DR

Texans forced to have rolling black outs. Not from downed power line , but because the wind energy turbines are frozen.

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Refman

Thanks for linking that article.

Although preliminary and somewhat incomplete, it fills in a lot of the data about which many on this thread have been speculating from the beginning.

The nuke plant - 1,300 Mw offline for 60 hours (ouch) - tripped due to a frozen small diameter sensing line which gave a false signal to the feed pumps.

A few huge coal plants went offline in quick succession that early morning, no explanation yet given.

 

35 minutes after first load shed order (@ 0125 [AM] Monday morning), grid frequency dropped below 59.4 for 4 minutes.

That's some extreme white knuckle time right there.

All in all, a lot of minute by minute data recounting of much of what is known - in the aggregate - by most who have been following this thread.

 

Lawyers, insurance companies, engineers, regulators and politicians all around the world  will be scrutinizing this emerging data for years to come.

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1 hour ago, Coffeeguyzz said:

Refman

Thanks for linking that article.

A few huge coal plants went offline in quick succession that early morning, no explanation yet given.

My guess on the coal plants tripping is either frozen coal piles or instrumentation freezing up 

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On 2/27/2021 at 11:17 AM, turbguy said:

You would think the total cost of the plumbers and replaced pipe alone would have covered the "weatherization" corrections to whatever went wrong.

If you are an accountant and if you ignore the liability costs and repair costs, then it is uneconomical to winterize. The "reasoning" would be that I will need to shut down for maybe 3 hours every ten years, and during that time I will need to pay very high prices on the open electricity market to buy electricity to meet my commitments. I run the numbers through the spreadsheet and discover that I will save enough by not winterizing to pay for that electricity.

But then the real world intrudes. In the actual event, you cannot buy electricity at any price because there is none on the market, and your plant does not merely shut down, but it takes damage. You also get sued a whole lot. So yes, in retrospect, the accountant made the wrong recommendation to the company. Now we know. The big problem is that the company's planners should have told the accountant about what happened in 2011, and the recommendations to winterize that resulted.  A few generators like the ones in El Paso actually did act on those recommendations and did winterize.

Although failure to winterize the generators was a factor, we now know that the bulk of the lost generation was due to lack of gas due to freeze-off, in turn due to failure to winterize the gas production. The accountants over on the gas production side used the same reasoning. I do not know if gas production played any part in 2011. If not, then those guys may have had more of an excuse.

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(edited)

Other topic :

Last night someone told me Iowa produces more pork than any other location in the U.S. ?

I always thought the correct answer would be Washington D.Ç .

Anyone know the right answer ?

Edited by Roch
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On 3/5/2021 at 3:15 AM, Dan Warnick said:

Culture is a very real thing, in business and in government, and indeed in a household.  I know you know that, but I'll finish the comment. 

I can tell you from experience what a corrupt government does right down to the teachers in the government schools.  I can tell you that a bad culture at the top of a company washes down on every aspect of the company's business.  And in a household?  Did you ever walk into someone's living room for the first time and go "holy cow, look at this shixxole"?

Do you want to blame the government clerk?

Do you want to blame the engineers for no budget to upgrade reliability and safety?

Do you want to blame the children for doing what their parents do and teach by example?

No.  The CEO is paid well to make sure the big shit doesn't happen and that the company's growth is in line with reality.  He/she is highly compensated for extremely valuable leadership and when the company fails in any major way, it is he/she that has failed, at the cultural level, and usually gets the golden parachute anyway.  The only way that is not the case is if the CEO was in the middle of an overhaul and the shit hit the fan before he/she could get the ship righted.  I have read nothing that tells me that was the case here.

One last thing:  Why are you defending the CEO?  Why do you give a crap?  ALL of the investigations that you have rightly pointed out need to be done will in all likelihood be done.  With the CEO axed the staff gets the message that all is not as it was prior to the devastating event.  That staff will be what saves them from a next time, not the CEO that led the ship to the iceberg.

I think I understand where you are coming from.  Change the voice at the top and the actions and attitudes of those below will change to conform, or they will be under the threat of being replaced.

I just scratch my head how a “culture change” would have had any chance of avoiding some of the severity of the “rolling blackouts”.  What would a different culture have promoted to lessen the impact? Perhaps there is something I am missing. 

I know within the nuclear industry (after several high profile accidents) many more ex-military (primarily ex-Navy) were recruited and placed in positions of power, and that indeed made a huge change in culture, particularly within Operations.  I recall being invited to an operational status meeting at one nuc plant to explain the findings from my investigation of an unexpected turbine-trip, as an invited SME from “down the road”.  About 20 people were seated in a conference room.  The Plant Manager arrived.  As he entered the room, EVERYONE (except me, I did not recognize him) immediately arose from their seat, as if he were a judge entering his courtroom.  As I came from mostly a dirt-burner background, that display of respect was impressive!  Yes, culture can be changed and can make an effective change, but only when the new voices have been given that power from above to make it so.

I doubt that any here would object to the proposition that the initiating root cause of THIS PARTICULAR EVENT was the weather.  Acknowledging that as fact implies the grid was insufficiently resilient to withstand that weather, without shedding loads.  That responsibility rests with those that can actually propose and then enforce change.  That appears to currently lie with Texas’ legislators. Not ERCOT, not even the Texas PUC.

I suspect that no qualified candidate would accept the position unless they are contractually provided with expanded powers of enforcement over generation, transmission, distribution, fuel management, and demand management.

 

 

  

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52 minutes ago, Dan Clemmensen said:

Although failure to winterize the generators was a factor, we now know that the bulk of the lost generation was due to lack of gas due to freeze-off, in turn due to failure to winterize the gas production.

Do we really "know" this? I am told that Bill Magness lost his job as CEO of ERCOT because of speculation about much of the problem having to do with a profit motive. Specifically, the effect of power generators who buy in the wholesale market having a profit motive in avoiding buying more natural gas . . . choosing to just shut down instead. Mr. Magness apparently made the comment, "We can't speculate on people's motive in that way." Oh really? Why not? Isn't it the job of the head of ERCOT to determine why so much natural gas went offline?

People seem to be hung up on referring to the bad weather event in 2011 but there was a particularly bad winter in February 2014. I looked back at the records--that was the first time the Marcellus had a significant number of freeze-offs. In fact, U.S. dry gas production fell to an average of about 65 Bcf/d during the freeze-off of Q1 2014. That was 3X expected. 

And yet not very many people lost their power. 

In the recent Texas debacle it's not fair to say that "we now know that the bulk of the lost generation was due to lack of gas due to freeze-off, in turn due to failure to winterize the gas production." #1, of the 46,000 megawatts that went offline, 28,000 were from NG, coal and nuclear combined, while 18,000 were from wind and solar, and since the sun wasn't shining, let's just cut the crap and say wind. Okay? So it seems fair to say that, figuring in the contribution of coal and nuclear, the losses from NG and wind were roughly equivalent. 

Now the burning question is, since freeze-offs have been occurring in Texas and Oklahoma since God gave us the common sense to drill for NG, and since production fell to the floor Q1 2014, just why did Texas lose so much NG this time? From everything freezing off? From ice crystals or from clathrates? At the wellhead or the gathering station? They just all froze off. Thousands of them. A freak of nature. It happens.

I suspect it's more nefarious than that. I think Mr. Magness would have done well to try to answer the question put to him: Did wholesale buyers of natural gas shut down operations in a wildly volatile market because of a profit motive? This would shed a very different light on just what happened in Texas. At some point, because the truth always outs, we'll know the answer. But for now, please don't tell me that we had a mass failure because all the gas froze off at one time. I was born at night but not last night. 

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Feb 08 2021 18:53:55 CST

At 17:15, ERCOT is issuing an OCN for an extreme cold weather system approaching Thursday, February 11, 2021 through Monday, February 15, 2021 with temperatures anticipated to remain 32°F or below. QSEs are instructed to: Update COPs and HSLs when conditions change as soon practicable, Review fuel supplies, prepare to preserve fuel to best serve peak load, and notify ERCOT of any known or anticipated fuel restrictions, Review Planned Resource outages and consider delaying maintenance or returning from outage early, Review and implement winterization procedures. Notify ERCOT of any changes or conditions that could affect system reliability.

Feb 11 2021 11:25:21 CST

Watch issued for the extreme cold weather event for the ERCOT Region.

Feb 13 2021 08:49:44 CST

Emergency Notice issued for the extreme cold weather event impacting the ERCOT Region.

Feb 14 2021 01:34:58 CST

On February 13, 2021, a sudden loss of generation occurred at 04:02 totaling 539 MW. Frequency declined to 59.923 Hz, ERCOT load was 55, 391 MW.

Feb 14 2021 10:02:26 CST

08:30 ERCOT has issued an appeal through the public news media for voluntary energy conservation.

Feb 15 2021 00:17:45 CST

EEA Level 1: At 00:15, ERCOT at EEA 1 - Reserves below 2, 300 MW. No rotating outages at this time.

Feb 15 2021 01:12:06 CST

EEA Level 2: At 01:07, ERCOT at EEA 2 - Reserves below 1, 750 MW. Load resources are being deployed. There may be a need to implement rotating outages. ERCOT is urging consumers and businesses to reduce electricity usage

Feb 15 2021 01:25:40 CST

EEA Level 3 With Firm Load Shed: At 01:20, Rotating outages are in progress to maintain frequency. ERCOT is asking consumers and businesses to reduce electricity usage.

Feb 19 2021 09:06:59 CST

EEA Level 3 to Level 2: At 09:00, ERCOT moving from EEA 3 to EEA 2. System recovering

Feb 19 2021 10:02:29 CST

EEA Level 2 to Level 1: At 10:00, ERCOT moving from EEA 2 to EEA 1. System recovering. No rotating outages at this time.

