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This Is An In-Depth Analysis Of Texas’ Feb 2021 Electricity Crisis.   Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C in Plano, Texas provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally, we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Al’s also provides full-service plumbing maintenance, repairs, and replacements for every plumbing component in your home.  Al’s sells and installs Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  Al’s is near your home in Plano, TX; Murphy, TX; and Wylie, TX.  We service all homes in southern Collin County, TX TX with no additional travel charges.

Call Al’s today to discuss any concerns have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience.

Texas’ February 2021 Electricity Crisis

What Happened.

When It Happened.  

Why It Happened.  

What’s Been Leading Up To It For Years. 

What’s Been Done Since.



There Is A Readily Available Solution

To Ease or Eliminate Future Texas’ Winter Electricity Shortages

Nearly 2/3 Of Texas Residences Have Electric Heat

Requiring (Electrically Heated) Homes — To Have A HEAT PUMP (versus an electric furnace)

Can Ease or Eliminate Future Texas Winter Electricity Shortages.

(Heat Pump Details Are At The End Of This Article.)

Ben Schoenbauer, Sr. Research Engineer of The Center For Energy & Environment (Minneapolis, MN) says: Save up to 35% (in DFW) -TO- 55% (in south Florida) By Replacing An Electric Furnace With A Heat Pump.

A Heat Pump is a Central A/C unit that runs both forward (to cool) and in reverse (to heat).  During summer, a heat pump operates the same as an air conditioner.  During winter, a Heat Pump extracts heat from the outdoor air and moves that heat indoors.  At any given time — a Heat Pump’s efficiency is based on the outdoor temperature.    Higher outdoor temps contain more heat to extract — lower temps contain less.

During DFW winter, a Heat Pump will provide most / all of the home’s heat.  A Heat Pump is most effective (by itself) at temperatures down to 25F degrees.  Below 25F,  Supplemental Electric Heat (from an electric furnace) starts to help heat your home.   The furnace runs only enough to help the Heat Pump meet the home’s heating demand.  The more Energy-Efficient the home is — the less Supplemental (electric) heat must run.  **

January is DFW’s coldest month.  Average High = 56F // Average Low = 36F. *3 

During Typical DFW Jan Temps — A Heat Pump Can Provide All The Home’s Heating. 

  • An Electric Furnace: 11,775 kWh X 0.11 (eleven cents) per kWh: $1,295.00 Annual DFW Heating Cost – Electric Furnace.
  • A Standard Efficiency Heat Pump: 7,450 kWh X 0.11 per KwH: $810.00 Annual DFW Heating Cost (over 1/3 less).

 

Click On The Link Below To Learn More About Heat Pump Heating Costs In DFW: 

AlsPlumbing.com DFW Heat Pump Heating Costs — Compared To Electric or Gas Furnace.

** Source: https://www.trane.com/residential/en/resources/hvac-basics/is-a-heat-pump-right-for-my-home/

*3 Source: https://www.weather.gov/fwd/dfwann

Click Here To Read Part-1 Of Our 4-Part Heat Pumps Article: AlsPlumbing.com Heat Pumps — Part-1 (of 4)


What’s Old Is Becoming New Again — All-Electric Homes

The “Live Better Electrically” Campaign –When All-Electric Homes Began

gold medallion home badge live better electrically

Image Source: CC0-WithAttirbution: Flikr5376672_558ca02eef_z-2.jpg

Shown: A “Live Better Electrically” Gold Medallion.  

The 1940 Census Showed:

  • Nearly 950,000 occupied housing units.
  • 625,000 (65%) had a coal furnace.
  • 182,500 (20%) had coal heating stoves.

Source: https://drloihjournal.blogspot.com/2017/02/coal-technology-that-changed-chicago.html

In March of 1956, the: “Live Better Electrically (LBE) & “Gold Medallion Home” marketing campaign touted the benefits of All-Electric Homes in TV and Print ads.  Additionally, an incentive was aimed at homebuilders to build all-electric homes.

LBE’s take on a modern home was an: All-Electric, Gold Medallion Home.   Compared to coal — which required a lot of daily maintenance (removing and disposing of ashes).  Additionally, “Fly Ash” (small dark ash flecks) was carried into the air.  Most of which landed in the home’s lawn.   Compared to a coal furnace, Electric Heat was both clean and maintenance-free.

To earn a Gold Medallion — the home must have electric; heating, water heating, kitchen range, and clothes dryer.  Other qualifications included built-in lighting and a minimum number of electrical outlets.   LBE’s goal was to sell 970,000 all-electric homes (nationwide) by 1970.  By 1960 — there were more than 850,000 Gold Medallion homes.   Some estimates say that 1 million homes’ goal was achieved (although specific data isn’t available).

Source: https://www.thespruce.com/gold-medallion-home-definition-1821516

LBE hired (then-actor) Ronald Reagan to host “General Electric Theater” — and take his tv audience on tours of his & Nancy’s All-Electric home located at 1669 N San Onofre Drive, Pacific Palisades, CA.

In 2017 — the Reagon home was demolished.  The 2/3 acre lot then became home to a; $22 million dollars, 12,000 square foot mansion + guest house — with vista views of mountains and canyons.

Copy This Link Below Into Your Browser To Learn More About & See The Reagon’s Home:

https://www.pacificpalisadeshistory.org/ronald-reagan-residence-general-electric-showcase-house

Fast Forward To 2020:

  • California’s Building Standards Commission required newly-built homes to have enough Solar Panels to offset their electricity use.

home with solar collectors on the roof

Image Source: Shutterstock

  • There are also incentives for homeowners to add a Battery to store electricity — to power the home after dark.

solar storage battery for home

Image Source: Shutterstock

Shown: Residential Battery To Store Solar-Generated Electricity For Overnight Use

With California’s Solar Panel’s Requirement + Battery-Storage Incentive:  A buyer of a newly-built home can add these features (and into their mortgage), choose an all-electric home — and have little to no costs for heating, cooling and powering the home 24/7.

