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Texas Power Grid

Feb. 20, 2021 - Many of you have seen the disaster unfolding in Texas where millions of residents were without power and water in below-freezing temperatures. I saw some comments posted regarding this situation and RAGE/CHARGE’s position. It is important to make clear RAGE/CHARGE’s position and to understand the Texas power grid situation.

RAGE was against a specific high voltage transmission line project, the Monmouth County Reliability Project, because it would cause significant harm to our communities in five towns, especially when it was not needed. Remember, MCRP was a backup to a backup line to a transmission line that has been “up” 99.9% of the time without issues for twenty years including through Sandy and Irene. CHARGE was formed to be a consumer's voice. Consumers are better protected from power outages if utility companies make the appropriate upgrade and maintenance of the local distribution system. We are not automatically against all high voltage lines per se. Each proposal needs to be examined for the underlying need. The problem is that utility companies file for many unneeded transmission line projects under pretexts due to financial incentives under current laws and regulations.

The Texas situation is very unique. Texas is the only state NOT subject to federal utility regulation and deliberately chose to be “isolated” from the rest of the country’s electrical grid system. The locally generated power within the state was not properly “winterize” and resulted in a loss of power capacity.

In addition, the supply for Texas’ power generating system relied heavily on “spot” price (literally on a daily basis). So, when demand spiked upward, the spot price jumped by more than 100 times (from about $20-40 per megawatt-hour to $9,000) and some power-generating utilities decided to stop producing power and go offline.

Unfortunately, the Governor of Texas decided to blame renewable energy – in particular wind turbines. What he didn’t tell people was that while some wind turbines did freeze and were not able to generate power, wind power represented only 13% of power generation in Texas. The bulk of the problem was from the loss of power generation from fossil fuels (natural gas and coal plants). Even the freezing of wind turbines could have been prevented – for an extra 5% difference in price, wind turbines could have been equipped with a “winterize” package and make them operatable in frigid weather like in Nordic countries.

Texas went through a similar situation in 2011 (and in 1989) but the Energy Reliability Council of Texas chose to ignore most of the recommendations made in a post-event study and now millions of Texans suffered because of that.