back to article Texas blacks out, freezes, and even stops sending juice to semiconductor plants. During a global silicon shortage

As winter storms cause power outages across the United States, a lack of juice in Texas has led to Austin's fabs shutting down. Texas's main power grid, managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), is a separate "electrical island," that fiercely guards its independence from other networks in America, thus …

  1. Potemkine! Silver badge
    Trollface

    That's a likely consequence when you build a plant in a third-world country with a crappy infrastructure

    1. don't you hate it when you lose your account Silver badge

      To quote the man

      Shit hole.

      Don't scream at me, talk to the man

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You do realize that the latitude of Austin Texas is lower than any point in Europe, I assume. Basically, it is just slightly further north than Cairo, Egypt. They regularly have summer temperatures over 38 degrees C, and had one period of 30 straight days of high temperatures over 38 degrees (my son was living there during that summer). We are talking about a subtropical climate that rarely sees 0 degree temperatures, and even those rare occasions only typically last one night. I seriously doubt any subtropic climate areas could handle these temperatures and the ice storms, particularly given the duration.

      1. tip pc Silver badge

        @AC

        well that's global warming for you.

        if only Americans consumed less energy and had greater wind and solar then these weather events wouldn't be a problem.

        being serious though it is extraordinary the sheer amount of snow and how far sough its gone. totally unexpected and not aligned to what's been drummed into people for years. I guess that's why they call it climate change (what a stupid term)

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Its called climate change and not global warming so when it causes bits to get colder idiots dont run around screaming fake news.

          1. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

            Unlike idiots on BBC who run around and scream about “climate change” each time it becomes a hot warmer?

        2. jilocasin
          FAIL

          Actually, the Texas grid has lots of renewables

          Actually, the Texas grid has lots of renewables. In fact their wind farms were producing above forecast. The problem seems to be more one of rampant deregulation and cronyism. Huge swaths of the power grid haven't been winterized. So far this has been a net win for the power companies.

          - safe costs on winterizing

          - drive up the spot cost of electricity when plants go offline

          - profit !?!?!!

          Unfortunately, in this case, too much of the state was hit by deadly cold at the same time. This is compounded by a grid that for political reasons can't get help from one of their neighboring grids and a governor who's more concerned with whether or not professional sports teams play the national anthem at local games.

          1. BillG
            Alert

            The Real Story from Texas

            Lots of misinformation here. I actually had a client two years ago involved with the Texas power grid. Most of the news & info on the internets, to put it politely, is just repeating "inaccurate" or "horribly biased" information.

            First, Texas has a state of the art power grid and gets a lot of its power from renewables like solar and wind, up to 11% (not 7% as publicly stated), most of it wind. Despite performing all the recommended cold weather maintenance on the windmills most of the blades are iced over. If there is sufficient weight on the blades the wind turbine safeties will not permit the blades to turn. It's reported that only 10% of wind turbines are operational.

            Second, a lot of Texas power comes from natural gas and a lot of the equipment has freezed up. If just the natural gas or wind had problems everything would be fine, but with both wind and gas curtailed it creates a power shortage.

            The Texas power grid is CAPABLE of being completely independent, but despite what you've read online Texas regularly buys and sells electricity to surrounding states and anyone who tells you differently is repeating false information. In times of heavy summer demand Texas has purchased up to 15% of its power from nearby states and regularly sells power to other states. However, the news even in Texas has been incorrectly reporting that the Texas power grid is not connected to the rest of the USA. The reason for this deliberate misinformation is complicated and has nothing to do with the power outage, but today the CEO of ERCOT, Bill Magness, came clean and enigmatically said that electricity from surrounding states is "restricted", claiming that they also have frozen power delivery issues. This unusual restriction of neighboring states to supply power is now the subject of investigations, and in response these states might find power they buy from Texas to be more expensive in the coming months.

            One thing Texas is great at doing is not repeating mistakes. Two or three years ago we had winter weather that caused frozen trees & branches to take down power lines. In response ONCOR waited until spring to examine all the trees near power lines (by helicopter & drone) and trimmed everything. Took almost a year to do it right. So I don't see a repeat of the present situation in coming years.

            So the remaining questions are, 1) Why is Texas gas production really down, and 2) Why are neighboring states not supplying power to Texas? Once again, like the past year, I see what's really happening & then I see the news and internet report a fictitious account of reality.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @BillG - Re: The Real Story from Texas

              As far as I can see, according to your post the Texas power grid is great and all Texans should be fine so why are they complaining.

              1. BillG
                WTF?

                Re: @BillG - The Real Story from Texas

                A. Coward wrote As far as I can see, according to your post the Texas power grid is great and all Texans should be fine so why are they complaining.

                I don't think you read my post correctly.

            2. Snake Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: The Real Story from Texas

              "One thing Texas is great at doing is not repeating mistakes.

              According to the news reports, about a decade ago Texas had a partial freezeover which should have acted as a wake-up call to do something about their winterization schemes.

              Seems like they simply turned their back on the idea and kept up BusinessAsUsual (tm).

              ...

              So, what's the thing about "not repeating mistakes"?

              1. BillG
                Facepalm

                Re: The Real Story from Texas

                Snake wrote According to the news reports, about a decade ago Texas had a partial freezeover

                "News reports"?

                "About a decade ago"?

                What exactly is a "partial freezeover" and what effect did it have?

                [sarcasm=on] Thanks for the detailed information snake, you've certainly, uh, made a point [sarcasm=off] while proving mine.

                1. Snake Silver badge

                  Re: @BillG

                  Apparently you can't do your own research and need it handed to you on a silver platter??