Feb 19 2021 10:36:33 CST

Return to Normal: At 10:35, ERCOT moving from EEA 1 to Normal. Grid reserves restored. Normal conditions - Conservation encouraged.

Feb 23 2021 10:48:59 CST

Update for loss of generation on February 15, 2021.On February 15, 2021, a sudden loss of generation occurred at 01:54 totaling 528 MW. Frequency declined to 59.306 Hz, ERCOT load was 61, 788 MW. Another sudden loss of generation occurred at 01:57 totaling 924 MW. Frequency declined to 59.600 Hz, ERCOT load was 60, 035 MW. Another sudden loss of generation occurred at 05:27 totaling 1389 MW. Frequency declined to 59.775 Hz, ERCOT load was 52, 458 MW.

 

 

 

   

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(edited)

On 3/4/2021 at 5:51 PM, Ward Smith said:

As usual, you're way out ahead of your skis. You have whatever algorithm you're using to substitute 50 cent words when a 5 cent word would do, to obfuscate your ignorance on subjects. Again I'm reminded to come up with a better term then Botass but it still seems to apply, or Assbot perhaps, hard to tell which way the assistance is going. 

Meanwhile, HVDC has those two key letters right there in the name. DC, meaning Direct Current, meaning no synchronization needed! So throw out all your atomic clock nonsense (trivial today, virtually every cellphone tower has one) because DC doesn't need it whatsoever. Ship the power at high voltage to minimize I^2 R losses then do the DC to AC conversion at the far end, trivially aligning the phases with the AC wavelengths. Not even remotely difficult. BTW Texas has HVDC connecting to other states, which negates the FERC requirements for interties. It's an elegant solution and frankly more reliable. Unfortunately as I proved days ago here, Texas by itself produces and consumes more power than MISO. it is the really big dog on the block. 

I don't understand why a DC tie qualifies an entity from negating FERC requirements.  Certainly it would qualify as "interstate commerce" under the Supreme Court decisions, no?

Must have been a "political" decision, not an engineering decision?

Help me understand.

 

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5 hours ago, Dan Clemmensen said:

If you are an accountant and if you ignore the liability costs and repair costs, then it is uneconomical to winterize. The "reasoning" would be that I will need to shut down for maybe 3 hours every ten years, and during that time I will need to pay very high prices on the open electricity market to buy electricity to meet my commitments. I run the numbers through the spreadsheet and discover that I will save enough by not winterizing to pay for that electricity.

But then the real world intrudes. In the actual event, you cannot buy electricity at any price because there is none on the market, and your plant does not merely shut down, but it takes damage. You also get sued a whole lot. So yes, in retrospect, the accountant made the wrong recommendation to the company. Now we know. The big problem is that the company's planners should have told the accountant about what happened in 2011, and the recommendations to winterize that resulted.  A few generators like the ones in El Paso actually did act on those recommendations and did winterize.

Although failure to winterize the generators was a factor, we now know that the bulk of the lost generation was due to lack of gas due to freeze-off, in turn due to failure to winterize the gas production. The accountants over on the gas production side used the same reasoning. I do not know if gas production played any part in 2011. If not, then those guys may have had more of an excuse.

How can one ignore the "liability costs" and the "repair costs"?  Are these not a component of engineering decisions?  Or is that left to the lawyers?

I honestly believe that most generators that were either derated or tripped, were struggling to return to service, ASAP. 

Same with nat gas producers/distributors.  They are people, too.

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13 hours ago, Wombat said:

What makes you think that ruling the planet is something that I will make observable to everyone? Why would I do that after being crucified the last time? Better to stay in the shadows these days :)

 

Next time is supposed to be rather different....I hope to observe it from a safe place.

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6 hours ago, Gerry Maddoux said:

Do we really "know" this? I am told that Bill Magness lost his job as CEO of ERCOT because of speculation about much of the problem having to do with a profit motive. Specifically, the effect of power generators who buy in the wholesale market having a profit motive in avoiding buying more natural gas . . . choosing to just shut down instead. Mr. Magness apparently made the comment, "We can't speculate on people's motive in that way." Oh really? Why not? Isn't it the job of the head of ERCOT to determine why so much natural gas went offline?

People seem to be hung up on referring to the bad weather event in 2011 but there was a particularly bad winter in February 2014. I looked back at the records--that was the first time the Marcellus had a significant number of freeze-offs. In fact, U.S. dry gas production fell to an average of about 65 Bcf/d during the freeze-off of Q1 2014. That was 3X expected. 

And yet not very many people lost their power. 

