FACT CHECK: Texas Railroad Commission Chairman accuses renewable energy of unreliable power grid
AUSTIN (KXAN) – On Tuesday, the Texas Railroad Commission passed new weatherization rules for the state’s natural gas facilities. But not before the president defended the industry against what he called “media and far left” attacks and discussed the role of renewables in the state’s epic power failure. .
“If you add unreliable wind and solar production and subtract reliable natural gas production, that equates to a less reliable electricity grid. Until we sort out these hazy calculations, we are just putting a band-aid on the problem, ”said Wayne Christian, President of the RRC.
But in its staff report, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found that the natural gas supply was one of the main causes of blackouts in Texas and the south-central United States.
“A confluence of two causes, both triggered by cold, led to the event, which has been part of a recurring pattern over the past ten years. First, unprepared generators were breaking down in large numbers. Second, following massive declines in natural gas production and, to a lesser extent, declines in natural gas processing, the natural gas supply has struggled to meet both the residential heating load. and unit demand for natural gas, exacerbated by the growing dependence of production units on natural gas ”, we read on page 11 of the report.
During the meeting, Christian insisted that oil and gas were unfairly blamed for the winter storm. He has been a strong advocate for the oil and gas industries and against renewable energy projects such as the Green New Deal and the Paris Climate Agreement, according to his official website.
“Instead of being used as an opportunity to learn about the importance of grid reliability, the winter storm was used as a weapon by the media and the far left to attack fossil fuels and any elected officials who blame wind or solar unreliable. energy, ”he said.
University of Texas energy expert Joshua Rhodes also said that while we saw some wind turbines fail during the winter storm, the state expected to rely more on natural gas.
“There are complaints everywhere, and it’s not necessarily that we’re looking for, you know, one particular technology. It’s just, you know, if you’re going to have something to be there… we need it to be there, ”said Rhodes, Webber Energy Group associate researcher at UT.
He said the federal report also found generators that failed, 58% were gas, 27% were wind and 2% were solar.
Rhodes explained that Texas relies on two different systems in winter.
“We have all of our power plants, but we also have the fuel that we use to power those plants. He said that during times when the state turned to solar power, it exceeded expectations. He said the performance of wind power has fluctuated.
“In an event like this, we don’t rely on these resources to produce as much energy during winter events, but we rely on our thermal fleet – our coal, natural gas, nuclear fleet – to be able to be available during these times, ”Rhodes explained. “And we build that into our planning and models. And so it is not surprising that not all the wind has come up, but neither has all the gas, coal or nuclear. “
During Tuesday’s meeting, Christian also said the incentives for renewables had resulted in less money for natural gas.
“Preferential treatment and subsidies for unreliable wind and solar power have stifled investments in reliable natural gas production,” he said. “Why build natural gas power plants when the politicians in Austin ensure that your green thumb pays off no matter what? “
Rhodes, who is also part of the Texas Solar Energy Society, said natural gas is also receiving subsidies, and he doesn’t think more of these plants would have helped during the winter storm.
“During winter storm Uri, we were unable to supply natural gas to all the power plants we had,” Rhodes explained. “So I’m not necessarily convinced that having had more natural gas plants would have meant that we would have more electricity. I just think we would have had more natural gas plants that we could not have supplied with natural gas.
Christian said he believes the RRC has some responsibility and supports the rules the group passed on Tuesday requiring many, but not all, natural gas producers to tamper with their facilities.
Stewards deemed “critical” must be able to maintain power in the event of progressive blackouts. Those who are “less critical” will still be able to opt out of bloat and pay a $ 150 fee.
The RRC said these critical facilities must now share their information with electric utilities, who will use the information “to plan load shedding procedures in the event of an energy emergency,” according to a press release.