The cold wave that has affected southern U.S left more than 600,000 homes and businesses without power in Texas, the largest oil and gas producer in the country. How did the state fall into this crisis?
What’s going on in Texas?
The freezing cold, marked by polar temperatures and snow storms, caused an increase in electricity consumption in the southern states of the United States in recent days.
Texas, which has almost 29 million inhabitants, is experiencing the worst difficulties in meeting this explosion in demand.
Several power plants that run on natural gas, wind or nuclear energy and that supply cities like Austin or Houston suffered an interruption in their operation due to these extreme conditions.
ERCOT, the company in charge of energy distribution in Texas, declared a state of emergency overnight from Sunday to Monday and decided, as a precaution, to cut off certain power sources to avoid grid saturation.
Some families were without power for more than 48 hours when the thermometer dropped to seldom seen marks.
On Wednesday night the company said it had restored power to about 1.6 million homes, adding that it was working “24 hours a day to restore power to Texans”.
What was the political response?
The Republican Governor of TexasGreg Abbott criticized ERCOT’s management of the crisis.
In a statement issued Tuesday, it said the company had “been anything but reliable for the past 48 hours”.
“Too many Texans are deprived of electricity or heat as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable“He added, and has already announced an investigation into ERCOT.
The federal agency in charge of electricity and natural gas rates also announced that it will analyze the reasons for the power outages “in the coming days”.
But some experts believe that the problem is primarily structural.
“ERCOT cannot invest in equipment. You can only manage the network”Recalled Ed Hirs, an economics professor at the University of Houston.
According to Hirs, Texas, which generally peaks in energy activity in late summer, was unprepared for a cold snap.
“Not enough generators planned to meet a sharp increase in demand in winter”, He explained.
What will be the consequences for Texas?
The state is the energy lung of U.SBy far the largest producer of crude oil and natural gas in the country, but it is also a heavyweight in wind and solar power.
This ‘independence‘Energy, so remarkable in other situations, plays against it in times of crisis since its energy network is disconnected from the rest of the country, so it cannot import energy.
The current crisis highlighted the limits of this system.
“It is a warning to the world that even regions where energy is abundant can be in trouble and it can be catastrophic.“Said Michael Webber, a professor at the University of Texas and director of science at the Paris-based Engie Group.
For Webber and Hirs, the investigations are more like the search for a scapegoat and a political stance than a real desire to reform infrastructure.
A genuine change would require “strong political will, lots of integrity and leadershipHirs said. “At present, neither the governor nor the Legislative (de Texas) have demonstrated these qualities”.
What will be the impact for fossil and renewable energies?
Several conservative voices have pointed to the supposedly dominant role of renewables as the main factor behind power outages.
The Republican representative for Texas Dan Crenshaw attacked on Twitter the alleged unreliability of wind power, an energy “too subsidized”For your taste.
“In short, fossil fuels are the only thing that saves us”He boasted.
His comments drew strong reactions, including from Daniel Cohan, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University in Houston, who called the congressman’s words “deeply misleading”.
“We are facing a crisis of energy systems, not just an electricity crisis” Cohan wrote on Twitter.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.