"Energy Emergency" - Texas Power Provider Warns Of Rotating Outages As Cold Tests grid Limits

solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,381 ✭✭✭✭
OMG Texas

Wholesale power for delivery Sunday was trading at anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000 a megawatt-hour in some places, triple the records set in some places Saturday and a staggering 2,672% increase from Friday at Texas’s West hub. 
Average spot power prices were just shy of $1,000 per megawatt hour during peak hours Sunday morning, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.



  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,688 admin
    That is $1 to $7 per kWH... Vs the typical price of something like $0.05 to $0.08 or so per kWH wholesale prices (I think).

    From Dave's link:
    As one Houston energy trader so eloquently explained, Texas electricity customers are about to get "lubelessly pounded" as prices explode:
    Scary as shit surge...
    Sunday day ahead cleared 4765 for the peak and 2297 for the offpeak. HANDS DOWN BY FAR HIGHEST CLEAR ON RECORD.
    And yep, all those folks on griddy were paying 9$ per KWh earlier today and continue to get lubelessly pounded
    “Spot prices are expected to hit $9,000 on both Monday and Tuesday,” said Brian Lavertu, a trader for Active Power Investments.

    I am not sure--Does Texas have "real time" energy pricing where the customers are going to be paying those prices directly? Or are those "absorbed" by the utilities (where the PUC can take months to change pricing)?

    To late now to buy gensets and fuel--But 20 gallons of gasoline (propane, diesel, whatever) and a small genset--Rough costs of fuel is around $1 per kWH and ride out a week or two electric usage (very roughly a smaller gasoline inverter-generator will produce ~3-5 kWH per gallon of gasoline).

    Natural gas looks to be also seriously impacted:

    Other markets moving on the cold:

    • Gas in Chicago hit $220 per mmBtu, traders said.

    • Physical gas was going for as much as $300 per mmBtu at a Texas hub.

    • Oklahoma gas prices have swung anywhere between $50 to the high of $600.

    • Spot gas prices across the eastern U.S. remained subdued amid milder temperatures, assessed at anywhere from $4 per to $12 per mmBtu on Friday, pricing data compiled by Bloomberg show.

    Our retail cost of natural gas in California (not cheap) is around $1.65 per mmBTU (or MBTU or per ~100 cuft). I am covered with a genset--Now starting to wonder if I need to prep for natural gas replacement for heating and cooking....

    In California, almost bankrupted 2-3 of our major electric utilities back in 2000 due to "spot market rates--Required by law/CPUC" purchases of wholesale electricity vs long term contract pricing to customers (California took out 40 year bonds to pay for a summer or two of this spot market stuff--3 day contracts--Vs the utilities writing contracts that go out years for infrastructure construction and long term fuel/power contracts).

    Very sorry for the awful weather that much of the country is experiencing right now (appears to be a once in a 100 year storm system?).


    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • solarvicsolarvic Solar Expert Posts: 1,060 ✭✭✭✭
    Doing away with Fossil fuels, Where you going to get gas for your gen set? The wind turbines froze up is tone of the reasons that contributes to power outages. 
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,688 admin
    My plan is to "ride through" difficulties for 3-10 days... Either emergency crews will have "fixed/patched" things enough--Or would seriously need to think about evacuating to elsewhere (living in a city/suburban area with no power, natural gas, water, sewers, food is probably not a good plan).

    Fossil fuels are the most "energy dense" way to store enough for a few weeks of emergency power. If you (roughly) guess that 1 gallons of gasoline = ~4 kWH of electricity... 2x 6 volt @ 200 AH batteries would store:
    • 12 volts * 200 AH = 2,400 WH
    • 2,400 WH of stored energy / 4,000 WH of power per 1 gallon of fuel = 0.6 gallons of gasoline
    • 20 gallons of gasoline * 4,000 WH per gallon = 80,000 WH (for ~$60 of gasoline, that can can recycle back into a car at the end of year--if otherwise unused)
    • 77 kWH Tesla * $9 per kWH (today's Texas spot market price) = $693 to "fill up"
    Not saying that this is the same as going Off Grid--Just part of "prepping"--Such as having stored food and water for at least a week or two.