In 2021: The California Energy Commission (CEC) is proposing requiring all Newly-Built Homes To Be All-Electric — As Early As 2023.

An October 2020 workshop by the CEC appears to retain the following for now.

2 Different Requirements:

  • Low-Rise Residential Buildings + Single-Family Homes: May have Natural Gas Heating & Appliances (or can Choose to be All-Electric).
  • All other Residential & Commercial buildings: Must Be All-Electric

Sources:

https://www.npr.org/2018/12/06/674075032/california-gives-final-ok-to-requiring-solar-panels-on-new-houses

Click Here To Read Details About California’s Upcoming All-Electric Homes Mandate:  California’s Upcoming All-Electric Homes Mandate

 



Texas’ Feb 2021 Electricity Crisis

Texas’ Electricity Supply

state of texas flag

Image Source: Pixabay

IN TEXAS, ERCOT (Electricity Reliability Council Of Texas) Is Responsible For

Electricity; Generation & Transmission + Selling (wholesale-priced electricity) To Retailers

-THEN-

ERCOT Connects To Local Electricity Distributors

(Once Electricity Reaches Distributors –ERCOT’s Responsibility Ends.)

DFW’s Electricity Distributor is ONCOR.

 ONCOR; Delivers Electricity To Homes & Businesses — and maintains its electricity distribution equipment (poles, wires, & substations).

-NEXT-

Consumers Choose From A Large Group Of Electricity Retailers.

In DFW, One Of The Most Recognized Electricity Retailers Is TXU.   

Note: Als’ does not endorse any specific electricity retailer.



Texas’ Feb 2021 Electricity Crisis

Texas’ Electricity Generation Sources In 2020

Traditional Power Plant 78%

electricity generating power plant

Image Source: Pixabay

In TEXAS during 2020: Traditional Power Plants Produced 78% Of Texas’ Electricity

Natural Gas (51%), Coal (17%) & Nuclear (10%).

(In 2017: Coal fueled 30% Of Texas’ Electricity.)

Source: https://www.eia.gov/state/analysis.php?sid=TX

Renewable Energy – Wind 20% 

wind farm

Image Source: Shutterstock

With 30,000 MW Capacity — Texas Leads The U.S. For Wind-Generated Electricity. **

161 “Wind Farms” are located in Texas (at the time this article was written). **

** Source: https://www.kxan.com/weather/green-energy-report-where-does-texas-rank-in-solar-wind-nuclear-energy/

Renewable Energy – Solar 2%

solar farm

Image Source: Shutterstock

Solar “Farms” have large collections of PV (electricity-generating) Solar Panels

California is #1 For Solar Electricity Production — With nearly 32,000 MW capacity.

Texas ix #2 — With just over 9,300 MW capacity.

Source:  Solar Energy Industries Association: 2021 Quarter 2 Report.    https://www.seia.org/research-resources/top-10-solar-states-0



Electricity’s Trip (Nationwide) From Power Generation Sources To Homes/Businesses

-OR- Scroll Past This Section

To: “A Power Grid’s Electricity Supply Must Match Demand At All Times.”

Electricity Transmission Lines

After electricity is generated, it’s carried long distances through Transmission Lines.  Next, it’s transferred into Electricity Distribution Lines. 

electricity transmission lines

Image Source: Shutterstock

Transmission Lines Carry Electricity Long Distances — At Very High Voltage.

 Up To 300 Miles — Typically At 345,000 Volts.  Homes use 120-Volt & 240-Volt Service. **

Why Electricity Voltage Is So High During Transmission:

Higher Voltage Reduces Electricity Loss: 

  • Electrical wires cause resistance.  The resistance causes electricity loss during transmission.
  • Higher voltage = less electrical current.
  • Less current going through wires = less electricity is lost.

Higher Voltage Reduces Transmission Costs:

  • Higher voltage allows for thinner & more lightweight wires to be used.

Source: https://www.hunker.com/13418990/what-is-the-typical-voltage-for-power-lines

Source:  https://www.electricalclassroom.com/why-is-electricity-transmitted-at-high-voltages/

Electricity Distribution Substations

Electricity Transmission Lines connect to Electricity Distribution Substations. 

The substations then connect to electricity distribution lines.

high voltage electrical transformer

Image Source: Shutterstock

Electricity Substations Reduce Electricity Voltage

Then Route It Into The Electricity Distribution Grid (details below).

  • In Substations: “Step Down” transformers reduce electricity voltages (from 34,500-138,000 volts) — down to Distribution Lines voltages (typically 7,200 volts). **

Note: Substations have Circuit Breakers & Switches To:

  • Disconnect individual electricity distribution lines from the substation.
  • Disconnect the substation from the power grid.
  • This is to accommodate emergencies.

Emergency Example:  An electric wire touches a tree — and creates a short-circuit.  The short-circuit draws far more electricity than the wires can carry.

Result: A circuit breaker trips — and disconnects that wire until the problem is fixed.

** Source: http://www.science.smith.edu/~jcardell/Courses/EGR220/ElecPwr_HSW.html

Above-Ground Electricity Distribution Lines

Bring Electricity (above ground) To Homes & Business.

electricity distribution lines with transformers

Drop

A: “DROP” connects an above-ground distribution line — to a home/business.

It’s called: “Drop” — because power distribution lines are higher than a house connection.  So, the wires drop downward heading toward the house.

Source: https://www.thespruce.com/electric-service-drop-basics-1821517#

electricity distribution lines with transformers

Pole Top “Drum” Transformers (above) Serve Above-Ground Electricity Distribution Lines.

A drum transformer is also a Step-Down transformer.  It reduces the electricity’s voltage — From 7,200 volts down to 240 volts.

  • 2 wires come from the drum transformer.
  • 3 wires go to the house/business.
  • The 2 insulated wires carry electricity.
  • The 3rd wire is an uninsulated ground wire.