In the recent Texas debacle it's not fair to say that "we now know that the bulk of the lost generation was due to lack of gas due to freeze-off, in turn due to failure to winterize the gas production." #1, of the 46,000 megawatts that went offline, 28,000 were from NG, coal and nuclear combined, while 18,000 were from wind and solar, and since the sun wasn't shining, let's just cut the crap and say wind. Okay? So it seems fair to say that, figuring in the contribution of coal and nuclear, the losses from NG and wind were roughly equivalent. 

Now the burning question is, since freeze-offs have been occurring in Texas and Oklahoma since God gave us the common sense to drill for NG, and since production fell to the floor Q1 2014, just why did Texas lose so much NG this time? From everything freezing off? From ice crystals or from clathrates? At the wellhead or the gathering station? They just all froze off. Thousands of them. A freak of nature. It happens.

I suspect it's more nefarious than that. I think Mr. Magness would have done well to try to answer the question put to him: Did wholesale buyers of natural gas shut down operations in a wildly volatile market because of a profit motive? This would shed a very different light on just what happened in Texas. At some point, because the truth always outs, we'll know the answer. But for now, please don't tell me that we had a mass failure because all the gas froze off at one time. I was born at night but not last night. 

Actually Gerry, Texas has been having problems dealing with peak summer demand for several years now. They simply have not being investing enough into new generation to cover both pop'n growth and the more extreme weather caused by climate change. Simple as that. So yes, the profit motive did play an indirect part, as was the case here in Australia until a few years ago. The utilities were simply unwilling to invest in renewables PLUS storage, unless they were "compensated" with a carbon tax. After the South Australian blackout (also due to a once-in-a-century weather event), the Federal Govt took out what they call their "big stick" to whack the utilities. Not only did they force them to invest in storage, the govt stepped into the market directly by investing in Snowy Hydro 2, and the utilities are upset that the govt is "competing" with them. Deregulation of electricity grids can be dangerous. There is always a trade-off. Everybody on this site it seems is always bragging about the low cost of electricity in Texas compared to California, but it seems that climate change has unfortunately now exposed the weakness of unfettered competition within both states. To make grids capable of withstanding both rapid pop'n growth and greater weather extremes requires vast sums of money. In Australia, we spent a whopping $80bn on the process, and the govt was accused of "gold-plating" the grid. It is now starting to look like money very well spent. I hope for your sake that Biden's stimulus includes generous funding for grid security.

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(edited)

1 hour ago, Wombat said:

Actually Gerry, Texas has been having problems dealing with peak summer demand for several years now. They simply have not being investing enough into new generation to cover both pop'n growth and the more extreme weather caused by climate change. Simple as that. So yes, the profit motive did play an indirect part, as was the case here in Australia until a few years ago. The utilities were simply unwilling to invest in renewables PLUS storage, unless they were "compensated" with a carbon tax. After the South Australian blackout (also due to a once-in-a-century weather event), the Federal Govt took out what they call their "big stick" to whack the utilities. Not only did they force them to invest in storage, the govt stepped into the market directly by investing in Snowy Hydro 2, and the utilities are upset that the govt is "competing" with them. Deregulation of electricity grids can be dangerous. There is always a trade-off. Everybody on this site it seems is always bragging about the low cost of electricity in Texas compared to California, but it seems that climate change has unfortunately now exposed the weakness of unfettered competition within both states. To make grids capable of withstanding both rapid pop'n growth and greater weather extremes requires vast sums of money. In Australia, we spent a whopping $80bn on the process, and the govt was accused of "gold-plating" the grid. It is now starting to look like money very well spent. I hope for your sake that Biden's stimulus includes generous funding for grid security.

Why grid security? That would be most interesting to see a nation pop off a nuke above US soil, Perhaps as you suggest the US should start producing the old 60/70's Infomercials on the benefits of MIRV's you know where 20 gets you a 100...Modernized of course...Personally i like the box of chocolates narrative, but there is something to be said for the frankness of the 60's. Maybe that would restore some sanity to this world. And all this over the thought of a few EMP's..sanity has left the building.

Don’t take away Billy Jack. “I’m going to take my right foot and put it on the left side of you face and there is nothing you can do about it”

ERQzKFlXkAADS1r (1).jpg

https://youtu.be/LLN8-buqDIs

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Mr. Wombat

You may want to be a little cautious with your comments as they get right to the heart of the current situation in Texas (and elsewhere in the US), but not, perhaps, in the way that you might think. 

 

As should be becoming more obvious as this thread grows, the US electricity situation is a VERY complex arena, made all the more so as different regions operate under wildly different rules.

As I am unfamiliar with ERCOT, I am unable to evaluate the merits or vulnerabilities of their overall operations.

However, your statement above regarding insufficient Texan investment in increased power generation is EXACTLY what many skeptics of wind/solar stress as being a huge problem.

Various 'out of market' practices greatly favor new  Ra/Zephyr projects at the economic peril of new hydrocarbon-based alternatives.

Heck, even the nuke boys in Ohio, New York, and Connecticut now receive 'out of market' assistance to which competing natgas providers bitterly object.

