In partnership with AESP: The increasing roles of DERs, connected technology and Big Data are driving rapid change in energy efficiency. As we shape the Utility of the future, this community will help you keep up with the latest developments. 


Texas needs EE, not crypto

image credit: Photo 24650084 / Energy © Huating |
Henry Craver's picture
Small Business Owner , Self-employed

As a small business owner, I'm always trying to find ways to cut costs and boost the dependability of my services. To that end, I've become increasingly invested in learning about energy saving...

  • Member since 2018
  • 839 items added with 394,891 views
  • Feb 4, 2022

Last year, what many commentators had long predicted finally happened: The Lone Star State’s grid went down hard. To those in the know, the failure made total sense. For years, Texas had been building up its wind portfolio at breakneck speed and shutting coal plants. Simultaneously, demand has skyrocketed in recent years thanks to migration into cities like Austin. When an uncanny winter storm hit last February, the crisis finally materialized, and it was nastier than even the loudest bell ringers had predicted. Over 4.5 million customers were left without power, some for several days. Estimates differ, but even the most conservative claim at least 210 people died because of the outages. 

Despite a medley of changes, Texas’ grid remains very vulnerable one year after the Uri debacle. Although it looks like the grid will squeak through a storm this week—70,000 homes have lost power as I write this, few of the root problems have been fixed. Companies that operate natural gas systems have not been forced to weather proof, few efforts have been made to reduce demand for heat, and the state’s energy market still incentivises cheap electricity over reliability. 

Governor Abbot’s solution to the above problems has been to double down on his state’s Crypto-friendly posture. For those who don’t know, Abbot and many Texas legislators on both sides of the aisle have worked hard in recent years to attract crypto mining companies to the state. This is how the movement was described in a recent Bloomberg article on the subject: 

“Abbott and Republican lawmakers have taken some of the most aggressive steps in the U.S. to lure the industry. Last May, Texas became one of a few states to make it easier for businesses to hold crypto assets and use them as collateral for loans. Abbott also created the Work Group on Blockchain Matters, staffed by industry experts and insiders.”

The same article explains that many countries around the world have moved in the opposite direction, banning and otherwise discouraging crypto mining because of its huge tax on the grid. 

So, how can a business that stresses the grid be used to support it? Here’s the basic elevator pitch, according to Bloomberg: 

“The idea is that the miners’ computer arrays would demand so much electricity that someone would come along to build more power plants, something Texas badly needs. If the grid starts to go wobbly, as it did when winter storm Uri froze up power plants in February 2021, miners could quickly shut down to conserve energy for homes and businesses. At least two Bitcoin miners have already volunteered to do just that.”

Instead of courting one of the world’s most energy inefficient industries, Texas should be boosting energy conservation. A report released last year by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) makes a convincing case that Texas can solve its reliability issues through efficiency measures. 

The report lays out seven residential energy efficiency and demand response programs that could lower summer peaks by 7,650 MW and winter peaks by 11,400 MW over five years. Such peak reductions could possibly erase the need for the new gas generation plan that’s so popular right  now. ACEEE estimates its plan would cost $4.9 billion over 5 years, almost 40 percent less than the generation-focused proposals made by Berkshire and Starwood.

The ACEEE proposes 7 big investments. On the building front:  incentives for attic insulation, smart thermostats, electric furnace upgrades, electric water heaters and heat pumps. The report also calls for demand response programs that would target air conditioning, ev charging, and water heating. Many of these initiatives are on the table right now because Texas has failed to invest in basic energy efficiency measures over the years. It’s low hanging fruit, really. 

If Texas goes through with its unconventional crypto plan, I really hope it works. However, I think a better idea would be to reduce stress on the grid by taking advantage of all the efficiency opportunities available.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 4, 2022

It's really interesting to see some people/regions courting the crypto mining operations and others (such as what happened in China when they forced mining operations to leave for Kazakhstan) pushing them away. I expect we're going to learn a lot about this area in the next year or two-- but hopefully it doesn't come at the cost of a major grid outage incident tied to the mining operations. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 5, 2022

Henry, if any group knows energy efficiency will never keep the lights on in Texas, it's CEERT. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) doesn't give a crap about efficiency - where's the money in it?

The group raised a similar ruckus when PG&E filed their 2016 application with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to close Diablo Canyon Power Plant. Fortunately, some deep digging by a pro-nuclear group in San Luis Obispo, Californians For Green Nuclear Power, revealed what forces were at play.

From a formal Reply Brief filed by the group:

"Whether CEERT is capable of rendering an impartial analysis is questionable. On its website the group reveals a pronounced anti-science bias, on behalf of financial interests at odds with the interests of California citizens. Entirely without basis, the organization argues 'growing numbers of experts are pointing out that federal investments in new renewable energy capacity and energy efficiency are [a] far better deal for taxpayers and the environment than nuclear power.' Grudgingly acknowledged is growing support for nuclear among environmental organizations and activists, which CEERT says requires them to "hold their noses and vote for a federal climate bill that includes nuclear in the generation mix." [1]


"Conflicts of interest within CEERT's Board of Directors abound, with eight members representing renewable energy companies which stand to benefit financially from the premature abandonment of Diablo Canyon. Included are:

Avangrid Renewables

GE Renewable Energy

The California Energy Efficiency Industry Council

SunPower Corporation

EDP Renewables North America

EDF Renewable Energy

Pure Resource LLC

Pattern Energy


But most troubling are conflicts of interest for the Chairman of its Executive Committee, Jonathan M. Weisgall, who also serves as Vice President of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs for Berkshire Hathaway Energy.[2] A Berkshire subsidiary, PacifiCorp, is poised to reap substantial benefits via its participation in the Western Energy Imbalance Market. As of 2005 PacifiCorp generated 100% of its electricity from burning coal and natural gas in other western states.[3]

"When San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) was abandoned in 2013, a majority of its energy was replaced by the combustion of "natural gas" (methane), increasing California's CO2 emissions by 8 million tonnes[4]. Should Californians experience a replay of the SONGS fiasco with renewable energy failing to make up for Diablo Canyon's clean energy contribution, it could only mean higher carbon emissions and the export of revenue from California's economy.  PIRA Energy Group, an energy market research firm, estimates methane consumption in Northern California will rise 34% in the years 2023-2026 due to the abandonment of DCPP.[5]

Since 2016 it's come to light that PacifiCorp is in the process of constructing Energy Gateway South (EGS) , a transmission corridor from Wyoming to substations in Utah and Eastern California. By 2025 EGS will help PacifiCorp serve lucrative electricity markets in Southern California. Meanwhile, CPUC is planning to import 4 GW of electricity from EGS under the category "unspecified sources of energy" to hide its provenance: coal plants in Wyoming.

peter snell's picture
peter snell on Feb 11, 2022

oh, please .. EE?? not really. REALIABILITY is the

greatest need. I was in Houston Power & Light when the 

Legislature screwed up the de-regulation of the electric 

market; we very correctly predicted that it would spur a race

to the bottom on kwh cost, while AVAILABILITY would be left

hanging, since the grid operator had to ASK generators to fire

up for a certain price, rather than dispatching them and getting

a commitment to operate at that time. Que Lastima, yet here we

are, very inexpensive market pricing usually, but potentially freezing

in the dark when anything burps. 

Henry Craver's picture
Thank Henry for the Post!
Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.
More posts from this member

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network® is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »