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Pragmatic Steps for Texas – that will never happen

Doug Houseman's picture
Visionary and innovator in the utility industry and grid modernization Burns & McDonnell

I have a broad background in utilities and energy. I worked for Capgemini in the Energy Practice for more than 15 years. During that time I rose to the position of CTO of the 12,000 person...

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  • Feb 18, 2021
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After the last week, Texas has now had 3 brushes with winter in 7 years. Maybe it is time to think about making some changes.

1) Require heaters in the wind turbines and standby generation at the collector.
2) PUCT needs to authorize load limiting via the meter – limiting amps
3) Put in place an insulation program for buildings and improve the building code
4) Capacity payments for generators who have a firm gas contract
5) They need to put in place low cost – long duration storage (e.g. Pumped Hydro) at scale (30GW/TWH)
6) Back up generation at first responder sites using someone like Enchanted Rock to manage them.
7) I would really look at building generation in the oil fields to use the excess gas on site and send it out as electricity – rather than flaring it.

I feel for the people who are on real time pricing programs from their energy retailer, they may see bills 100x their normal bill for February.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 18, 2021

I have to agree, Doug-- these are entirely pragmatic steps. Much moreso than some of the kneejerk reactions that will have high political hurdles to climb in Texas (regulation, merging with other grid operators, etc.). Given that, why do you think these more measured options will remain never to happen? Who's resisting them? And is there any way for state leaders to 'make good use' of this crisis to make greater strides towards them than perhaps the could have in years past? 

Ben Ettlinger's picture
Ben Ettlinger on Feb 18, 2021

With regard to #7. That thought has occurred to me scores and scores of times. each time I drive up and down the NJ Turnpike past the refineries near Linden and Newark. Yes the Gas is probably unstable but why not use it for steam generation?

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 18, 2021

You would think the gas stakeholders would be all for this too-- why waste their valuable resource when they could get some generation out of it, even if it's just to use on-site? Do the economics not work out to make it worthwhile? 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 18, 2021

Do the economics not work out to make it worthwhile? 

Yes (they don't). Years ago, an acquaintance tried to raise venture capital for a proposal to fund small generating units in moving containers, that could be transported to wellheads, connected to natural gas streams and electricity transmission.

With transmission costs and irregular supply it wasn't economical. Gas coming from oil wells is a waste product - far more profitable to dump it into the atmosphere while burning a little to create the appearance of environmental responsibility.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 18, 2021

"1) Require heaters in the wind turbines and standby generation at the collector."

Would turbine owners be expected to assume responsibility for the cost of standby generators, fueling, and maintenance for 10,700 wind turbines, and liability for lack of compliance?

2) PUCT needs to authorize load limiting via the meter – limiting amps.

Achieved by tripping a breaker at the panel?

 

5) They need to put in place low cost – long duration storage (e.g. Pumped Hydro) at scale (30GW/TWH)

Pumped hydro requires local topology that supports it. Where in Texas do you see it being practical?

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