 

In much of the US, Mr. Wombat, the three sectors of power production, transmission (long distance lines), and local distribution (utilities) are strictly segregated with the free wheeling power generators vigorously competing in cut throat competition by which rock bottom wholesale electricity prices are now available across much of the country.

 

It is PRECISELY because of the facts that the wind producers get $23/Mw production tax credit, unfetteted access to the grid 24/7 with their product, and - in Texas' case - the ability to hook up to the state-funded $7 billion dollar transmission grid out of west Texas, that  discourages the very same competing (read, CCGTs) new supply that you so correctly identify as being a problem.

 

As exactly the case in California, power generators such as CCGTs have little incentive to invest $500 million/$1 billion if they are forced to the 'back of the line' behind "Renewables" (sic) when attempting to sell their product into the market.

 

This current situation will bring a great many technical, political, financial, even ideological components into the white hot glare of public  scrutiny.

As a growing number of  people are not fooled by disingenious Narrative spinning, the wider population may finally start to recognize the vulnerabilities of dependence upon intermittent - yet highly promoted - electricity generation.

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1 hour ago, Wombat said:

Actually Gerry, Texas has been having problems dealing with peak summer demand for several years now. They simply have not being investing enough into new generation to cover both pop'n growth and the more extreme weather caused by climate change. Simple as that. So yes, the profit motive did play an indirect part, as was the case here in Australia until a few years ago.

 

As Coffee pointed out above, each area in America is unique. For example, I don't think that your comments re' Texas are nearly the whole story. Indeed, to exemplify, I excerpted the below two paragraphs from a guy who lives in Texas, understands the Texas situation, and writes the truth as he sees it. Here it is:

Texas has encouraged the building of wind turbines. They do this, in concert with the U.S. government, through direct subsidies and by paying for wind generation, rather than paying for electricity purchased. This guarantee of revenue means generating companies do not have to consider market demand, they can build wind turbines endlessly with no risk. They can even pay others to take their power and then be reimbursed by the government with our tax dollars! Since 2006, federal and Texas subsidies to wind power, have totaled $80 billion, this foolishness is explained well on the stopthesethings website.

The wind power excess capacity has distorted the generation mix in Texas to a dangerous and unbalanced level. Natural gas, coal and nuclear generating companies have too little revenue to increase or fortify their plants, since wind can generate as much as it wants and is guaranteed revenue for the electricity it generates.

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8 hours ago, turbguy said:

How can one ignore the "liability costs" and the "repair costs"?  Are these not a component of engineering decisions?  Or is that left to the lawyers?

I honestly believe that most generators that were either derated or tripped, were struggling to return to service, ASAP. 

Same with nat gas producers/distributors.  They are people, too.

A responsible individual will not ignore those costs (specifically, the net present value of the statistical likelihood of those potential future costs). But we are not dealing with an individual. We are dealing with a complex system of interacting companies, agencies, and legislation. That complex system clearly found a way to ignore those costs.

It is absolutely the case that during the event, individuals operated in a highly competent manner to mitigate the problem to the extent possible. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done in the prior decades, leaving a vulnerable system.

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4 hours ago, Gerry Maddoux said:

 

As Coffee pointed out above, each area in America is unique. For example, I don't think that your comments re' Texas are nearly the whole story. Indeed, to exemplify, I excerpted the below two paragraphs from a guy who lives in Texas, understands the Texas situation, and writes the truth as he sees it. Here it is:

Texas has encouraged the building of wind turbines. They do this, in concert with the U.S. government, through direct subsidies and by paying for wind generation, rather than paying for electricity purchased. This guarantee of revenue means generating companies do not have to consider market demand, they can build wind turbines endlessly with no risk. They can even pay others to take their power and then be reimbursed by the government with our tax dollars! Since 2006, federal and Texas subsidies to wind power, have totaled $80 billion, this foolishness is explained well on the stopthesethings website.

The wind power excess capacity has distorted the generation mix in Texas to a dangerous and unbalanced level. Natural gas, coal and nuclear generating companies have too little revenue to increase or fortify their plants, since wind can generate as much as it wants and is guaranteed revenue for the electricity it generates.

What do you make of this?

Texas city-run and rural electric firms face bailout over storm crisis (msn.com)

Looks like "market failure" to me? I am sure that having plenty of wind with guaranteed revenue played a part, but that is the same ol chestnut that utilities almost everywhere have clung to. Politicians have been trying to do things "on the cheap" as well. No point in bragging about your low electricity costs if a single weather event can permanently alter them? Looks like Texas is the new California due to lack of govt oversight? As I said, de-regulation of electricity markets can be very costly. Once upon a time, if the lights went out, it was the govt's fault and they were held accountable? I am no communist, I tend to dislike most unions, but when it comes to things like electricity, water, and telecoms, I think the stakes are too high to leave policy in the hands of those whose only motive is the bottom line. At the very least, there should be at least one govt-owned utility in each state to compete with the private ones? The Texas govt was complaining several years ago about lack of generating capacity, but has not invested a cent in storage as far as I know. We made the same mistake here, for the whole world to see, but fortunately the cost was relatively minor and same with the cost of the solution.