The 2 Insulated Wires (coming from the transformer) — Each Wire Carries 120 Volts:  

  • One 120-Volt line carries electricity — forward.
  • The voltage & current reach peaks & valleys at the same time. **
  • The other 120-Volt line carries electricity — backward.
  • The voltage & current reach peaks & valleys at opposite times. **
  • When these two 120-Volt lines are Combined — They create 240-Volts. **
  • Small electricity users (like a TV) — need 120 volts.
  • Large electricity users (like an electric kitchen stove) — require 240 volts.

** Source: http://www.science.smith.edu/~jcardell/Courses/EGR220/ElecPwr_HSW.html

Underground Electricity Distribution Lines

Service Lateral

A: “Service Lateral” connects a below-ground distribution line to a home/business.

It’s called: “Service Lateral” because the house’s connection — is at the same depth as the electricity distribution line.

electricity transformer for underground utilities

Image Source: Pixabay

Underground Utility Transformers (the green boxes seen in lawns) are Step-Down transformers.

They work the same as the (above ground) Drum Transformers.

Inside Your Home — Electricity Enters The Circuit Breakers Panel

photo of circuit breaker panel

Image Source: CanStockPhoto

Circuit Breaker Panel (also called: “Service Panel”)

  • The primary purpose of a circuit breaker panel is to route electricity to every part of the home.
  • The primary benefit of a circuit breaker — is to protect the home’s wiring from carrying more electricity than is safe.
  • Homes must have a circuit breaker panel of 100 amps or higher.   This is required by building code.
  • 100 amps will provide electricity for a medium-sized home with some 240-volt appliances (like electric stove or electric clothes dryer) plus central air-conditioning.

Individual Circuit Breakers

The Math: Amps = Watts / Volts. 

  • A 15-Amp Circuit Breaker’s maximum capacity = 1,800 watts.   The Math: 15 amps = 1,800 (watts) divided by 120 volts (standard household voltage).
  • BUT most circuit breakers handle up to 80% of their rated capacity — for 3 or more continuous hours.  The Math: 1,800 X 80% = 1,450 watts.
  • Example: An Electric Space Heater on high (1,500 watts) — uses 12.5 amps.   Set to high — the heater use slightly over 80% of many 15-Amp breaker’s capacities.
  • Electric heaters are limited to 1,500 watts because: Above 1,500 watts — a 15-Amp breaker will trip if most anything else uses that same circuit.

Source: https://braseelectrical.com/what-appliances-should-be-on-a-dedicated-circuit/


Texas’ Feb 2021 Electricity Crisis

Every Power Grid’s Electricity Supply

MUST Match Demand — At All Times

TERMS:

  • Capacity: Expected (maximum) Electricity Supply.  **
  • Demand: Expected (peak) Electricity Demand. **
  • Reserve Margin: Maximum Capacity Peak Demand. **

EXAMPLE: A 15% Reserve Margin Means: A power grid has +15% more electricity supply capacity than the (expected) peak demand. **

** Source: ** https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=6510

Reserve Margin Details:

  • Electricity can’t be stored — and is not generated until it’s needed.
  • Additional electricity can quickly come online to meet rising demand.

NOTE: ERCOT’s PHONE APP Shows: “Current Demand” & “Current Capacity”.   The difference is the Reserve Margin at that moment in time.

If Electricity Supply Exceeds Demand

  • The electrical frequency rises (above 60 Hertz).
  • Power plants must operate within a specific electrical frequency.
  • If an imbalance isn’t restored — power plants start tripping offline (to protect themselves)
  • Oversupply: When a generator’s minimum output exceeds current electricity demand.
  • Many generators have a “droop” function — to temporarily reduce output.

Restoring Over-Supply Balance — Occurs In 1 Of These Ways:

  • Excess electricity can be sold to another Power Grid (except in Texas) — IF demand exists elsewhere.
  • Electricity Generation is reduced.
  • Until supply & demand become balanced — excess electricity is wasted (because it can’t be stored).

Note: Some Power Plants have batteries to store the excess electricity until supply is lowered.

If Electricity Demand Exceeds Supply

  • The electrical frequency drops (below 60 Herts).
  • Power plants must operate within a specific electrical frequency.
  • If the imbalance isn’t restored — power plants start tripping offline (to protect themselves).

Restoring Under-Supply Balance — Occurs In 1 Of These Ways:

  • Most Power Plants have “standby” generators — that can start generating electricity quickly (details below).
  • Many Power Grids (including ERCOT) — also have Peak-Demand Power Plants (called Peakers).
  • These only run only during peak demand periods.

In 2020 Texas Had:

  • 65 Peak-Demand Power Plants (peakers).  Most are powered by natural gas.
  • 11  Peak-Demand Generators — inside year-round power plants < 5 years old.
  • These are natural gas-powered turbines or internal combustion engine (like a car’s engine).
  • These need 10 to 60 minutes to begin generating electricity (If winterized).
  • 21 (steam-powered turbines) generators that are 50+ years old.
  • Their steam production is separate from the turbine.
  • First, the steam must reach a certain; temperature, pressure, and moisture-content — before it can power the turbine.
  • These need more than 12 Hours to begin generating electricity (If winterized).

When NO Additional Electricity Is Available 

  • First, a “Brownout” may occur.
  • Electricity voltage is reduced by the Power-Grid.
  • Voltage drops below 90 volts — for seconds or minutes.   Standard household voltage = 120 volts.

If A Brownout Won’t Work A Power Grid Must Begin Rolling Blackouts.

  • During Rolling Blackouts — electricity is turned off to selected areas (to reduce overall demand).
  • The term: “Rolling” means: the blackouts move from location to location.  As one area’s electricity is turned back on — another area’s is turned off.
  • Rolling blackouts continue — until electricity supply can meet current demand.


WHEN & WHY Texas’ Feb 2021 Electricity Crisis Occurred

state of texas flag

Image Source: Pixabay

Feb 2021 Winter Peak Demand (estimate)

Exceeded The 2019 Summer Demand Record

  • August 2019 — ERCOT stated a Summer electricity demand record = nearly 75,000 MW.
  • February 2021 — ERCOT’s Winter peak demand (estimate) = 76,000 MW —  IF ERCOT’s power grid could have delivered it.

Sources:

https://comptroller.texas.gov/economy/fiscal-notes/2020/august/ercot.php

http://www.ercot.com/content/wcm/lists/219736/ERCOT_Fact_Sheet_2.12.21.pdf

https://www.psehealthyenergy.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Texas.pdf

https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=45956

 


WHEN: Texas’ Feb 2021 Electricity Crisis Occurred

During 2020-21 Winter — ERCOT Had Planned For:

  • ERCOT’s (total) Electricity Generation Capacity = up to 82,513 MW (MegaWatt ***).
  • ERCOT forecasted that up to -14,000 MW might be offline at some point during the winter.
  • This left 68,500 MW available IF every (other) power generator had been running.
  • 76,000 MW was ERCOT’s peak demand estimate (during the Feb. 2021 winter storm) — IF ERCOT could have delivered it).  
  • Even with every generator running — ERCOT’s Reserve Margin is too low to accommodate an extreme cold weather event.

And more All-Electric residences are being built every day in Texas (details below).

*** Note: 1 MW = 1 Million Watts (1,000,000).

Texas’ Feb 2021 Electricity Crisis Timeline:

Friday, Feb. 5

  • Weather forecasts for extreme cold began (10 days earlier).
  • In response, ERCOT asked customers to conserve electricity, and warned that outages were likely.

Wednesday, Feb. 10

  • ERCOT instructed electricity generators to prepare for extreme cold (ERCOT has no enforcement authority).

On: Feb 10- 11, Feb. 13–17, & Feb. 18-20, 2021 — 3 Severe Winter Storms Swept Across The U.S

Monday, Feb. 15 (early AM):

  • Record Low Temperatures Arrived In Texas very early on Monday, Feb 15, 2021.
  • DFW’s temp reached -2° F — the coldest in 70 years.
  • Electricity Demand = over 69,000 MW.  (ERCOT’s estimated 76,000 MW demand would have occurred IF ERCOT could have delivered it).
  • Electricity Supply = 54,500 MW was available.

Bill Magness, ERCOT’S President & CEO said: “The Texas power grid was minutes & seconds away from a collapse.   If we had allowed a catastrophic blackout to happen, we’d be talking about how many months it might be before you get your power back.”

  • Rolling Blackouts Began. 

Once the reserve margin is exhausted –Rotating Outages / Rolling Blackouts are temporary electrical service interruptions initiated by a utility.

  • 1:20 am: -10,800 MW of electricity demand was “shed”.

Note: “Shed” is an industry term that means: “Rolling Blackouts forced electricity demand offline.”

  • By 2 am —  an additional  -8,500 WW was shed.
  • A Peak Of -19.3 MW of electricity demand was “shed” during the cold weather event.
  • At the peak of the Rolling Blackouts — up to 4.5 million Texans were without power.
  • ERCOT said: “Extreme weather conditions caused many generating units (across all fuel types) — to trip offline and become unavailable.”
  • The Feb. 2021 rolling blackouts were expected to be limited up to 15 minutes — then move to another area.
  • Without Rolling Blackouts (to restore electricity supply & demand) — additional generators will overload, then go offline to avoid damage.
  • This is known as a “Cascading Failure” of a power system.

Cascading Failure Defined:  With any interconnected system — the failure of any part — triggers failures of successive parts.

Tuesday, Feb 16: ERCOT said: “No net gain in (electricity) generation.”

Wednesday, Feb 17:  Moderating temperatures reduced Rolling Blackouts.

Thursday, Feb 18: The last rolling blackouts were canceled.

Friday, February 19 ERCOT Announced:

  • 9 a.m. – Return To Emergency Operations — Level 2
  • 10 a.m. – Return To Emergency Operations — Level 1
  • 10:35 a.m. – Returned To Normal Operations

*2 Source: http://www.ercot.com/news/releases/show/216844

*3 Source: http://www.ercot.com/content/wcm/lists/226271/Texas_Legislature_Hearings_2-25-2021.pdf

Wholesale Electricity Prices During The Crisis

  • The Public Utility Commission (PUC) ordered ERCOT to increase electricity prices to $9,000 per MWh (MegaWatt hour).
  • This was done to encourage more electricity generation during the Rolling Blackouts.
  • Pre-storm prices were under $50 per MWh, according to ERCOT.

Source: https://newsroom.cpsenergy.com/update-as-of-monday-february-15-2021-255-am-power-emergency-conservation-critical-rotating-outages-have-begun-ercot-grid-operator-issues-power-emergency-across-the-state-of-texas/


WHY: Texas’ Feb 2021 Electricity Crisis Occurred

Nearly 2/3 Of Texas Residences Have Electric Heat.

gold medallion home badge live better electrically

Image Source: CC0-WithAttirbution: Flikr5376672_558ca02eef_z-2.jpg

What’s Causing Frequent Winter Electricity Shortages In Texas

Texas’ Feb. 2021 Electricity Crisis was caused (in part) by somewhat obscure events.  Texas’ population has grown rapidly — and many new residences were built.

  • Newly-built Detached (single-family) homes in Texas may have gas or electric heat.
  • Most (if not all) Newly-Built Attached Housing (like apartments & townhomes) In Texas Are All-Electric.
  • Texas’ population growth and newly-built residences are creating skyrocketing winter electricity demand in Texas.

A Factor That Contributed To Texas’ Feb 2021 Electricity Crisis

1. Texas’ Population & Housing Growth –

The 2010 Census Reported:

  • Texas population was just over 25 million residents
  • There were 9.8 million residences (all types of residential structures).
  • During 2010–2019 +4 Million New Residents Moved To Texas.

In July 2019:

  • Texas population was nearly 29 million residents.
  • There were 11.3 million residences (all types of residential structures).
  • During 2010–2019: +1.56 Million New Residences Were Built In Texas. *5

Electricity Demand — By Individual Texas Household

  • Texas household’s Heating Demand is -14% lower.
  • Texas household’s Electricity Consumption is +26% higher than the national average.
  • This is largely due to the number of electrically heated homes.

*2 Source: https://www.keranews.org/business-economy/2018-01-23/nearly-28-000-apartments-were-built-in-the-dallas-area-last-year

*3: Source: https://www.dallasnews.com/business/real-estate/2020/01/15/more-new-apartments-opening-in-d-fw-than-any-other-us-metro/

*4 Source: https://www.realpage.com/analytics/more-apartments-on-way-2021/

A Factor That Contributed To Texas’ Feb 2021 Electricity Crisis

2. U.S. Power Grids Are InterConnected (EXCEPT in Texas)

  • The Eastern Interconnection Power Grid Network includes; N. Dakota // South Dakota // Nebraska // Kansas // Oklahoma — AND all states EAST of them.
  • The Western Interconnection Power Grid Network includes All States WEST of; N. Dakota // South Dakota // Nebraska // Kansas // Oklahoma.
  • Buying electricity from other power grids isn’t possible — because ERCOT’s power grid isn’t interconnected.

As Compared: El Paso, Texas’ Experience — During ERCOT’s Feb. 2021 Electricity Crisis

  • El Paso, Texas is connected to the Western Interconnected Power Grid Network.
  • El Paso population 682,000.
  • During the Feb 2021 storm — only 1,000 El Paso residents lost power in their homes for more than than 5 minutes.

Sources:

http://www.ercot.com/news/mediakit/backgrounder

U.S. Energy Information Administration // https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=47116

https://www.eia.gov/state/print.php?sid=TX

https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/TX

** https://energyathaas.wordpress.com/2021/02/22/the-texas-power-crisis-new-home-construction-and-electric-heating/

Electricity Reliability Council Of Texas (ERCOT) Service Area

ERCOT’s Service Area Covers 90% Of Texas.

ERCOT Does Not Serve: 

  • El Paso County — in the western tip of Texas.
  • Longview, Marshall, Texarkana  — in northeast Texas
  • Beaumont & Port Arthur — in southwest Texas
  • The Woodlands (a Houston suburb).

** Sources:

  • https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/21/us/texas-electricity-ercot-blackouts.html
  • https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/18/texas-power-grid-outage-ercot/
  • https://www.texasmonthly.com/news-politics/el-paso-electric-winter-storm-2021/
  • https://comptroller.texas.gov/economy/fiscal-notes/2020/august/ercot.php

Additional Factors That Contributed To Texas’ Feb 2021 Electricity Crisis

1. ERCOT’S Reserve Margin (peak electricity supply – demand) Is Way Too Low.

  • 67,000 MW ERCOT’s Winter Forecast for peak electricity demand.
  • 76,800 MW  ERCOTS Estimated peak demand During The 2021 Storm — IF Texas’ Power Grid could have delivered it.
  • 82,500 MW  Total Texas Power Plants Generating Capacity (IF every generator is running) — according to ERCOT.
  • ERCOT forecasted up to -14,000 MW might be offline at some point during the winter.
  • 68,500 MW available (if every other generator had been running).
  • ERCOT planned for 67,000 MWcoming from power plants (powered by; natural gas, coal, and nuclear).
  • -30,000 MW (-44%) of Power Plants production — was offline at one point during the storm.
  • ERCOT reported up to –356 (-50%) generators were offline (of 710 total) at one point.

2. Lack Of Natural Gas During The Storm — Due To Frozen Gas Distribution Equipment

  • Texas’ natural gas supply plummeted — due to (unweatherized) natural gas distribution equipment.
  • The U.S. Energy Information Administration said: “Texas’ natural gas production was down to as much as -45% from the previous week.”
  • Up to -9,000 MW of electricity wasn’t available (due to lack of natural gas).
  • 9,000 MW would have served around 1.8 million homes.
  • Rolling Blackouts had shut power off to some natural gas pipelines.
  • Additionally, many idle power plants could not be brought online due to extreme cold — and not having been winterized.

NOTES:

  • Natural gas pipelines can obtain: “Critical Load Designation” — protecting them from Rolling Blackouts.
  • Many pipeline operators never submitted their information to ERCOT.

A Factor That Contributed To Texas’ Feb 2021 Electricity Crisis

3. Wind-Generated Electricity

  • Speculation blamed “frozen” wind turbines as responsible for the crisis.
  • Texas has 30,000 MW of wind-generated electricity capacity.
  • Yes, some wind energy — contributed to the crisis.   This was due, in part, to low wind speeds (details below).

Tuesday, Feb 16:

  • -30,000 MW (-45% of 67,000 MW capacity) from Power Plants — was offline
  • -16,000 MW (-53% of 30,000 MW capacity) from Wind — was offline.

Many of Texas’ Wind Farms Are Located Near Amarillo, TX.

  • Amarillo’s wind speed on Feb 16 was 10-23 mph.
  • Optimal wind speed for Electricity Generating Wind Turbines = 26-30 mph.

Source: https://www.timeanddate.com/weather/usa/austin/historic?month=2&year=2021

Source: Wind Energy Basics – NYSERDA    https://www.nyserda.ny.gov 

Wednesday, Feb 17:

ERCOT Said:

  • -28,000 MW (-42% of 67,000 MW) from Power Plants — was offline.
  • -18,000 MW (-60% of 30,000 MW capacity) from Wind — was offline.
  • Amarillo’s wind speed on Feb 17 was 0-7 mph.
  • Optimal wind speed for Electricity Generating Wind Turbines = 26-30 mph.

