Affordably Improving Texas Power Grid Resilience

Hope you emerged from this crazy winter storm + power/water outage week relatively unscathed. I certainly learned the value of stockpiling water and draining water pipes (esp. with a power outage), and ERCOT learned that it's a bad idea to cut off power to natural gas pumps across the state during a winter storm. I hope they spend a bit of time doing analysis before jumping to expensive solutions like full winterization of all facilities. It's possible that if they had simply mapped natural gas pumps and compressors across the state and treated them as critical non-blackout facilities like hospitals, we might have gotten away with short-duration rolling blackouts that would have been far more manageable (like 2011).

From the Wall Street Journal:

"Solutions will have to be nuanced and incremental. Winterizing all power plants would be unnecessarily expensive, and so would a complete overhaul of Texas' market design, which is partly responsible for consistently low power prices compared with the rest of the country."

And an excellent idea: "One option could be rewarding liquefied natural-gas processing facilities in Texas to both curtail electricity usage and to redirect the feedstock natural gas for electricity rather than for exports."

And from Forbes - This Blizzard Exposes The Perils Of Attempting To ‘Electrify Everything’. Gas = resilience:

"to equal the 80 Bcf/d of gas delivered during cold snaps, the U.S. would need an electric grid as large as all existing generation in the country, which is currently about 1.2 terawatts."

Unpopular observation: gas-powered cars, trucks, and SUVs were a critical source of resilience during this never-ending mass power-outage disaster by providing heat and recharging. If we all had electric vehicles, this disaster would have been epically worse. A hard truth.

This piece first appeared on Houston Strategies.

Tory Gattis is a Founding Senior Fellow with the Center for Opportunity Urbanism and co-authored the original study with noted urbanist Joel Kotkin and others, creating a city philosophy around upward social mobility for all citizens as an alternative to the popular smart growth, new urbanism, and creative class movements. He is also an editor of the Houston Strategies blog.