                  All I had to fyi was search for "Texas blizzard" and then pick a date a decade ago, 2011

                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/January_31_%E2%80%93_February_2,_2011_North_American_blizzard#Texas

                  Wow, so hard. I got the info I needed in 15 seconds flat, and that was with a random guess at the date!!

                  You just don't want to hear anything that doesn't fit into your preconceived "truth" plan.

                  1. BillG
                    Facepalm

                    Re: @BillG

                    Snake, you made it sound like this was a Texas-specific problem in 2011. But the Wiki page you linked to starts out:

                    "The 2011 Groundhog Day Blizzard was a powerful and historic winter storm that affected large swaths of the United States and Canada from January 31 to February 2, 2011"

                    So while you tried very hard to make 2011 look like a Texas-specific problem, this was really a powerful weather system that affected over 100 million people in North America, including overwhelming locations up north used to dealing with extreme winter weather. It was not the same as today. You really should read what you link to.

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: The Real Story from Texas

                  There was a blizzard in 2011 that highlighted the issues with gas supply in Texas in 2011 and resulted in excessive demand and load shedding to protect the grid. From the NERF report " Post-analysis indicated that the cold temperatures had caused over 150 generators to encounter difficulties; loss of supply, instrumentation failures, and gas well-head freezing were some of the source causes."

                  In January 2018 there were a string of outages/derates resulting in load exceeding 99% of capacity and ERCOT barely managed to meet this. NERC recommended improved winterization and increasing the available capacity margin from 9% to 13% in-line with other grids.

                  In 2021 we see the third occurrence in 10 years.

                  1. s2bu

                    Re: The Real Story from Texas

                    Fourth occurrence. The first was in 1988, before deregulation.

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: The Real Story from Texas

                      "Fourth occurrence. The first was in 1988, before deregulation."

                      The problem is that you have had these conditions 3 times in 10 years under deregulation and on the first two of those occasions federal regulators recommended addressing two key issues - winterization of gas pipelines and ensuring adequate capacity. The utilities haven taken small steps towards addressing the capacity issues in summer via wind turbines, but almost nothing was done for the winter part of the equation.

                      Electricity should be critical infrastructure for a first world country and

                      I can't find any real information around Texas snowstorms or blackouts in 1988 to determine the cause or is it is related to regulation and our ability to deliver reliable electricity has come a long way in that time. As long as companies treat it as a critical service.

              2. frampton

                Re: The Real Story from Texas

                There's a great report of the 2011 outage in Texas, caused by freezing conditions.

                It seems like total crap, this line about Texas learning from mistakes. The grid went down in 2011 and it went down harder this week.

                See report here:

                https://www.ferc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-04/08-16-11-report.pdf

                1. seven of five Silver badge
                  Joke

                  Re: The Real Story from Texas

                  > The grid went down in 2011 and it went down harder this week.

                  So Texas DID learn from its mistake and improved on it. The grrreatest outage ev0r!

                  Can they do even more?

                2. Snake Silver badge

                  Re: @frampton "lessons learned"

                  Exactly. A 2011 Austin American-Statesman newspaper article covered it

                  https://www.statesman.com/article/20110411/NEWS/304119704

                  and that article itself notes that the 2011 outages didn't learn any lessons from the 1989 outages!!

                  So this stupidity has been going on since 1989 and NO corrective measures have been made, even through failure report after failure report.

                  That's THIRTY-TWO YEARS of failure warnings...completely and utterly ignored!

                  "Lessons learned"?? HAH!!! And the worst part is that these moron voters keep going for the "We've gone our job!" lies!!!

            3. Androgynous Cow Herd

              Re: The Real Story from Texas

              Thats great.

              With all that going for it...Why d'ya think has my friend in Houston and her baby been sitting in the dark and cold for 3 days?

            4. rcxb Silver badge

              Re: The Real Story from Texas

              Texas regularly buys and sells electricity to surrounding states and anyone who tells you differently is repeating false information.

              Yeah, but being on a separate grid means the interconnections with neighboring states are fewer and more expensive. It is a significant factor in the current problem, even if it commonly gets oversimplified down to inaccuracy.

            5. hoopsa

              Re: The Real Story from Texas

              "One thing Texas is great at doing is not repeating mistakes."

              Well, maybe, but didn't exactly this situation arise in 2011?

            6. frampton

              Re: The Real Story from Texas

              So this story is wrong about ERCOT not having grid connections to other states? Even though an expert is being quoted in the media?

              “The question is probably as political more than anything else,” said Carey King, a research scientist at The University of Texas at Austin and the assistant director at the Energy Institute.

              “The historical reason of why EROCT doesn't cross state lines is specifically designed to avoid being regulated by the federal government,” he said. “That's why Texas doesn't do it, because Texas doesn't like to be under federal regulations.”

              https://www.baynews9.com/fl/tampa/news/2021/02/17/texas-is-a-huge-energy-producer--so-why-are-millions-without-power-

              1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

                Real Story from Texas

                Even though ERCOT has some connections to other grids, it doesn't typically use them to draw power, as it fiercely guards its independence. Instead, it exports power.

                On a normal day, Texas would proudly argue its grid is independent - an electrical island, no less - and that it don't need no federally regulated network, thank you kindly. But then this storm hits, and at the suggestion it was perhaps wrong to have an entirely independent and isolated grid, suddenly here come the apologists arguing that it's not actually truly independent and could tap into other networks any time it wanted (but couldn't or didn't). Sheesh.

                Ultimately, the Texas grid wasn't built to withstand the storm that hit, its power generation failed, and it couldn't or didn't use whatever links it had with the Eastern Interconnect, and people went without power.

                C.

                Edit: From CNBC: “Texas has chosen to operate its power grid as an island,” noted Rice University’s Cohan, which means the state can’t import power from other states when it’s most needed. He added that the impacts are also felt in the summer, when Texas has an abundance of power that it can’t export.