Source: https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16/texas-wind-turbines-frozen/

Source: https://www.star-telegram.com/news/politics-government/article249987264.html

Source: https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16/natural-gas-power-storm/

Source: https://reason.org/wp-content/uploads/texas-power-failures-what-happened-what-can-be-done.pdf#page=4

Source: https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16/texas-wind-turbines-frozen/

Source: https://www.npr.org/2021/03/06/974417969/texas-wont-reduce-16-billion-in-electricity-charges-from-winter-storm



Previous Texas Electricity Crisis Events

Severe Cold-Weather Events affected Texas in; 1983, 1989, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2011 & 2021.

In 2011 –Rolling Blackouts Covered Up To 3/4 Of Texas

  • Texas’ Groundhog Day Blizzard occurred during February 1–5, 2011.
  • Rolling blackouts occurred in up to 75% of Texas.

IN RESPONSE: Federal Regulators Presented A 357-Page Report to Texas Lawmakers regarding the dangers of extreme cold to the Texas Power Grid. **

  • Texas lawmakers didn’t mandate any of the changes recommended in the report. **
  • State leaders have not required generating reserves.**

NOTES:

  • ERCOT Has No Enforcement Authority.  Enforcement Authority Is Governed By Texas’ Legislature.
  • ERCOT has the Responsibility for the Texas power grid — with no Authority to do anything.

Texas’ Deregulated Electricity’s History

On January 1, 2002, the Texas State Legislature deregulated their electricity industry.  George W. Bush, Texas’ Governor (January 17, 1995 – December 21, 2000) signed Deregulation Legislation and said: “The energy industry wanted it. The people wanted it. Both parties supported it. “Competition in the electric industry will benefit Texans by reducing monthly rates and offering consumers more choices about the power they use,”  **

Electricity Deregulation’s Goals

  • Minimize monopolies that exist when a single electricity provider serves an area.
  • Keep electricity prices lower — due to competition for several suppliers.
  • Protect public safety.
  • Fair treatment for customers.
  • Bush’s prediction of lower-cost electricity generally came true.  Partly due to Texas’ inexpensive natural gas and abundant wind (powering wind turbines).
  • But, the deregulated system has few safeguards and enforced rules.
  • There is little (if any) financial incentive for power generators to weatherize.
  • Additionally, increasingly frequent cold-weather events were never integrated into Texas’ electricity infrastructure plans.

NOTES:

These States Also Have Deregulated Electricity:

  • Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts & New Hampshire.
  • In these states (like in Texas) — competing private companies offer electricity purchase packages.
  • All of these states ARE interconnected to the Eastern Power Grid.
  • Only Texas is not interconnected.

Texas’ Deregulated Electricity’s Shortcomings

  • Power Generation Rules were set by the energy competitors.
  • Unlike all other power systems around North America — Texas has not enforced a “reserve margin” (extra power available. above anticipated demand).
  • Without a Reserve Margin Mandate — any power company paying to winterize equipment — would have been at a competitive disadvantage.
  • Regulation in Texas is performed by 1 nonprofit agency — the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)  which manages electricity flow.
  • ERCOT is supervised by the Public Utility Commission (PUC) — which also oversees electricity transmission.
  • As compared to regulators in other regions — ERCOT & PUC have little (if any) ability to regulate.
  • Other regions submit an Annual Planning Report to ensure adequate electricity supply.
  • Texas energy companies are not bound by those rules.

During The Crisis — Electricity Prices Rose FROM Around $50 Per MWh (MegaWatt hour) -TO- $9,000 Per MWh.

  • Texas allows Wholesale Electricity Prices Up To $9,000.00 / Megawatt-hour (MWh).   MWh is 1 MW of electricity generated for 60 minutes.
  • The intent is to encourage more electricity production when it’s needed.
  • Wholesale Prices are typically near $30.00 per MWh.
  • In Feb. 2021 — prices plateaued near $2,000 per MWh.
  • The Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) — reset the price to $9,000 per MWh.
  • The $9,000 MN price continued for around 32 hours.
  • Potomac Economics (PUC’s market monitor) said: “The $9,000 cap was kept in place for at least 32 hours after most outages ended on Feb. 17.”

Potomac Economics is a leading monitoring service for Regional (electricity) Transmission Organizations (RTO’s) that operate wholesale electricity markets in the U.S

** Source: https://www.texasmonthly.com/news-politics/what-is-wrong-with-the-texas-grid/ Recently

**3 Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=47116

According to the U. S. Census Burea: In 2020 — 61% of Texas homes are heated with electricity.

Texas’ February 2021 Electricity Crisis’ Costs To Texans

Deaths Caused By The Winter Storm & Electricity Crisis:

  • Officially, 151 Texans died during the storm.  *6

Using mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):  3 Independent Experts suggested:

In Texas, during the week ending February 20, 2021:  +426 To +978 more people died (above the normal mortality rate). 

Source: https://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/articles/news/energy-environment/2021/05/27/399291/texas-winter-storm-death-toll-could-be-much-higher-than-the-states-count-buzzfeed-data-review-found/

Property Damage Caused By The Winter Storm & Electricity Crisis:

  • Up to 4.5 million Texas residences had no electricity during the Feb 2021 blackouts.   More than 1/3 of Texas residences were in the dark.
  • Without power — water pipes froze & burst throughout Texas.
  • When the pipes thawed — homes & business suffered water damage.
  • For The Entire U.S.: AccuWeather’s estimate of the damage & economic loss from the Feb. 2021 storm — is $155 billion. *3
  • In Texas alone: AccuWeather’s estimate of the damage & economic loss from the Feb. 2021 storm — is $130 billion. *3
  • Nearly 85% of the entire U.S. loss was in Texas. *5

*3 AccuWeather’s Forecast Includes; missed wages, damages repair for homes and businesses, and clean-up costs throughout Texas.