    For us--Typically our major event will be an earthquake (which are surprisingly "local" / scattered effects). Add high winds/dry conditions/wildfire. And, of course, the next government program that will have "unexpected" fallout.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,913 ✭✭✭✭✭
    You should hear the truckers stuck in Texas on Red Eye Radio. They were originally told the outages would be rolling for a few hours. Now it comes out that the cold weather damage to infrastructure is not the cause of the shortfall. Wind turbines did freeze but it also does not blow much wind in this kind of an event. Sounds alot like California, extremely poor planning or, repeating mistakes learned 50 years ago. 

    Still deciding, as I age, if I want to live in a state that losses power when it is hot, or one that loses power when it is really cold. Nevada is looking better!
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
    E-mail [email protected]

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,688 admin
    Apparently, in Texas, many of the utilities did things like not bothering to insulate their generator infrastructure (including Nuclear, Coal, even natural gas transmission/pumping stations). So infrastructure (besides wind) froze up--And once the thaw happens--There may be a bunch of repairs needed (broken pipes, etc.) and may not be quick to get back to "full power".

    Wind turbines have gotten much of the press--But are not the only (or possibly not even the #1 reason) for Texas loss of generation/natural gas transmission issues.

    Texas, also, is not connected to any regional/national utility grids--Because, as I understand, Texas wanted to avoid the whole Federal Government Regulatory involvement/requirements. Part of that would have included better "hardening" against freezing weather per Fed Rules. So Texas has no grid connections outside of the borders of Texas. And why they cannot import/export power outside of their borders.

    I guess that there was a similar winter freeze/storm back around 1940--So not a "one time event".

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,913 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Yes on above and also the natural gas generators were not allowed to run at full output because they pollute the air more......That one was from wanting to be like California I fear.

     As California goes, so goes the nation.          It is said by many.......

    Some friends always remind me that most of the US has cold weather and does just fine with electricity. Just normal outages that get fixed. Rare to be more that a few thousand homes at a time.

     The funny part, I also heard from a Trucker was they heard on the radio that 500,000 homes were getting their power back. Then they heard power loss was going up from 2 million to 4 million. Just boil your water in an all electric kitchen ;)
    You can't make reality sound much worse, can you?
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
    E-mail [email protected]

  • solarvicsolarvic Solar Expert Posts: 1,060 ✭✭✭✭
    Ge bought the pattern equipment off of enron when they went bankrupt and sent some of the pattern equipment to different foundrys. Hodge foundry in Greenville pa where I retired from got some of the equipment. We had a learning curve as the standards were hard to meet. When we got good at it GE kept lowering the price to half what they started at. Hodge foundry couldn,t go any lower so Ge went to china to get thier castings. The whole Irony of the story is our government was paying a subsidy to create jobs here, not jobs for China. How can an ice storm stop a wind turbine? The blades can be adjusted or turned acording to how much wind there is. So if you couldn,t make that adjustment for lower wind then maybe it could freeze in place. A friend told me he heard that the grease got too stiff also. There is lots of power loss going thru the gearbox, so maybe the friction of the gear lube could stall it. 
  • Marc KurthMarc Kurth Solar Expert Posts: 844 ✭✭✭✭
    edited February 22 #9
    We've been without power or water since Sunday night - in an all-electric home. Sunday night brought 6" of snow. The next nights were -4F, 3F and 6F.  We have soared to 20 degrees now, but with more snow and ice. Likely no power through the weekend.
    We have two large old-school brick fireplaces, one with a 50" stove insert. Lots of wood and two small generators have kept the house almost warm :smiley: We believe in being prepared so we always have a lot of food, water, and general supplies.
    At one point Texas was reporting 4.4 million customers without service.
    Late next week, we will back to our normal 64F.