            7. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The Real Story from Texas

              BillG - everything you have said is largely correct BUT...it misses the issues with ERCOT.

              ERCOT is deregulated and there are no trading relationships between states in terms of maintaining an adequate safety margin either within Texas or between Texas and its neighbours. And as the ERCOT grid is seperate from the Eastern and Western grids, capacity for interconnection is much lower (3 x 5GW via Tres Amigos).

              In short, Texas is setup to be a deregulated gas and electricity supplier. And to cut costs and maximise profit, they didn't winterize the majority of the network. Not the gas pipelines. Not the water supplies for nuclear. Because money. And because its setup as a supplier, it is very sensitive to spikes in gas prices but that's OK because there is no requirement to supply electrify to customers if prices rise. And finally, Texas operates on a very thin excess generation capacity because there are

              no regulations requiring it. Something something deregulation.

              Peak demand would appear to have been 79GW and only 76GW of generating capacity was available. Normal winter capacity would lean on gas/nuclear rather than wind/solar so lets look at ERCOTS statements:

              So let's look at ERCOT's statements:

              "Iced wind turbines led to a loss of capacity as well, though only from about a third of the 16,000 MW offline, said Woodfin, because ERCOT assumes about 30% capacity from wind generation."

              "Approximately 45,000 MW of generation was offline as of Tuesday afternoon, including just under 30,000 MW of thermal generation and 16,000 MW of renewables, according to ERCOT officials."

              And an independent statement:

              According to Jesse Jenkins, an assistant professor at Princeton University, gas generators made up the bulk of 30 GW of resources offline in ERCOT. Ice on wind turbines made up 4 GW of the outages.

              Which leads onto your two interesting questions:

              1) Why is Texas gas production really down

              Lack of winterization of pipes is part of the reason but it appears capacity was withdrawn as gas prices spiked. Or that could have been coincidence - we will see as various agencies investigate.

              2) Why are neighboring states not supplying power to Texas?

              There appears to be no agreement to supply Texas with power outside the spot market on the interconnects. And as Texas utilities are independent of SERC/SPP there was no requirement from neighbouring states to cover the shortfall in Texas particularly when SPP is suffering its own capacity issues. This isn't entirely surprising given they are usually customers rather than suppliers of Texas over winter.

              So is ERCOT fit for purpose? If this is a 1-in-100 year event then possibly. If this is a 1-in-10 year event then no and the deregulation of the Texas utility market has lead to the state suffering at the expense of utilities underspeccing gas pipelines for winter operation AND running systems to close to peak generating capacity - they were predicting a peak load of 75GW and provided 76GW or 1.5%.

              1. s2bu

                Re: The Real Story from Texas

                This happened also in 1988, BEFORE deregulation.

                1. Dave 13

                  Re: The Real Story from Texas

                  And in 1983.

              2. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

                Re: The Real Story from Texas

                Why would you expect anyone in areas where there is no proper winter to “winterise”?

                It is the same as everything in South of England stopping when we have couple inches of snow, which nobody would even notice in countries like Russia.

                There is nothing unique Texan in not be able to deal with unusual for the region weather.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: The Real Story from Texas

                  "Why would you expect anyone in areas where there is no proper winter to “winterise”?"

                  Because after 2011 and 2018 they were specifically told to winterize to avoid this disruption by NERC? And not just gas, nuclear as well. For safety.

                  These are companies that can afford to make these changes but choose not to. For services that most of the population of Texas seem to consider essential. Texas deregulated utility companies so that they wouldn't be subject to federal regulations. Actions - meet consequences.

                  Or are you going down the Tim Boyd "DON'T BE A PART OF THE PROBLEM, BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION!" route?

              3. Jon 37 Silver badge

                Re: The Real Story from Texas

                Isn't Tres Amigos vapourware? I couldn't find any reference to it actually being built, just grand plans.

            8. Schultz
              Stop

              Re: The Real Story from Texas

              You claim, without sources: "It's reported that only 10% of wind turbines are operational." But the sources I can find report different numbers, e.g., here, or here, or here.

              I se what you did there with the "it's been reported" qualifier. But that's a bit like "I think my dog ate the homework". Factually hard to contradict but not very convincing. The rest of your post, including your claimed expertise, loses credibility by association. I think.

          2. s2bu

            Re: Actually, the Texas grid has lots of renewables

            cronyism? sure. Deregulation? no. This is at least the third time this happened, and I know for a fact the first time was before deregulation. I'm not sure about the 2nd time...

            So no, that's not the cause.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Actually, the Texas grid has lots of renewables

              "Deregulation? no"

              NERC/FERC (Electric Reliability Organization (ERO) for North America and Federal Energy Regulatory Commissio) investigated Texas after both 2011's grid failure/load shedding and the 2018 near grid failure.

              Recommendations were made to increase excess capacity margins and winterize equipment because predicted weather patterns indicated this type of event would likely occur more than once every 10 years. As Texas had deregulated, the NERC/FERC recommendations were taken under consideration as there was no immediate consequences that NERC/FERC could issue that wouldn't be overridden at state level.

              But...Texas was on it's own if this type of event happened because they had literally refused to play nicely with others or take the advice of federal regulators.

              But maybe Texans won't notice the cold (or die from it) with that warm blanket of freedom and the inner warmth that comes from showing the Federal government how right they were but the State government are going to keep on doing what they do best - giving Florida competition for most incompetent governance.

        3. Imhotep Silver badge

          A large part of Texas energy is generated by both wind and solar. A number of wind turbines have iced up because they don't have deicers, solar panels have been covered with snow, and even coal fired plants are havingproblems because they are unequipped to handle coal frozen together.