Source: https://www.dallasnews.com/business/energy/2021/03/08/the-texas-winter-freezes-economic-toll-climbs-to-130-billion/

The Texas Legislature’s Response

  • In June 2021: Governor Greg Abbott signed into law 2 bills meant to ensure ERCOT’S grid can meet electricity demand during extreme cold.  
  • The Laws Require:  Owners of; power generation facilities, electricity transmission lines, natural gas facilities, and pipelines TO Protect Their Facilities Against Extreme Cold Weather — Or Face A Penalty Of Up To $1 Million Per Day.

SENATE BILL 2:

  • Restructure the Public Utility Commission (PUC).
  • Increase oversight of ERCOT — the nonprofit corporation responsible for managing (95% of) Texas’ electricity supply.
  • Create a widely available ERCOT Emergency Alerts System.

ERCOT’s Energy Emergency Alerts System:  If Electricity Demand May Exceed Supply

NOTE: You Can Download ERCOT’s App (available for android & Apple phones.

No Alert   Conditions Normal.           Color: Green

WINTER  Conservation Request.     Color: Amber

Level 1:    Conservation is Needed.   Color:  Orange

Level 2:   Conservation is Critical.   Color: Red

Level 3:  Rolling Blackouts Started.  Color Black

SENATE BILL 3:

  • Senate Bill 3 passed the House & Senate — with no votes against it.
  • Governor Abbot signed Bill 3 into law — it was effective immediately.
  • Ban electricity plan choices based on current wholesale electricity rates.  Griddy (and perhaps others) offered such plans during the 2021 winter storm.

Note: Griddy filed for Bankruptcy and is out of business.

  • All electricity generators selling in Texas must follow Weather Emergency Preparedness Standards — determined by the Public Utility Commission (PUC).
  • The PUC has 6 months to prepare Weather Emergency Preparedness Standards for electricity generation.
  • Natural Gas Facilities (that are considered critical for electricity generation) also must follow PUC’s Weather Emergency Preparedness Standards.
  • Fines, up to $1 million a day, for each non-winterization offense — for both Power Plants & Natural Gas Suppliers serving the electricity generators.

A Side Note:

  • Another bill called for a $2-billion fund (from Texas’ Rainy Day Fund) — to help power companies pay for winterization:
  • This bill passed in House.
  • This bill failed in the Senate.
  • This bill did not become law.


New Texas Electricity Supply Proposals (from outside of Texas) Presented In 2021

  • In March 2021:  Representatives from Berkshire Hathaway Energy  (led by billionaire investor and CEO Warren Buffett) met with Texas lawmakers with an $8.3 billion dollar proposal to build 10 natural gas-fired power plants across Texas. 
  • In April 2021: Starwood Energy Group (based in Connecticut) sent Texas’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) an $8 billion dollar proposal to build 11 natural gas-fired Power Plants in Texas.


When Texas temps are higher or lower than normal — ERCOT does not have enough generating capacity — unless all generators are runningThat’s not realistic — as there will always be some generators offline for maintenance or repairs.

  • In mid-June, 2021, The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), asked Texans to reduce their electricity use “as much as possible”.
  • ERCOT said power generating owners reported -11,000 MW of generation capacity is on “forced outage” (for repairs).   
  • -8,000 MW was thermal and -3,000 MW was “intermittent resources”.
  • Typical thermal generation outages on hot summer days are around -3,600 MW. **
  • 1 MW powers around 200 homes on a hot summer day.

** Source: The Summer Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy.  1 MW powers around 200 homes on a hot summer day.

Source: http://www.ercot.com/news/releases/show/233037

Monday, June 14, 2021:

  • Electricity demand reached 70,039 Megawatts (MW) — a new June record.  Additional new records followed.  *8
  • Texas’ Electricity Supply dropped below 73,000 MW.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021:

  • ERCOT’s electricity reserve was 4,675 MW — about 6.4%. *8
  • In 2012:  The U.S. Energy Administration said Texas’s Electricity Reserve was 13-14%.

* 7 Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/15/climate/texas-heat-wave-electricity.html

*8 Source: WFAA.com & nbcdfw.com

*9 Source: https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/amp/texas-power-grid-ercot-16251549.php



A Readily Available Solution To Help Avoid Another Texas’ Feb 2021 Electricity Crisis

By Requiring: Heat Pumps In Newly-Built (electrically heated) Residences

And Replacement HVAC Systems In Existing (electrically heated) Residences

Instead of an electric furnace.

Click Here To Read Part-1 Of Our 4-Part Heat Pumps Article: AlsPlumbing.com Heat Pump Savings — P-1 of 4

  • A Heat Pump is a Central A/C that’s runs in reverse during winter.
  • In Summer (Operating Just Like A Regular Central A/C) — A Heat Pump Extracts Heat From Indoor Air And Moves It Outside.
  • In Winter (Running In Reverse) — A Heat Pump Extracts Heat From Outdoor Air And Moves In Inside.
  • A Heat Pump Uses Far Less Electricity — (to move heat) Than Traditional Electric Heating (to create heat).

Source: Trane HVAC  https://www.trane.com/residential/en/resources/hvac-basics/is-a-heat-pump-right-for-my-home/

A Heat Pump Can Heat Your DFW Home

Using Up To -1/3 Less Electricity Than An Electric Furnace (details below). 

NOTE: Gas furnaces are less expensive to operate than a heat pump — and create far less demand on the Power Grid.

central air conditioner outside unit

Image Source: DreamsTime

Why A Heat Pump Is Less Expensive To Operate Than An Electric Furnace

  • In winter — a Heat Pump extracts heat from outdoor air — and moves that heat indoors.
  • It’s notably less expensive to move heat — than to create heat with electricity.
  • A heat pump is most effective at temperatures around 25 to 30 degrees F.
  • Below these temps — an electric furnace will begin to provide only the additional heat needed (beyond what the Heat Pump can provide).

