Texas blackouts warning to Biden and all of us: Renewables do play a role in grid problems




It's not just a cold front. Over a decade of misguided green energy policies are wreaking havoc in Texas and the lower Midwest right now - despite non-stop claims to the contrary.

The immediate cause for the power outages in Texas this week was extreme cold and insufficient winterization of the state's energy systems. But there's still no escaping the fact that, for years, Texas regulators have favored the construction of heavily subsidized renewable energy sources over more reliable electricity generation. These policies have pushed the state away from nuclear and coal and now millions in Texas and the Great Plains states are learning just how badly exposed they are when extreme weather hits.

Renewable's defenders retort that Texas' wind resource is "reliably unreliable." Translation: It can't be counted on when it's needed most. The state has spent tens of billions of dollars on wind turbines that don't work when millions of people desperately need electricity. As the cold weather has gotten worse, half the state's wind generation has sat frozen and immobile. Where wind provided 42% of the state's electricity on Feb. 7, it fell to 8% on Feb.11.

The Texas power outage was inevitable

Unsurprisingly, the failure of wind has sparked a competing narrative that fossil fuel plants were the real cause of power outages. This claim can be quickly dispelled with a look at data from ERCOT, the state's electricity regulator. Even though the extreme cold had frozen cooling systems on coal plants and natural gas pipelines, the state's coal plants still upped their output by 47% in response to increasing demand. Natural gas plants across the state increased their output by an amazing 450%. Fossil fuels have done yeoman's work to make up for wind's reliable unreliability.

Sadly, even these herculean efforts weren't enough. The loss of wind has been compounded by the loss of some natural gas and coal generation, and one nuclear reactor, which experienced a cold-related safety issue and shut down. Things are improving, but rolling power outages are still impacting millions. Had the state invested more heavily in nuclear plants instead of pushing wind power, Texans would have ample, reliable, safe, emission-free electricity powering their lives through the cold. Instead, over 20 have died.

Oncor crew on Feb.
Oncor crew on Feb.  

This sad outcome was inevitable. Renewable energy sources have taken off in popularity largely because of state mandates and federal subsidies. As they've become more popular, reliable energy like nuclear power and coal have felt the squeeze.

Last year, wind overtook coal as Texas' second largest source of electricity generation. The most recent federal data indicates that, in October last year, natural gas provided 52% of the Lonestar state's electricity, while wind generated about 22%, coal kicked in 17%, and nuclear added 8%. The rise of wind means unreliable energy is increasingly relied on for the energy grid.

Texas rolled by winter storms: A dispatch from my frozen living room

This won't be the last power crisis

The Texas energy crisis isn't a one-off, either. The same thing happened in 2019 when Michigan endured the Polar Vortex. Extreme cold paired with limited natural gas supplies and non-existent renewable energy. Residents all received text messages warning them to reduce their thermostats to 65° or less to stave off a system wide failure.

California's rolling blackouts last summer are another example. Dwindling solar generation in late afternoon, shuttered nuclear plants, and insufficient supply from gas plants could not compete with rising energy demands due to extreme heat.

As more states mandate unreliable renewables, incidents like this will become more frequent, not less. Every new wind turbine and solar panel means less reliable energy - the energy Americans need to weather the coldest nights and the hottest days.

School openings: President Biden is ensuring that schools have resources to reopen and stay open safely

And then there's Joe Biden's $2 trillion promise to wean America off reliable energy. If Biden's aggressive climate plan is enacted, it will push tens of thousands of wind turbines and millions of solar panels in an expensive effort to achieve net zero emissions from the nation's electricity sector by 2050. But doing this will only further spread the problems that Texans are currently experiencing.

America can't go down this foolish road. Common-sense has already lost to political considerations - and people across Texas and the Great Plains are paying the price. They aren't the first victims, and they certainly won't be the last, if politicians continue to push unreliable renewable energy instead of the reliable sources families need to stay warm and live their lives. A green future shouldn't be this dark.

Jason Hayes is the director of environmental policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Renewable energy really is part of the cause of Texas' blackouts

COMMENTS

More Related News

Taliban to boycott peace talks until U.S. leaves Afghanistan: spokesman
Taliban to boycott peace talks until U.S. leaves Afghanistan: spokesman

The Taliban will not attend "any conference that shall make decisions about Afghanistan" until "all foreign forces completely withdraw," a spokesperson for...

Biden administration sends unofficial delegation to Taiwan amid heightened tensions with China
Biden administration sends unofficial delegation to Taiwan amid heightened tensions with China
  • World
  • 2021-04-13 21:03:24Z

A delegation comprised of former Sen. Chris Dodd and former Deputy Secretaries of State Richard Armitage and James Steinberg left for Taiwan on Tuesday at...

John Kerry travels to China for climate change talks
John Kerry travels to China for climate change talks

John Kerry, President Biden's special envoy on climate change, is traveling to Shanghai, China and then on to South Korea for meetings on reducing emissions ...

What they
What they're saying: Lawmakers react to Biden's plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday called President Biden's expected plans to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11...

Biden seeks to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11
Biden seeks to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11

President Biden is expected to announce plans to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Latin America