          The big problem is that the infrastructure wasn't designed to handle this type of weather, especially for an extended time.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            The big problem is that the infrastructure wasn't designed to handle this type of weather, especially for an extended time.

            The big problem is the lunatics have taken over the asylume. So Biden was only just talking about Global Warming, and throwing more billions of other people's money at the problem. Happy days for the 'renewables' lobby.

            Biden's advisors may have been face-palming and wanted Joe to use 'Climate Change' instead. They after all may have seen the US NWS or ECMWF forecasts pointing out that the deep freeze was coming. Which is why climate change is preferable. If it's hot, it's global warming, if it's cold, it's global warming. Or in marketing terms 'extreme' (or sometimes 'weird') weather. Even though it's rarely actually extreme at all*.

            So with the right optics, it's win-win, and any kind of weather is bad weather. so hand more billions to the 'renewables' lobby right now! Of course this also requires some people to hold two contradictory views at the same time. Not a problem for Joe, most of the time he doesn't know where he is, just what's on his autocue.

            So here's the deal. Climate scientists tell us global warming means more extreme weather. Despite the 'expert' predictions of extreme weather, we're told we must build energy policy around generation that's most vulnerable to extreme weather. So Texas (and other parts of the US) are both clear evidence of extreme global warming, and expert-lead energy policy. So build more windmills please! What do you mean you can't send the order? Your power's out? Have you tried blowing on your windmill?

            AOC rather neatly sums up this problem by tweeting that the lack of electricity production by Texas windmills can simply be solved by building more windmills. Oh, and it's the governor's fault, because he's Republican!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "Despite the 'expert' predictions of extreme weather, we're told we must build energy policy around generation that's most vulnerable to extreme weather"

              Can you clarify which energy generation you are referring too? Would it be the wind turbines/gas-fired CCGT/nuclear options? Because all three were impacted by the weather which suggests a larger issue than just

              And as for the push for wind turbines and solar? While climate change is part of it, it was made as a quick and easy fix to summer peak load situations. ERCOT has been running too close to operating capacity for some time and were asked to increase capacity margins from the 9% they were running at to 13.5% to allow for demand surges during summer. Gas/Nuclear required more lead time to build.

              But sure, it's all a conspiracy by the climate scientists to make Texans lives miserable. Just ignore the utility companies profiting - that's totally unrelated to this discussion.

              1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                Can you clarify which energy generation you are referring too? Would it be the wind turbines/gas-fired CCGT/nuclear options? Because all three were impacted by the weather which suggests a larger issue than just

                Well, in this case, all of them really. But mostly wind/solar given they're the most vulnerable. Wind because of intermittency & unreliability in 'extreme' weather, and solar's obviously useless when it's dark or the panels are under ice/snow. Then it's waiting for RCA and more detail into what went wrong, which seems to be a combination of the low temperatures leading to demand surges & supply reductions, and a cascading failure.

                ERCOT has been running too close to operating capacity for some time and were asked to increase capacity margins from the 9% they were running at to 13.5% to allow for demand surges during summer. Gas/Nuclear required more lead time to build.

                Sure. Most countries have the same problem. Thermal gets endless objections from environmental protestors leading to long & expensive planning delays. But ERCOT is still responsible for Texan's grid Reliability, along with the Texas PUC. Who get subjected to relentless dis/misinformation from the 'renewables' lobby.

                But you highlight the issue. Capacity margin is the amount of generation capacity over and above 'normal' peak demand to deal with expected/unexpected outages at generating sites. So cribbing from Wiki-

                In 2019, Texas had a total summer capacity of 125,117 MW through all of its power plants, and a net generation of 483,201 GWh.[2] The corresponding electrical energy generation mix was 53.5% natural gas, 19.0% coal, 17.3% wind, 8.6% nuclear, 0.9% solar, 0.3% hydroelectric, 0.3% biomass, and 0.1% other sources.

                So 125GW capacity, lost 35GW and missed it's margin calls completely. GWh is mostly irrelevant, other than doing a quick & dirty efficiency calc. So-

                125GW x 8760h = 1,095,000GWh theoretical max, if capacity can be utilised 100%.

                But 2019 it only achieved 50%. Ok, so actual demand is variable, so you wouldn't want/expect to be running all capacity flat out all year, just your baseload. But coal is being phased out due to politics, as will gas. Ban those dirty fossil fuels. Wind has been massively boosted, but is intermittent, unreliable and does nothing to improve capacity margins, it does pretty much the exact opposite.

                So assuming wind capacity's calculated based on the dishonest 'nameplate' metric, wind was 17.3% of the Texan fleet, or a potential 21.25GW. But if, nameplate, it'll never deliver that & borrowing from Iowa's data, assuming a 30% capacity factor, only 6.3GW average over the year. Sometimes it'll be more, sometimes less, but all based on the prevailing weather conditions, not demand. Not even AOC can make the wind blow on demand, although she does generate a lot of hot air & bluster.

                So because wind is fickle & variable, it does nothing to boost capacity margins. No amount of new windmills will help, if the wind isn't blowing when you need energy. So that means as windmills get added, ERCOT would also need to add more load following, peaker or just rapidly despatchable generation to cope with variability. So worst-case, if 21.25GW wind, also add 21GW of CCGT gas as stand-by or margin capacity, if the entirety of Texas is in the doldrums and there's no wind.

                Basically the more 'renewables' you add, the less reliable your grid and the less certain any margin. Politics also plays a part, ie subsidies/regulations about who gets priority access to flog energy. In the UK that's wind, so they get to sell first. Unless supply > demand, in which case they're bunged even more money under 'constraint' payments to not deliver.

