Fixing ERCOT, the Texas Grid

Fixing ERCOT, the Texas Grid

The best, and possibly only way to fix ERCOT is to stop building wind and solar farms and build new baseload power plants instead.

Some have suggested that ERCOT should merge with MISO or the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), or utilities to its west, i.e., New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and the Rocky Mountain Power Area.

The fact is, MISO and SPP barely kept most of the lights on during the big freeze, and were dangerously short on baseload power. It’s doubtful the utilities in New Mexico, etc., along with their rate payers, would want to become burdened with ERCOT’s problems. 

The fact that some of ERCOT’s baseload power plants had problems has allowed the advocates of wind and solar to muddy the waters.

The facts tell the story.

This earlier ERCOT graph projected essentially zero baseload reserves in 2021.

Reserve Margin Composition
Figure 8, from The Looming Energy Crisis

The next graph shows that ERCOT needed approximately 10,000 MW of additional baseload capacity.

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has proposed investing $8.3 billion to build 10 new natural gas combined cycle power plants that would only operate during emergencies. In effect, this would provide ERCOT with its reserve margin.

(At a cost of $1,000/KW, each plant would be rated 830 MW, for a total reserve of 8,300 MW.)

It’s clear that Berkshire Hathaway sees the importance of reserve margins.

It’s also clear Berkshire Hathaway expects that ERCOT will continue to have emergencies unless ERCOT takes action to build new baseload power plants.

ERCOT and its rate payers will have to pay Berkshire Hathaway for making this investment. 

The alternative is for ERCOT to initiate capacity auctions, or install capacity mandates, where Texas utilities will make the investment in baseload power.

Without new baseload power plants, i.e., nuclear, natural gas combined cycle, or coal-fired power plants, the citizens of Texas will continue to suffer blackouts.

. . .

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11 Replies to “Fixing ERCOT, the Texas Grid”

  1. Texans will either learn from history or repeat it. I’m beginning to think the “green new deal” is the new virus and “fossil fuels and nuclear” are the vaccines.

  2. You seem to have forgotten the history of Ercot. The same thing happened in 2011 without all the Green energy, so Green energy wasn’t and isn’t the problem. Texas power suppliers are. This also happened previous to 2011 in 1989. Do your research and stop embarrassing yourself. Your delusions are not helping the situation.

    • Thanks for your comments. I’m afraid you are pushing a wet noodle.
      I’ve lived in Plano and we used to call these freezing weather conditions Blue Northerns. I’ve read the reports on earlier instances where ERCOT had blackouts and failures.This time around there shouldn’t have been as many failures due to weather. It looks as though ERCOT management failed to implement corrective actions that were identified in 2011. There is no question that reserve margins depended on wind, which was a serious mistake. My articles have shown the ERCOT charts where wind was part of the 15% reserve and where it was predicted that there would be zero reserve margins using baseload power. Using wind and solar for reserves is a huge mistake that is also occurring elsewhere in other RTO/ISOs due to activists trying to force wind onto the grid and then having wind and solar be used for reserves. Another book, Shorting the Grid, by Meredith Angwin, also describes how wind and solar are creating dangerous problems, so I’m not alone in recognizing the problems that wind and solar create.
      Wind and solar are unreliable and cost more than natural gas, coal and nuclear power generation.

      • Nonsense. Green power is less than 25% of the system and to try and pin a reserve of 15% of the 25% is infinitesimally small. Wind is free and solar is free. A sunny day or breeze cost nothing. You don’t have to mine it or dispose of it. Nuclear power has yet to locate an area to permanently store its waste. Look at how Gov. Abbott was whining to Trump back in Oct. 2020 about the storage of nuclear waste next to the largest domestic producing US oilfield in Texas. The waste was across the border in New Mexico. Other utilities EVERYWHERE ELSE BUT TEXAS have no issues with their wind turbine power or solar generation. The problem is Texas utility companies. How come Norway or any of the countries in Europe don’t have these issue? Or Japan, South Korea or other any asian countries that employ wind and solar technology?

        • Thanks for your comments.
          Fortunately wind is still a small portion of the total generation mix. The problem is in trying to include wind and solar capacity in reserve margins. You can read my book for facts about what is happening in other states, or if you don’t like what I write, read Meredith Angwin’s book Shorting the Grid. New England, for example, barely prevented a regional blackout that would have been caused by policies against using fossil fuels while forcing wind and solar onto the grid.
          It’s very unfortunate that environmentalists have created fear of radiation and convinced people in Nevada that it’s unsafe to store nuclear waste. Nuclear power is safe and we should be using more of it. We definitely shouldn’t be forcing it off the grid with rigged auctions. As for Europe, I suggest you follow the CLEW group who publish information on Germany and other European countries. You mention Norway, but Norway gets the preponderance of its electricity from Hydropower which provides a solid backup for wind. You’ll find that these other countries are having problems. Germany for example, still relies heavily on coal, and Merkel has refused to accelerate the closing of coal-fired power plants just because of the problems I have raised. I hope you will avail yourself of the books I have mentioned and of CLEW so as to become better informed on the issue.

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  4. Don,
    Thanks for the well written article. I can’t imagine how any sane person thinks we will get totally off fossil fuels and on to intermittent green energy.
    47% of homes in the USA are heated with cheap, reliable Natural Gas, Millions more with oil.
    with Biden’s plans we are headed for a energy disaster

    • Thanks. It’s important for Americans to realize what is happening. Energy is not something most Americans think about since our systems have been so successful in bringing everyone reliable and plentiful energy. But now we face situations where energy won’t be reliable and plentiful because of bad energy policies.