior business economist at the Dallas Fed. However, he added, the fact that there haven’t been major blackouts since February 2021 “is a low bar to meet.” Can Texas raise the bar on energy efficiency with renewables or is natural gas the only way to guarantee reliability?
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