                Which is pretty insane economics and turns normal supply/demand on it's head. Not to mention cost, ie from an business/residential consumer POV, you'd want the cheapest energy first for lowest cost energy, not the most expensive. And you certainly wouldn't want to be forced to pay a producer for their product when there's no demand. Yet at least in the UK, that's pretty much exactly how it works. Which of course distorts the market, ie ROI on building new reliable generating capacity gets harder, if you're heavily restricted on what you can produce/sell.

                And then of course there's the ecofreaks. So because of 'renewables', we need to 'invest' in a lot of stand-by capacity for when their product can't deliver. Which often means OCGT/CCGT gas, but the ecofreaks want to ban all fossil fuels and shut down the petrochemicals industry.. So how, then, do ERCOT or equivalent bodies solve the problem of 'renewables' intermittency/unreliability? Answer's often add huge fields of batteries. They have batteries in their phones and laptops (products of the petrochemical industry), so use batteries! Simple! Make it so! And shut down coal/gas/nuclear while you're at it.

                Which just ignores any cost issues. Like how many batteries you'd need to provide 35GW of power for 1 week, or longer. Just gloss over the cost, we're saving the planet! And gloss over safety issues, ie fire/explosion/HF production. And gloss over charging/discharging (in)efficiences. Or as one wag put it, with Texas spot electricity hitting a $9000 level, then charging a Tesla at that rate would cost roughly $900. But EVs are the future, just ask Henrietta Ford about those..

                But sure, it's all a conspiracy by the climate scientists to make Texans lives miserable. Just ignore the utility companies profiting - that's totally unrelated to this discussion.

                Making everyone's lives miserable really. Take for example one James Hansen, (in)famous climate 'scientist' famous for his 1988 Congressional 'testimony' that scared a bunch of gullible politicians into taking the wrong actions. Testimony based on part on (very) simple model/projection showing the relationship between CO2 and temperature. Which had been proven comprehensively wrong by 2000 because it grossly overestimated actual CO2 sensitivity. But was also responsible for similarly inaccurate NASA GISS predictions. But I digress..

                As of 2014, Hansen directs the Program on Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions at Columbia University's Earth Institute.[13] The program is working to continue to "connect the dots" from advancing basic climate science to promoting public awareness to advocating policy actions.

                So switched from studying the climate of Venus to making dire predictions about the climate of Gavin.. I mean Earth, and now into full-time climate advocacy, or propaganda. Why would a climate 'scientist', who may be an expert on say, atmospheric physics be assumed credible when it comes to advocating policy? Scientists should scope the problem. If CO2 levels increase, then Thermageddon by 2020. Then engineers, or other subject matter experts should define the solutions.

                But not 'scientists' like Hansen. The UK set a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 30%. The UK had a bunch of very old coal power stations. E.On proposed replacing old with new-

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingsnorth_power_station#Proposed_replacement

                As a replacement for the four old Kingsnorth units, in October 2006 E.ON proposed the construction of two new coal-fired units, Kingsnorth Units 5 and 6. They had proposed constructing two new 800 MW supercritical coal-fired power units on the site, to be operational "as early as 2012".[14] E.ON expected the supercritical units to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per unit of electricity by around 20%, as compared to the former subcritical plant.

                But that was unacceptable to the ecofreaks, so Hansen was flown in at (Greenpeace?) expense to lobby against the proposal. Even though modern coal plants would reduce CO2 production. But his activism was successful, and the Kingsnorth site was since shut down & demolished, costing jobs, consumers, and all because he's a f'ng idiot.

                But a rich idiot. Like many of his climate 'activist' fellow travellers.

                Just ignore the utility companies profiting - that's totally unrelated to this discussion.

                Nope, that's like the frog & the scorpion. If you dangle the prospect of huge profits to utilities by rigging the energy market based on disproven testimony from the likes of Hansen et al, then they'll take the money. Huge profits are/were pretty much guaranteed for 25yrs & baked into contracts and legislation. The real problem is because of those huge profits, there's huge lobbying, and huge cash in the form of adivsory or consultancy gigs that turn scientists into activists.

                (and one of the good things Bill Gates is doing is developing & promoting SMRs (Small, Modular Reactors that are cheaper & faster to implement than classic 1GW+ units. But being nuclear, and pretty much zero carbon, and renewable/recyclable, the ecofreaks object. Because nuclear.)

                1. Schultz
                  Go

                  @ Jellied Eel

                  There is one on which I can agree with you: there is a lot of hot air and profiteering going on in the energy supply market. But that is the case with and without renewables -- it's a captive market that requires regulation.

                  Where you completely loose the point is in the discussion of climate change. Neither Hansen nor any other of the countless scientists advocating for reducing CO2 emissions aim to make life miserable. They are honestly worried about the changing climate. And the physics behind climate change is not contested by anyone understanding the issue. If you spend a little time reading about it, you might understand the physical principles yourself -- it's not rocket science. It's a simple sum of sun radiation absorbed by earth minus heat radiation emitted from earth. If absorption exceeds emission, then the earth will heat until the heat emission increases accordingly. The particular absorption properties of CO2 mean that it transmits visible and near-IR through the atmosphere (lots of radiation from the sun), but absorbs the far IR radiation that the earth surface emits. So that IR radiation spends more time in the atmosphere, heating up the climate. This was predicted far back (maybe in the 1930s), before there was any meaningful data on the global temperature variations. Now we have a lot of actual data showing the warming trend. Those scientists are serious, they collect solid data and they won't collect a million dollar bonus if they can just spin their data the right way.

                  And I don't understand why people focus so much on AOC. Do you desperately need an enemy onto which to project every evil you can imagine? Respect that she is a successful politician, working for what she believes is right. Argue about the issues, don't hate people!

          2. IceC0ld

            yet, Alaska, home of the the odd visit by the sun IS still functioning well, its windmills are still spinning, its power generation taking it all in its stride

            Texas has cut corners to provide a few wealthy people with more profits

            Texas may be cold, but the reality is that it only took a couple of INCHES of snow to SNAFU it all

            I mean, even the UK can keep on running in that ..............

            Texas has had to curtail its nuclear generation as the cooling water is frozen too .............

            when it comes to CRITICAL infrastructure it HAS to be constructed to allow for the 100 year storm, the once in a lifetime / million to one event

            ESPECIALLY with nukes, you don't play games with the big kettles ffs

            1. Jon 37 Silver badge

              Unfortunately, when it comes to PRIVATELY-OWNED critical infrastructure it IS constructed to maximize profit; that means a power plant has to be able to survive the cold without expensive damage, but it does not mean it has to keep working during the cold. It will only get designed to work in the cold if the cost of doing that is less than the expected profit (or avoided loss) during the cold spell, times the expected number of times that cold spells will occur during the lifetime of the plant, plus a profit margin.

              The only way to avoid that is if it is made a regulatory requirement, or if the customer (the power grid) decides to pay extra to power plants that are designed to work in the cold.

              (As an example of a power grid paying for unprofitable just-in-case measures: The UK power grid pays for some UK power stations to have "black start" capability, i.e. the ability to start up on their own without any external power. E.g. that pays for testing and maintaining small diesel generators that can provide enough power to start up the main power station generators, etc. The "black start" power stations can then supply enough power to allow the other power stations to start up. That will be really important if there is ever a major problem that takes down the entire UK power grid, but unless that happens it's just a cost, so there is no way the power plant operators would pay for it).

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                "The only way to avoid that is if it is made a regulatory requirement, or if the customer (the power grid) decides to pay extra to power plants that are designed to work in the cold."

                Which Texas had until 2001 when they choose to deregulate to reduce the cost of power to end users and give repressed Texas utility owners freedom from federal regulatory overlords.

                Judge the results for yourself:

                https://www.statista.com/statistics/188343/average-retail-price-for-electricity-by-sector-in-texas-since-1998/

          3. DS999 Silver badge

            That's a right wing lie

            According to ERCOT only 14% of their reduction in supply is due to wind turbines that stopped operation, but leave it to Fox News et al to never miss an opportunity to tilt against windmills.

            Even that 14% is just because some of the turbine owners were cheapskates who saved money by not having them built to operate properly in cold temperatures. Iowa, which has much more severe winter weather than Texas, generates over 1/3 of its electricity from wind (the highest percentage in the US) and its wind turbines operate just as well in winter as they do in the summer.

            Basically the same penny wise pound foolish attitude that led to sensors freezing up causing natural gas, coal and nuclear plants to also shut down. Spending a little extra like northern states do would winterize them, but saving a few pennies on the fossil fuel/nuclear stuff accounts for 86% of lost supply but no one is saying "natural gas plants aren't appropriate for Texas" like they are trying to claim with wind.

            That's what happens when you try to completely deregulate energy as Texas has - everyone takes a short term view and who cares if once a decade cold snaps cause rolling blackouts. And to think Texas politicians were pointing fingers and laughing at California's rolling blackouts not so long ago, karma is a bitch!

            1. Adelio Silver badge

              Re: That's a right wing lie

              Isn't that the case for all businesses, without regulation they will ALWAYS work for the least cost approach. Profit is king. The customers are irrelevant.

              Thats why regulation is ALWAYS needed for essential industries. Gas, Electricity, water, internet etc.

              Leave companies to their own devices and you get the disater that is American internet availability. Decaying infrastructure, companies that take billions of $ subsidies for providing imporved cable that actually just keep the money in their pockets.

              1. TomG

                Re: That's a right wing lie

                You do realize that without customers there is no profit. What is needed is more competition which requires different kinds of regulations, regulations that stimulate innovation and investment.

            2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: That's a right wing lie

              According to ERCOT only 14% of their reduction in supply is due to wind turbines that stopped operation, but leave it to Fox News et al to never miss an opportunity to tilt against windmills.

              Well, they would say that, wouldn't they? After all, ERCOT stands for Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

              R, err. bad optics on that one. Chance for Texans to keep asking ERCOT execs what R stands for again? If Texas lawyers aren't asking them, perhaps their PUC will, least it become a circular firing squad over who takes the blame.

              But the 14% claim is both disingenous and dishonest. It's true that much of the disruption was due to problems with gas, coal & nuclear but also due to cascading failures due to electricity failing.. No power, kinda hard to keep the gas supplies running, so no gas to generate electricity, and it's all a slippery slope downhill from there. So reduction in supply should be accounted for by share of generating mix. One 3.2GW nuclear site going offline is obviously going to have more impact on total supply reduction than 1x5MW windmill.. But there are a lot of windmills in Texas, and not many were operational.

              Again that's one of those fundamental disadvantages, especially when you end up with freezing conditions and no wind, which are quite common in Europe with winter freezes due to high pressure 'stalling' over large parts of it.. As happened not long ago, and why electricity consumers are now looking forward to yet more price increases thanks to 'high wholesale energy costs'. Which is just basic supply & demand. Demand spikes, no wind, no electricity, prices increase.

            3. s2bu

              Re: That's a right wing lie

              No. Renewables make up 14% of the total load NORMALLY, but out of the capacity that is currently missing, it is 39%. Sure, 39% isn't the majority, but it also isn't insignificant.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: That's a right wing lie

                Renewables make up 14% of annual load with it peaking during summer (the traditional peak load period) and being significantly lower in winter.

