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Bloomberg: Lack of Wind Causes Texas Electricity Prices to Skyrocket 40,000%

You know its bad when Bloomberg, which almost always treats renewables with kid gloves, comes out with a piece that is one of the most devastating critiques of the unreliable nature of wind and solar that I have ever seen, but that is exactly what happened recently.

The article, published on August 26th, details how Texas, which has more wind turbines than any other state, is suffering the consequences of building so much wind power:

“The road to a world powered by renewable energy is littered with unintended consequences. Like a 40,000% surge in electricity prices.

Texas power prices jumped from less than $15 to as much as $9,000 a megawatt-hour this month as coal plant retirements and weak winds left the region on the brink of blackouts during a heat wave. It’s a phenomenon playing out worldwide. Germany averted three blackouts of its own in June and has seen prices both spike and plunge below zero within days as it swaps out coal and nuclear energy for wind and solar. In the U.K., more than a million homes lost power on Aug. 9, in part because a wind farm tripped offline.”

The skyrocketing price of power and narrowly-averted blackouts should act as a warning shot to other states and nation’s around the world: shutting down, affordable, reliable, and most importantly dispatchable electricity generators like coal, natural gas, and nuclear, to replace them with intermittent, and therefore unreliable, wind and solar is a very bad idea.

Bloomberg’s article continues:

“We have to have systems in place to make sure we still have enough generation on the grid — or else, in the best case, we have a blackout, and in the worst case, we have some kind of grid collapse,” said Severin Borenstein, an energy economist at the University of California at Berkeley, where state officials have a goal of getting all power from clean energy resources by 2045.

There is no easy solution.

In Germany, grid operators were forced to tap emergency reserves to avoid outages in the heat of June as some blamed bad wind generation forecasts. Power prices there surged at times on the prospect of shortages and plunged below zero at other times when solar generation flooded the system.

A group representing [Germany’s] biggest power suppliers warned that the grid may become increasingly unstable as the government orders coal and nuclear plants to shut. “By 2023 at the latest, we will be running with eyes wide open into a shortfall in secure capacity,” said Stefan Kapferer, a managing director for the group BDEW.

Governors of Germany’s coal regions have called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to coordinate a carefully planned exit from the fossil fuel without sending power prices soaring and risking blackouts. The country is meanwhile expected to grow increasingly dependent on imports from neighbors, some of which are dealing with their own energy revolutions.

In Australia, regulators this month took four wind farm operators to court, alleging that their facilities contributed to a massive 2016 blackout. The incident has sparked a debate over whether a nation so rich in coal and natural gas resources should even allow the grid to become so dependent on renewable power.

It’s the dose that makes the poison, and the ever-increasing dose of renewable energy is manifesting itself as negative symptoms; resulting in higher prices for consumers and jeopardizing the reliability of the grid.

“In Texas, the grid is becoming increasingly exposed to the swings of wind generation. The run-up in electricity prices earlier this month was in part because generation from farms sank to the lowest level in months.

Unlike Texas, some regions use capacity markets to ensure there’s enough power to keep the lights on. In these, plants get paid to guarantee power during a certain time period, even if it turns out the market doesn’t need their electricity.”

Texas is often touted as the exception to the rule when it comes to wind and solar driving up the cost of electricity, but these arguments are either ignorant of Texas’s regulatory system, or intentionally misleading.

Wind and solar have driven up the the cost of electricity in Minnesota because unlike Texas, we pay extra to ensure there is enough power to keep the lights on. This is why Minnesota has approximately 2.5 times as much generating capacity on the grid as it actually needs to meet customer demand.

Maintaining this extra capacity is very expensive.

Texas, on the other hand, does not make payments to ensure there is enough capacity because it assumes high prices during periods of peak demand will help power generators make enough money to keep their plants open, but there is a problem: subsidized wind power undercuts the market and causes reliable coal generators to close down.

Now, the coal generators that were critical for providing reliable, dispatchable power during the hot summers in Texas are closed, and people are able to see first-hand the serious threat that intermittent wind and solar pose to the affordability and reliability of electricity.

 

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