Energy experts explain why Texas is facing power shortages again

Electric Reliability Council of Texas officials said the outages were 'concerning' and unplanned

Texas is again facing a power squeeze as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) asked residents this week to conserve as much power as possible until Friday. 

The conservation request is sure to trigger flashbacks to February when millions were left without power in sub-freezing temperatures. Now, residents are asked to use their air conditioning sparingly with Texas in the midst of a summer heatwave. 

As of Tuesday,  over 12,000 megawatts of the state's roughly 86,000 megawatts of generation capacity were offline, or enough to power 2.4 million homes. 

ERCOT officials said the outages were " very concerning" and unplanned, and warned that by Tuesday the demand for electricity could begin stressing its reserves.


"I don’t have any potential reasons [for the plant outages] that I can share at this time,"  Warren Lasher, ERCOT senior director of systems planning, told reporters on Monday, according to the Texas Tribune. "It is not consistent with fleet performance that we have seen over the last few summers."

Still, ERCOT said it was "unlikely" it would need to implement blackouts this time around.

Fox News spoke with a number of experts who say a range of factors could be at play, including maintenance repairs that were not addressed in the aftermath of the February crisis. With temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s across much of the state, the demand for electricity is expected to be high. 

Long term, power demand is expected to continue to grow across the Lone Star State as the climate warms and population continues to grow. 

The state added an estimated 373,965 residents in 2020, and a report from a Texas state climatologist and researchers at Texas A&M found that the number of 100-degree days will double by 2036. 

 To some, the state’s increased reliance on wind energy is a major factor in this week’s shortage. 

Mark Mills, a senior fellow who studies energy for the Manhattan Institute, told Fox News the Texas power grid has "too much non-dispatchable capacity," or sources that can be dispatched on demand. 


"The rule of thumb in electric grids is that you always have to have excess capacity on the grid because you can’t predict weather events that require more power," according to Mills.

Wind output on Monday was low in Texas, where it constitutes the second-largest share of the total grid, but ERCOT said 80% of the power plant outages were from thermal sources, which in Texas are largely natural gas-fired power plants. 

"Texas made the decision to build lots of wind turbines because it has lots of wind that while operating creates cheap power but that’s when it’s operating," Mills continued. 

Mills said that subsidies for wind had helped the industry to swell in Texas, and could be "made worse" by proposals at the federal level. 

"We’ve been saying for a long time long before February we’re not building any more gas, coal or nuclear generation," said Brent Bennett, policy director for Life: Powered with the Texas Public Policy Foundation. 

Both experts said that shortages could easily become more frequent.

Bennett said both federal subsidies for wind and a lack of any regulation for the renewable power source’s reliability were at play in the current conservation request. 

"In Texas, because we don’t have any reliability requirements for wind and solar all they have to do is come here and build," Bennett said. "They have pretty much free rein." 

Texas lawmakers passed legislation aimed at preventing blackouts such as the one in February, though those changes will take years to implement and Bennett said those changes do not go far enough. The bills seek to address some issues 

Beth Garza, a senior energy fellow at R Street, said that one concern some might have is that power plant owners are colluding not to make their plants available to drive up price. 


"I want to say this carefully, that is certainly something that is possible but those are bad actions those are against the rules," Garza said. She said such collusion is "easy to detect" and independent market monitors would be looking for it.