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7 hours ago, Coffeeguyzz said:

Mr. Wombat

You may want to be a little cautious with your comments as they get right to the heart of the current situation in Texas (and elsewhere in the US), but not, perhaps, in the way that you might think. 

 

As should be becoming more obvious as this thread grows, the US electricity situation is a VERY complex arena, made all the more so as different regions operate under wildly different rules.

As I am unfamiliar with ERCOT, I am unable to evaluate the merits or vulnerabilities of their overall operations.

However, your statement above regarding insufficient Texan investment in increased power generation is EXACTLY what many skeptics of wind/solar stress as being a huge problem.

Various 'out of market' practices greatly favor new  Ra/Zephyr projects at the economic peril of new hydrocarbon-based alternatives.

Heck, even the nuke boys in Ohio, New York, and Connecticut now receive 'out of market' assistance to which competing natgas providers bitterly object.

 

In much of the US, Mr. Wombat, the three sectors of power production, transmission (long distance lines), and local distribution (utilities) are strictly segregated with the free wheeling power generators vigorously competing in cut throat competition by which rock bottom wholesale electricity prices are now available across much of the country.

 

It is PRECISELY because of the facts that the wind producers get $23/Mw production tax credit, unfetteted access to the grid 24/7 with their product, and - in Texas' case - the ability to hook up to the state-funded $7 billion dollar transmission grid out of west Texas, that  discourages the very same competing (read, CCGTs) new supply that you so correctly identify as being a problem.

 

As exactly the case in California, power generators such as CCGTs have little incentive to invest $500 million/$1 billion if they are forced to the 'back of the line' behind "Renewables" (sic) when attempting to sell their product into the market.

 

This current situation will bring a great many technical, political, financial, even ideological components into the white hot glare of public  scrutiny.

As a growing number of  people are not fooled by disingenious Narrative spinning, the wider population may finally start to recognize the vulnerabilities of dependence upon intermittent - yet highly promoted - electricity generation.

$500m-$1bn is a pittance compared to the $5bn cost of a new coal-fired power plant or the $10-$20bn cost of new nuclear. Battery storage is cheaper still. But SOME money has to be spent, on one method or the other, and that simply won't happen without re-regulation of the sector. Believe me, the utilities rank second only to the banksters on the "TBTF scale" of corporate bastardery. If wind companies are gettin such a great deal from the govt, then WTF are the fossil generators doing by not joining them? Indeed, sounds like there is so much money to be made in wind that if you built a big wind farm, you could afford to buy TWO CCGT generators as backup? PLUS some batteries? Truth is, no utility wants to write down a coal-fired or nuclear plant that is worth billions on the balance sheet and has massive decommissioning costs. I get that. There will be winners and losers, and the more rapidly the shift to renewables occurs, the greater the stress on "legacy" utilities. However, as long as their management teams are as "fossilised" in their thinking as the fuel they burn, I do not have much sympathy for their shareholders. In Australia, when we closed down a large coal plant in Victoria in a sudden fashion, the wholesale price shot up to $200/MWH for a cpl years, and the govt was screaming. They were screaming that we need more "baseload power". Now that renewables, batteries and new Hydro have filled the gap, the wholesale price has collapsed to $30/MWH, and the utilities are screaming. They are screaming that their coal-fired power stations need $70/MWH to turn a profit! The point? All that is needed is a little CO-ORDINATION. As pointed out above by Dan, in the USA, there is only vested interests pulling in opposite directions and the consumer is the loser. It was exactly the same here until recently, but thankfully, the utilities have seen the futility in fighting to keep their status quo and we have consensus. Now they are investing in batteries, I am investing in them. For the long haul. Their share prices may be volatile for a decade, but with EV's on the march and greater use of air-conditioning, a pretty safe bet IMHO. 

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6 hours ago, Dan Clemmensen said:

A responsible individual will not ignore those costs (specifically, the net present value of the statistical likelihood of those potential future costs). But we are not dealing with an individual. We are dealing with a complex system of interacting companies, agencies, and legislation. That complex system clearly found a way to ignore those costs.

It is absolutely the case that during the event, individuals operated in a highly competent manner to mitigate the problem to the extent possible. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done in the prior decades, leaving a vulnerable system.

I agree. 

Other interconnects are loaded with very near the same complex systems.

What's so "special" about Texas' system?

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Texas is not Australia. I can assure you that Texas is not going to allow the federal government to compete, or regulate, or do anything else to control the grid that they freed from greedy federal intervention in the 30's. 

And Texas is not California, either. It doesn't want much of anything to do with California. In fact, it is so non-California that Elon Musk put his pickup plant in Austin, and then convinced the 2nd-largest holder of Tesla, Larry Ellison, to move Oracle there as well. Dozens of "feeder" companies followed suit. in this statement, I am not denigrating the state of California, just stating facts. 

