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Catastrophic Winter Storm Power Disruptions

By Mayes Middleton

Millions of Texans were without power for days, with lives lost and many more put at risk. The words anger and frustration do not do justice to what we are experiencing. Over the last several days, I have been working with CenterPoint, Entergy, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to improve our power situation in Galveston and Chambers Counties.

There are two major failures. First, ERCOT has clearly failed. Our state’s electrical grid operator has shown unparalleled incompetence during this critical time and Texans are paying the price. The “R” in “ERCOT” is for “reliability” and that did not happen.

Second, CenterPoint energy’s rolling blackouts were not made in a fair “pro-rata” manner. Instead, Galveston and Chambers Counties have disproportionately suffered. Centerpoint is in control of which areas are turned on and which aren’t. Overall, Galveston County was 88% out and the west side of Chambers County was 76% out, while Harris County was just 16% out at times. Some communities were hit even worse, Galveston and San Leon/Bacliff approached 100% outages. Centerpoint said 1.2 million of their 2.5 million customers were out and that only essential circuits were left on, so the question remains why are so many homes in Harris County on essential circuits and so few in our area?

BOLIVAR AND ENTERGY OUTAGE

The Bolivar Peninsula is serviced by Entergy and the non-ERCOT grid operator known as “MISO.” MISO initiated less severe rolling outages than ERCOT, however the initial outage was unrelated to these rolling outages. Many residents have been without power since Sunday night but, after monitoring Entergy’s progress, I am hopeful all Bolivar customers are restored today. Despite this, we were the first to go out in the system, so we should have been the first back on, but this did not happen.

DRINKING WATER

We have requested help from Texas Division of Emergency Management with the water supply which is limited or down in Galveston, Bolivar, Bacliff, Anahuac and elsewhere. Thank you Lighthouse Charity Team for helping me source several palettes of water for McGuire Dent Center. This is critical situation I am working closely with emergency management on providing additional bottled water.

MOVING FORWARD

HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS AND HOUSE ENERGY RESOURCES HEARING NEXT WEEK TO INVESTIGATE OUTAGE CAUSES AND DETERMINE SOLUTIONS

The House State Affairs and House Energy Resources Committees will hold a joint hearing (see below) on February 25th to review what happened with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). This will be the start of the Texas Legislature addressing this problem to ensure that this never happens again. Time for answers on how this happened and solutions to never have it happen again. https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/schedules/html/C2502021022509001.htm

31,000 MW of conventional generation such as natural gas and coal generation, primarily “peaker” plants” brought on for high demand times went down during this event. This represents a high 39% rate of failure. Texas produces 25% of the nation’s natural gas and we have over 500 Billion cubic feet in storage in salt domes and depleted reservoirs. We should not be having these issues with base load generation because of abundant fuel supply. Additionally, in our time of greatest need, during the peak of the cold Monday night, just 900MW was being produced by wind energy despite 30,000MW of capacity. In other words just 3% of wind energy capacity was generating. It is clear wind power generation failed at a disproportionately higher rate compared to other non-subsidized sources of energy, which is something we must investigate. Sadly, the state’s largest investment in the electric grid in the last 10 years was $7 Billion for the CREZ transmission lines for wind power, on top of large federal subsidies and billions in local school and county property tax abatements. Clearly this investment failed us as well. What prevented total grid failure was conventional generation and nuclear (see attached chart).

Regardless of cause this must never happen again and Texas must take steps for reliable and secure base load power generation, so millions of lives are not put at risk again.