    I always have more questions than answers. That's the nature of life.
  • mcgivormcgivor Solar Expert Posts: 3,818 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    This is not the first time the grid has had problems during cold periods, the grid failed for the same reason in 1989 and 2011. Texas was in fact warned that this could happen again but chose to ignore federal recommendations because they are independent of the national grid.
    1500W, 6× Schutten 250W Poly panels , Schneider MPPT 60 150 CC, Schneider SW 2524 inverter, 400Ah LFP 24V nominal battery with Battery Bodyguard BMS 
    Second system 1890W  3 × 300W No name brand poly, 3×330 Sunsolar Poly panels, Morningstar TS 60 PWM controller, no name 2000W inverter 400Ah LFP 24V nominal battery with Daly BMS, used for water pumping and day time air conditioning.  
    5Kw Yanmar clone single cylinder air cooled diesel generator for rare emergency charging and welding.
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,913 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I heard 7 million this AM but the news is often wrong when they cut and paste. Stay warm Marc and no water skiing ;)
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
    E-mail [email protected]

  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,381 ✭✭✭✭
    solarvic said:
    <snip> How can an ice storm stop a wind turbine? The blades can be adjusted or turned acording to how much wind there is. So if you couldn,t make that adjustment for lower wind then maybe it could freeze in place. A friend told me he heard that the grease got too stiff also. There is lots of power loss going thru the gearbox, so maybe the friction of the gear lube could stall it. 
    I think the big problem was the blade icing.  Texas turbines didn't have any deicing systems installed because of the added cost.  I also saw and article stating the the nat gas flow was interrupted because the turbines were used in west Texas to run the pumping stations :) not so smart me thinks.  

    Didn't lots of those turbines get installed by T Boone Pickens?
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,688 admin
    edited February 21 #14
    Looks like there is a real time market retail utility rate plan for Texas called "Griddy" (?). Not a large number of customers, but those on the plan are getting nailed with huge bills:
    12x to 30x typical monthly bills.
    $0.05 vs $9.00 per kWh during the worst times.
    .......... -Bill

    DALLAS — The Texas power outage has become the Texas power outrage. Electricity supply and demand in Texas has really stabilized now. But when it was grossly out of whack over the past several days, the cost of power in the wholesale market went crazy. It went from about $50 per Megawatt to $9,000. That didn’t affect retail many customers because they were on a fixed-rate plan. See explanation of plan types here.

    But if you were on a variable or indexed plan, your rate — and therefore, your electric bill — may have skyrocketed. One customer messaged us: 

    “Mine is over $1,000…not sure how…700 square foot apt I have been keeping at 60 degrees."

    Another couple tweeted at us

    “Using as little as possible 1300 sq. ft. house and this is my bill. How is this fair. I only paid $1200 for the whole 2020.” 

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,913 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I think Texas will sort it out.  Alot of the deferred maintenance (that never got done) was also caused by C19 and the times we are in!

    Texas is a great state and not being part of a national grid that will one day be taken out by a solar flare or EMP makes them more resilient in that event. Still very little being done about hardening the grid or even being able to build a really Large power transformer. Some of them have been running since 1948. Below is a link from US government in 2012. Nothing has changed, so it is current :'(

    https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/Large Power Transformer Study - June 2012_0.pdf
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
    E-mail [email protected]

  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,577 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I guess everyone has heard of "Griddy Electric" which tied real time electric bills to wholesale electric costs...

    People getting $100-200 a day electric bills or more!

    Griddy customers face $5,000 electric bills for 5 freezing days in Texas (dallasnews.com)
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Magnum MS4024, Prosine 1800(now backup) and Exeltech 1100(former backup...lol), 660 ah 24v Forklift battery(now 10 years old). Off grid for 20 years (if I include 8 months on a bicycle).
    - Assorted other systems, pieces and to many panels in the closet to not do more projects.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,688 admin
    edited February 26 #17
    "Griddy" is like playing the commodities markets or short selling stocks you don't own (latest, search for Gamestop)... You can make/save money when the markets are in your favor--But you can be wiped out if you need power/gas during these major events (or if the market goes "against" you).
    Airlines do not buy fuel on the "spot market"--They buy fuel with long term contracts (multiple years).

    Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV), incorporated in 1967, has been one of the most profitable and best-performing airlines in the United States for decades. Southwest has maintained a consistent Investment Grade credit rating from all three ratings agencies, which is rare among airlines. It has been the only airline to consistently return capital to its investors year after year, and in 2018 recorded its 46th consecutive year of profitability.

    Besides an innovative point-to-point network and a focus on customer satisfaction, one of Southwest’s key differentiators has been its fuel hedging program, which it started in 1994. The idea was that by locking in prices for its largest variable cost, Southwest could protect itself against upward volatility in fuel. When other airlines were using their cash to pay for runaway jet fuel prices, Southwest would be in a position to invest in new aircraft, improve its operations and take market share.

    Southwest’s fuel hedging started slowly – it was outsourced and relatively simple, trading contracts representing just 20 percent to 30 percent of the airline’s fuel needs up to six months in advance. That changed in 1998, as Asian economies melted down and OPEC crashed crude oil prices to $12/barrel. It was at that point that Southwest executives got serious about locking in these extremely low prices and hedging a greater percentage of its overall fuel spend. Over the next five years, Southwest was paying anywhere from 25 percent to 40 percent less for its jet fuel than its competitors, and by 2008, the airline was hedging 70 percent of its fuel needs.

    “Being unhedged is the ultimate short position. You’re betting every day that the price of fuel won’t go up,” Barry Siler, a Houston-based commodities trader who consulted with Southwest on fuel hedging, told USA Today.

    It is very difficult and expensive to store electricity (batteries, hydro electric, etc.)...
    If somebody had "Griddy", a genset, and alternate fuel sources (natural gas, storage of gasoline/diesel/propane) to ride through the "market peaks/shortages"--Then you are doing your own "hedging"...
    The next question--How much "energy" does one need to store (days/weeks/months/longer) to ride through this?
    One just has to "love" the latest Carbon Control programs--Outlawing Natural Gas connections for homes/businesses:

    A growing number of climate-conscious cities — from San Francisco to Brookline, Massachusetts — have voted to ban natural gas hookups in newly-built apartment and commercial buildings, putting an end to gas-powered stoves, water heaters and clothes dryers.

    Why it matters: As more liberal-tilting cities like Seattle follow suit, the push toward "electrification" is likely to play out on the national stage, sparking debate over the merits of electricity vs. gas.

    • Already, the bans have drawn lawsuits from restaurateurs and building developers.

    Where it stands: About 40 municipalities in California have banned the use of gas in new construction, with Berkeley being the first (in 2019) and San Jose the latest. The argument is that electricity causes fewer health and environmental problems than natural gas.

    • But some copycat efforts have been blocked: Brookline's measure was overruled by the Massachusetts attorney general, who said that state law superseded the local initiative.
    • Several states — like Oklahoma, Arizona, Louisiana and Tennessee — have taken preemptive moves, passing laws that say local governments can't do this, per Inside Climate News.

    There are also cries of elitism, given that the cities involved are mainly wealthy and that gas-powered heat tends to be easier on the pocketbook.

    • "The bans have ignited a backlash from some of California’s most prominent Black and Latino leaders, who are saying that the prohibitions on the use of the fuel are a form of regressive tax on low- and middle-income residents," per Forbes.

    The big picture: While the battles play out locally, major environmental groups are leading the campaign to get municipalities to ban natural gas, and big utilities and gas companies have organized in opposition.

    I can just see more "unexpected consequences" of government regulations...

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,688 admin
    We in California have a new Power Outage Cause... Hiding in vacation home while on bail:


    By the time police arrived at his home in Santa Cruz, Scott Nevin had escaped to his vacation property in Lake Tahoe.

    Nevin, 55, was out on bail for 50 felony charges — but had a slew of arrest warrants to his name, including felony threats to civilians, domestic violence, witness intimidation and threats to kill law enforcement.


    As a last-ditch effort, South Lake Tahoe police shut off power to the entire neighborhood. Per South Tahoe Now, more than 80 houses' power was affected.

    If those utility engineers could only figure out how to harden the grid and reduce these types of Global Climate Change induced power outages...

    -Bill  :|
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,913 ✭✭✭✭✭
    The Texas story I keep hearing is that the natural gas gens gas pressure pumps, were powered by wind. No wind, really low gas pressure. Really low power out of the generator.

    Their Governor has said that people will not have to pay the high  "wholesale" bills. It will get "fixed"

    Our Sherriff is really concerned with alot of the "new" homeless in town. He thinks there will be more fires this year. Nice to be extreme rural and not close to people. One half of normal rainfall in the southern sierra again. Not looking very wet during winter.

    I am starting to think there is not a will to harden the grid. Probably could put a big dent in it for less than 10% of the new 2 Trill stimulus.
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
    E-mail [email protected]

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