                On the gas front, we have an expectation of around 60MW/80% of winter capacity that suddenly dropped by 30MW.

                If you were going to blame one of those two power sources with the intention of preventing future issues, which would it be?

                1. s2bu

                  Re: That's a right wing lie

                  Obviously you're having difficulty reading what I said. I didn't place any blame on renewables, I'm just saying that they had a major impact also.

                  Sure, the wind turbines could have been winterized and the panels could have been heated or cleaned or something to prevent this. So like I said, I'm not placing blame. Please re-read what I said.

          4. bombastic bob Silver badge
            Trollface

            they are unequipped to handle coal frozen together.

            Prison chain gangs with sledge hammers oughta do it...

            At least coal and oil and gas plants will have higher efficiency (see Carnot efficiency and 2nd law of thermodynamics) once up and running.

            What I'd like to know: where did all the NUKE plants go???

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              What I'd like to know: where did all the NUKE plants go???

              Only one unit was down, apparently due to a turbine issue. Possibly due to said turbine being in an outdoor turbine hall. NRC doesn't seem to have any more detail yet, but I guess a simple fix would be 'Build roof'. Not like nuclear plants are usually short on heat to keep things warm after all.

      2. Potemkine! Silver badge

        Ever heard of the Gulf Stream, and why European and North American climates cannot be compared for the same latitudes?

        This kind of events happen in Southern Europe too, and this doesn't result in electricity shortage. Probably because those damn' communist shitholes invested in their infrastructure and share their means among countries..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Perhaps it's the one time the Spanish are thankful their electricity is reassuringly expensive (especially if you take average wages into account)?

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "They regularly have summer temperatures over 38 degrees C, and had one period of 30 straight days of high temperatures over 38 degrees"

        Did that also cause power cuts or brownouts as people reached for the aircon power switched and turned them on full?

        It does seem a little odd that Texas has no interconnects outside of Texas. Or is that fairly normal in US states? Do they still have isolated grids in many areas?

        1. jilocasin
          Meh

          Yes it's unusual.

          Yes it's very odd. Texas is the only state on it's own grid. The rest of the continental United States is divided into two semi national grids. Texas didn't want to fall under federal jurisdiction, specifically that of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

          1. RM Myers Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Yes it's unusual.

            When my son lived in Texas, he always claimed that many of the citizens considered Texas to be a country, not a state. I can't personally confirm that, since my time in Texas consisted of one winter in San Antonio going through medic training, with almost no time off base.

            1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

              Re: Yes it's unusual.

              There is a degree of Texas pride that exceeds what you find almost anywhere else in the country for the last couple of generations or so. It's part of Texas culture to talk as if Texas was one vote short of setting up an independent nation tomorrow, but that's "just whistling Dixie". In truth, Texans have a history of being at least as patriotic towards the Union as others--arguably more so. See Rumor of a War for an example. I spent twenty-two years there, and I NEVER saw a Texas flag without a US flag accompanying it. (If you're careful, you'll note I slipped a Texican phrasing in there...) (Note: Mudflaps & the like are not flags...)

              1. Brad Ackerman
                Mushroom

                Re: Yes it's unusual.

                Congress should take the secessionists seriously and hand them a quote for relocating Pantex (just to start).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "It does seem a little odd that Texas has no interconnects outside of Texas. Or is that fairly normal in US states? Do they still have isolated grids in many areas?"

          There are four grids in the US - Eastern/Western/ERCOT (part of Texas only)/Alaska with Texas creating theirs by choice while the others are the result of geography. And its worth mentioning that El Paso, the upper Panhandle and a chunk of East Texas aren't on ERCOT so have not experienced power issues.

          Texas does have interconnects - most notably Tres Amigas providing 5GW to each leg (Eastern/Westerern/ERCOT) and the Texas Interconnection providing 1.1GW to the Eastern interconnect on the US side and connectivity to Mexico.

        3. TomG

          Texas does have interconnects. It is just that the grids to which Texas is connected are having their problems also.

      4. Gary Stewart

        It was 1980 and it was 42 consecutive days above 38 deg. C. Dallas set a record high for itself at 45 deg. C. I know, I was there.

      5. teknopaul Silver badge

        Some photos of Cairo in the snow

        https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/sheerafrenkel/its-snowing-in-cairo-for-the-first-time-in-112-years

        Unprecedented: except when it's not.

      6. cosmodrome

        It's not just latitude that matters

        North Africa and Texas are completely different climate zones. There's the gulf stream, the atlantic ocean and two continents between them.

      7. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        You do realize that the latitude of Austin Texas is lower than any point in Europe, I assume.

        And Moscow is on almost exactly the same latitude as Berwick-up-Tweed. Latitude is only one factor influencing climate: Texas is so big that it has eight different climate types: see https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2d/Texas_K%C3%B6ppen.svg

      8. rcxb Silver badge

        I seriously doubt any subtropic climate areas could handle these temperatures and the ice storms

        I can assure you, the entire Southern US could handle it, including areas with even more favorable temperatures. Just not Texas.

        Texas insists on having "a completely independent [electric grid] unable to borrow power from other states," as the article mentions. Other areas of the US would just have to adjust their supply mix as needed. Perhaps requesting customers try to conserve wherever possible, but nothing remotely like Texas is putting its citizens through right now.

      9. frampton

        The generating assets in Texas CAN be winterized and should be.

        Ask the people freezing in their houses if they would have minded paying a few dollars a month more over the years to avoid what they're going through now. Bet they'd say yes.

        We allegedly live in a developed country.

      10. Ghostman
        Flame

        having already gone through the comments, I'd like to address the one issue that many of the posters forget. The majority of Texas never-ever see snow or temperatures in the freezing range (32 F), and some parts have only seen freezing temps or snow in over a century.