This weather event and the humiliating failure of power supply will cost the state of Texas billions of dollars. Some people will leave. Others will go to court. Mr. Musk and Mr. Ellison may ask themselves what they've done. But in the end, Texas will fix this in its own way. Because of Mr. Musk's presence, along with this recent failure of power, I strongly suspect that battery storage will be built, and in such redundancy that it can "rescue" the grid from its own intrinsic shortcomings. I also strongly suspect that this "new" grid will rely much less on wind and much, much more on winterized natural gas facilities. 

Why? Because Texas literally has natural gas coming out of its ears! Believe me, it is not lost on Gov. Abbott or others that while they were venting/flaring $3M worth of methane a day in the Permian Basin, millions of Texans were wearing sweaters and coats in their own homes. None of the people involved in running or overseeing the Texas grid are proud of that.

Texas may have plenty of hot air but it also has the spirit and stubbornness to fix this problem with their most obvious and reliable resources: money and natural gas. It doesn't make much of an impact what others say about the situation; they're going to do it their way, and it's going to be a very important socioeconomic experiment: the California plan and the Texas plan running side by side. I hope that both work. 

i always appreciate and admire your energetic explanations and input, Wombat, but Texas is a unique place.

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5 hours ago, Wombat said:

What do you make of this?

Texas city-run and rural electric firms face bailout over storm crisis (msn.com)

Looks like "market failure" to me? I am sure that having plenty of wind with guaranteed revenue played a part, but that is the same ol chestnut that utilities almost everywhere have clung to. Politicians have been trying to do things "on the cheap" as well. No point in bragging about your low electricity costs if a single weather event can permanently alter them? Looks like Texas is the new California due to lack of govt oversight? As I said, de-regulation of electricity markets can be very costly. Once upon a time, if the lights went out, it was the govt's fault and they were held accountable? I am no communist, I tend to dislike most unions, but when it comes to things like electricity, water, and telecoms, I think the stakes are too high to leave policy in the hands of those whose only motive is the bottom line. At the very least, there should be at least one govt-owned utility in each state to compete with the private ones? The Texas govt was complaining several years ago about lack of generating capacity, but has not invested a cent in storage as far as I know. We made the same mistake here, for the whole world to see, but fortunately the cost was relatively minor and same with the cost of the solution.

California's grid has not failed since 2001. The tiny well-managed rolling blackouts in 2020 were not failures at all.  But your general point is well-taken.  The political system strongly encourages short-term benefit that incurs long-term costs, since today's legislators will be out of office before the costs are incurred.  The big examples in California are the current fiasco of public safety power shutoffs (PSPS) and much worse, the under-funding of the state and local government pension systems.

I do not have a good proposed solution. About the only organizations that are good at predicting the net present cost of future probabilistic events are the insurance companies. If all legislation were required to account for insurance from an outside agency, maybe it would work. This accounting might be done within the government (self-insurance), but the formally computed cost to this insurance fund would be forced to be part of the legislation, and the actual fund would sit there on the books.

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Mr. Wombat

The final sentence in your linked article highlights, once again, just some of the complexities in these situations. 

Apparently a privately owned utility - Vistra - would like an opportunity to compete with the now-municipally controlled entities in various cities/town's to specifically distribute electricity while being shielded with a quasi monopoly status, as is standard with utilities everywhere. They are also 'guaranteed' a positive return on investment via mandated/regulated fees sent to customers.

Nothing new here, Mr. Wombat  but for the overlapping confluence of power generation,  use of transmission infrastructure, and - ultimately - who will pay for it.

 

In most (not all) of the US, private companies invest billions to build plants that generate power. They are completely separate from the companies (utilities) that purchase this electricity.

Notable exceptions include massive Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, and - of particular  note to these discussions - the huge Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

This LADWP  is  the 'poster child', Mr. Wombat, behind the push to dismember and  privatize the legacy power industry in this country in the 90s.

When a $25,000/year security guard takes in over $300,000 EXTRA in overtime - as happened a few years ago - the rampant corruption that can arise in government-controlled, high revenue, monopolistic industries is pretty much a given.

I doubt any security guards made over 300k last year under ERCOT's purview.

 

This situation of growing tensions involving a critical necessity- electricity - stands now to be swiftly addressed by the Texans as they are truly 'masters of their fate' within the self contained ERCOT grid.

 

I suspect a thorough, clear-eyed evaluation will be forthcoming that will accurately identify several of the system's vulnerabilities, offer up options for expeditious remedies, and implement  as rapidly as possible a highly efficient structure going forward. Perhaps one that will be a model for the rest of the country.

 

Putting power generators on a level playing field may be part of the future in the Great State of Texas if reliability is to be achieved.

 

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You're going to want to read this whole thing

@NickW

But it sounds like everything is not so jolly in Jolly Old England. They directly address "your" grid solution from small generators. This ties in exactly with what I was saying weeks ago, the tiny mass of little generators can't handle the kw, let alone kvars from the grid. Just takes a few errant motors to back fill the grid with a lot of kvars. 

I don't believe I got the comment I wanted in the link but will quote it here

Quote

Traditionally electricity generators were connected at high voltage t(up to 400kV as in 400,000volts) which allows their output to be available throughout Great Britain over the high tension transmission network (the really large pylons not the small ones). These are under the control of National Grid and the output is metered in real time. This is what is expressed as grid demand and shown on most gridwatch type websites.
Increasingly in recent times new generation has been connected at lower voltages just to the local District Networks and their output is only available within their locality i.e. “embedded”. These plants are not under NG control and not metered in real time. The output of these plants only registers to NG as representing overall lower demand levels from the DNO than if they were not producing.
All solar roof mounted panels are embedded injecting power in the 230V (+10/-6%) so their surplus production is only available in the immediate neighbourhood. The remainder of solar is connected to the District networks at varying voltage levels and similarly any surplus is not nationally transmissable. Most of the early onshore wind turbines were of low output and were also embedded and even some offshore ones (such as Kentish Flats) are embedded..
Other small scale generators are also embedded such as landfill gas plant, biogas units, geothermal etc
This trend is becoming very destabilising to the system as not all generation is “equal”. Big generators offer huge inertia and are all exactly synchronised and in phase. They supply both real and reactive power services (generation and/or absorption) and hence keep voltage and frequency stable.
Embedded supplies are non synchronous, notoriously sloppy in phase, cannot affect reactive power levels (unless they supply via a battery with some very sophisticated electronics and even then it is not reliable) and as previously stated are not really any use on a national scale. A surplus of solar or wind power embedded in Cornwall cannot be transmitted to say Yorkshire for example.
The August 2019 UK blackout was certainly made worse (indeed probably caused by) by embedded generators. It was noted that some load shedding at the time actually worsened the situation by removing embedded generation simultaneously.
If anyone is genuinely concerned about anthropogenic climate change, the only real solution from an energy perspective is a massive roll out of…..Fast Breeder Nuclear Power Plants.

 

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(edited)

12 hours ago, Gerry Maddoux said:

Texas is a unique place.

Takes pride in failure...  backwards logic.

Monuments of failure.  On that note Trump gets a library... horrific.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alamo_Cenotaph

 

Edited by Symmetry
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6 hours ago, Ward Smith said:

You're going to want to read this whole thing

@NickW

But it sounds like everything is not so jolly in Jolly Old England. They directly address "your" grid solution from small generators. This ties in exactly with what I was saying weeks ago, the tiny mass of little generators can't handle the kw, let alone kvars from the grid. Just takes a few errant motors to back fill the grid with a lot of kvars. 

I don't believe I got the comment I wanted in the link but will quote it here

 

Errr yeah. Thanks Ward. I am aware that step up transformers are not generally used so solar and other small generation is localised. 

Thats why I am in favour of a revived nuclear baseload program. 

If wind is massively expanded out it will need to adopt power to Hydrogen which can then be used at large CCGT stations (which have the inertia and feed into the grid at 400kv / 275kv) 

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(edited)

On 3/7/2021 at 8:39 PM, Wombat said:

Actually Gerry, Texas has been having problems dealing with peak summer demand for several years now. They simply have not being investing enough into new generation to cover both pop'n growth and the more extreme weather caused by climate change. Simple as that. So yes, the profit motive did play an indirect part, as was the case here in Australia until a few years ago. The utilities were simply unwilling to invest in renewables PLUS storage, unless they were "compensated" with a carbon tax. After the South Australian blackout (also due to a once-in-a-century weather event), the Federal Govt took out what they call their "big stick" to whack the utilities. Not only did they force them to invest in storage, the govt stepped into the market directly by investing in Snowy Hydro 2, and the utilities are upset that the govt is "competing" with them. Deregulation of electricity grids can be dangerous. There is always a trade-off. Everybody on this site it seems is always bragging about the low cost of electricity in Texas compared to California, but it seems that climate change has unfortunately now exposed the weakness of unfettered competition within both states. To make grids capable of withstanding both rapid pop'n growth and greater weather extremes requires vast sums of money. In Australia, we spent a whopping $80bn on the process, and the govt was accused of "gold-plating" the grid. It is now starting to look like money very well spent. I hope for your sake that Biden's stimulus includes generous funding for grid security.

There will no "grid security" anywhere if there is no bedrock electricity supply from natural gas generation, just more of the same vulnerabilities through an overreliance on green generation. This demonstration in Texas shows how much a complex system of generation can be at risk of collapse when the least reliable source becomes the mainstay. The problem will persist as long as governments allow themselves to be co-opted by deficient climate science models.

Edited by Ecocharger
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