DFW Fall & Winter Average High / Low Temps:

67  /  47  Nov

58  /  39  Dec

56  /  35  Jan

61  /  41  Feb

69 / 49  Mar

Note: Based on these average temps in DFW — A Heat Pump can typically provide all heat needed — all winter long.

During occasions when outdoor temps drop below 25:

  • A Heat Pump supplies (most to some) of the heat.
  • Actual Heat Pump efficiency is determined by the current outdoor temp.  Warm temps increase Heat Pump efficiency — lower temps reduce efficiency.
  • The electric furnace provides only any additional heat needed (that the Heat Pump is unable to provide at that time.

Source:  https://www.google.com/search?sxsrf=ALeKk00ApsvSz1JSNu5SYDdApxe8sTUxUQ%3A1628533265078&lei=EXIRYdeQBJXRtQa9wqqQBA&q=average%20temperature%20in%20dallas%20by%20month&ved=2ahUKEwiX3ZOWx6TyAhWVaM0KHT2hCkIQsKwBKAF6BAgwEAI&biw=1097&bih=521&dpr=1.75

Heating-Costs Comparison

How To Compute How Many BTU’s Of Heat A House Needs Per Heating Season

  • Dallas has 2,250 Average Heating Degree Days (HDD).
  • On average — a house loses 1 BTU Per Cubic Foot For Each HDD (details below).
  • A 2,000 Square Foot Home with 8 Foot Ceilings Has 16,000 Cubic feet.
  • A 16,000 cubic feet home X 2,250 Heating Degree Days = 36,000,000 (36 Million) BTU’s of heat — needed each heating season.

 

At 11 Cents Per kiloWatthour (kWh):

  • Electric Furnace costs $3.25 — to produce 100,000 BTU’s of heat. **
  • Our (DFW example home) needs 36,000,000 (36 million) BTU’s of heat per heating season.
  • 36,000,000 BTU’s — divided by 100,000 BTU’s = 360
  • Cost To Heat (our DFW example home) With An Electric Furnace = $1,175 Per Heating Season.   

 

  • 8.2 Heating Season Performance Factor (HSPF) Heat Pump costs $1.34 — to produce 100,000 BTU’s of heat. **
  • Our Example home needs 36,000,000 (36 million) BTU’s per heating season.
  • 36,000,000 BTU’s — divided by 100,000 BTU’s = 360
  • Cost To Heat (our DFW example home) With A Heat Pump = $485 Per Heating Season.   

NOTES:

  • HSPF is a standardized measurement of Heat Pump Efficiency.   HSPF ranges From 8.2 To 13.
  • 8.2 HSPF was the U.S. minimum Heat Pump Efficiency requirement (when this was written).

The Actual Heating Demand Of Any Home Depends On: 

  • The Home’s Energy Efficiency
  • The Occupants’ Energy Use Behaviors.

** Source: https://www.intelligentheatandpower.com/btu-fuel-comparison-calculator/

A 2nd Readily Available Solution To Help Reduce Another 

Texas’ Feb 2021 Electricity Crisis

 Changing Energy-Use Behaviors 

  • Electric heating costs rise +3% for each +1 degree warmer you keep your home.
  • So it’s fair to say that electric heating costs rise +3% for each -1 degree colder it is outdoors. *5
  • During the 9 days in February 2021– heating costs (for electrically heated DFW homes) — were up to +33% (over typical costs).
  • This is based on -44 degrees (below average low temp) on Feb. 16, 2021.
  • A 2,000 square feet Texas home is noted as using 1,325 kWh/month.*8
  • During Feb 2021 — it’s (conservatively) estimated that electrically heated homes’ bills for the month of Feb. 2021 were +25% higher (than typical Feb bills).
  • Note: Author’s estimate, takes into account those 9 days of record cold in Feb. — no specific data could be found.
  • In Feburary 2021 — an electrically heated (2,000 SF) DFW home’s average electric bill = $200.00 (11 cents X 1,650 kWh).
  • This assumes the power stayed on & the home was on a Fixed-Rate Electricity Plan.
  • This Article’s Author’s Feb. 2021 electric bill –$116 (58% of $200.00) for a 2,000 SF electric furnace home.
  • The electricity stayed on and the home is on a Fixed-Rate Electricity Plan.

Why The Big Difference?

Energy Use Behaviors & Energy-Efficiency Home Upgrades 

Energy-Use Behaviors:

  • During the 9 days in Feb. 2021 — the author’s electric furnace was set at 65.
  • An electric space heater was added where the author was located.
  • Minimal (all LED) lighting was used.

Energy-Efficiency Home Upgrades:

  • The Author’s 1972-built home was winterized (air leaks located and sealed).
  • R-45 attic insulation was added (Texas Building Code is R-38).

Click Below To Read Part-5  (Of Our 5-Part Article) About Energy-Use Behaviors:

AlsPlumbing.com Lower Cooling Costs Part 5 (of 5)– Energy Use Behaviors

** Source: https://electricityplans.com/average-electricity-bill-in-texas

*3 Source: https://energyathaas.wordpress.com/2021/02/22/the-texas-power-crisis-new-home-construction-and-electric-heating

*4 Source: https://www.saveonenergy.com/learning-center/post/electricity-bills-by-state/

*5 Source: https://www.wfaa.com/

*6 Source: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=47876

*7 Source: https://www.weather.gov/hgx/2021ValentineStorm

*8 Source: https://paylesspower.com/blog/average-electric-bill-in-texas/

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This Is An In-Depth Analysis Of Texas’ Feb 2021 Electricity Crisis.  Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C in Plano, Texas provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally, we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Al’s also provides full-service plumbing maintenance, repairs, and replacements for every plumbing component in your home.  Al’s sells and installs Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  Al’s is near your home in Plano, TX; Murphy, TX; and Wylie, TX.  We service all homes in southern Collin County, TX TX with no additional travel charges.

Call Al’s today to discuss any concerns have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience.