Aug 31, 2023
Texas power grid has held up well for summer but still inefficient, energy experts say
“The economic model was flawed from the very beginning. It hasn’t improved any… during tight periods.” Energy experts say this summer has not seen widespread brownouts or other high-profile grid
“The economic model was flawed from the very beginning. It hasn’t improved any… during tight periods.”
Energy experts say this summer has not seen widespread brownouts or other high-profile grid failures in Texas because of solar and wind energy.
ERCOT asked Texans to conserve power on Thursday due to an especially oppressive Summer heat spike.
Doug Lewin is a Texas energy analyst and author of the Texas Energy and Power Newsletter. He is one energy analyst who credits solar and wind energy for helping keep the power on during a time when Houston has seen triple digits for the past few months.
"They've helped contribute to reliability," he said. "They also have driven prices lower than they would have otherwise been. And I know that's hard for Texans to understand because bills are looking really high right now. But that's really a function of how much power we're using because it's so hot."
Lewin said a study from the University of Texas estimates Texas has saved around $30 billion from solar energy in the past ten years.
However, the energy grid is still viewed as inefficient to many energy analysts. Ed Hirs is an energy fellow at the University of Houston and has analyzed energy markets for almost 50 years. He says the power grid is not fixed, which leads to Texans losing money.
"The so-called fixes are just little Band-Aids around the side," Hirs said. "One of the Band-Aids is the ERCOT contingency reserve service. ERCOT pays some generators to stay offline during the day with the idea that they can turn them on when needed if the market gets really tight."
Hirs said that strategy could drive up the price for electricity bills year-round. He said some power bills from the last month have been three times as much for this time of year.
"(ERCOT) services 85% of the population of Texas, and on that measure they've done really well," he said. "The economic model was flawed from the very beginning. It hasn't improved any... during tight periods."