        There hasn't been a need for snowplows or the type of "winterizing" that some of you suggest was needed. Granted, they now wish it had been done, but it's been said hindsight is 20/20 and cooda/shooda is not helping anyone.

        Calling this "climate change" is a fools errand since it was caused by a polar vortex that pushed father south than usual, one of those once in a century events.

        Central Texas is where migratory birds go to winter since it basically stays warm there and the birds have a better chance of survival. If it stayed cold there, why would they fly all that distance to keep warm? Right now, my bird feeder empties twice a week with the influx of birds coming East to get away from the path of the polar vortex (I live in Byron, Ga. 998 miles East of San Antonio). I see groups of birds not normally seen this far East clustered around my feeders.

        If you are so concerned about the people in Texas, come over with firewood, generators, propane tanks and heaters, mops, sponges, squeegees, and plenty of extra warm clothes (dry socks and underwear would be nice). If you can't come, donate to an organization that can help.

        Icon because some in Texas would love to have fire to keep warm.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The right has been riding the "take down big government" meme for years, here is one result, crumbling infrastructure and huge power blackouts are now a regular feature of the U.S landscape.

  2. Adelio Silver badge

    Power Grid

    "The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), is one of three power grids in the USA and is a completely independent system unable to borrow power from other states"

    What a disjointed mess, typical American do nothing to avoid spending money.

    There was a proposal to join all the grids together to avoid this very thing but it required companies to spend. Why spend when they can pay dividends instead and watch Rome (texas) burn.

    Here in the UK we can and do share a grid with France.

    1. John Riddoch
      FAIL

      Re: Power Grid

      There's also the factor of independence from federal control & regulation, apparently decided in the 1930s. I'm assuming decisions in the intervening 80-odd years have been taken to keep it like that, partly out of independence and partly out of money as you suggest.

    2. Andre Carneiro

      Re: Power Grid

      France and Belgium and Ireland and (soon, I think) Norway... There's pretty much a pan-European grid.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Power Grid

        Though we share via DC so the grids aren't actually synced, which means that at least a while ago the European grid had been running "slow" for a while, so clocks using the (usually very accurate) 50Hz mains as their clock signal were a few seconds out on the continent.

        One grid it isn't, however trading in each direction is (at the moment).

        1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

          Re: Power Grid

          > their clock signal were a few seconds out on the continent.

          It was a few minutes. Afterwards they did run slightly faster than 50 Hz so clocks slowly re-gained those minutes.

      2. Arctic fox
        Headmaster

        @Andre Carneiro Re: (soon, I think) Norway...

        Norway is already at least part way there due to their integration into Nord Pool (the Scandinavian grid/energy market with Sweden, Denmark and Finland).

        https://www.regjeringen.no/en/topics/energy/the-electricity-grid/the-power-market-and-prices/id2076000/

        "Following the liberalisation of the energy legislation in the other Nordic countries, the Nord Pool Spot power exchange was established in 1996. This was the first power exchange in the world where power could be traded across borders. Today, Norway is part of a joint Nordic power market with Sweden, Denmark and Finland, and this is in turn integrated into the European power market through interconnectors to Germany, the Netherlands, Estonia, Poland and Russia."

    3. grizewald

      Re: Power Grid

      Actually, all of Europe is one grid with all the generators synchronised to the same sine wave.

      1. TWB

        Re: Power Grid

        I cannot tell if your tongue is in your cheek, but IIRC our connection to France is DC* - I don't think we are synchronised - but maybe this has changed recently.

        *Yeah I know it could be pure rectified AC and we could lock to that etc etc...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Power Grid

          All UK interconnects are DC, so there is no synchronization with Europe.

          There was a problem in Europe recently when two "ends" went far enough out of sync for them to disconnect, nearly leading to a major blackout - https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-01-27/green-shift-brings-blackout-risk-to-world-s-biggest-power-grid

      2. cawfee

        Re: Power Grid

        There's actually a great Tom Scott video about this:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bij-JjzCa7o

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Interesting link. Thanks for that.

        2. MOV r0,r0

          Re: Power Grid

          The UK grid frequency constantly drifts but there is a legal requirement to monitor and correct back to a 50.000Hz average. For example at the time of writing it appears to be at 49.903Hz

          The video is just some bloke who thinks he knows a bit more than most banging on about something he's not properly researched. Still - anything for views, right?

          1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

            Re: Power Grid

            The grid frequency is a measure of the load vs capacity. If load and capacity are matched then it's 50Hz (UK). If there's not enough capacity then the frequency drops, and if there's too much capacity the frequency increases. It's like riding a fixed-gear bike - when you have to put more effort in - e.g. going up hill, the pedalling rate drops until you work harder to get back into your rhythm. The grid monitors the frequency and adjusts capacity and load to keep it at 50Hz.

            I remember the power cuts during the miners' strike in the early 70s. Because the power was only only on for half the day they had to run the generators at higher frequency to meet the requirement of 50Hz averaged over 24h. As a result our telly slipped constantly because the frame synch was locked to the mains frequency and it was way outside the adjustment capacity of the vertical slip control. Mains powered clocks were right once a day, when they'd caught up, but unreliable at any other time. I'm not sure if still a legal requirement in the same sense that it was in the 70s.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Power Grid

              Many years ago we had a conducted tour of our local UK power station control room. They explained that they used TV schedules (only three channels then) to gauge when to step up generation power in anticipation of demand spikes. The popular soap Coronation Street was particularly responsible for sudden surges as people switched on their kettles.

    4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Power Grid

      France is selling power to basically every country it has borders with, plus the UK.

      Germany, who has the heavy anti-nuclear lobby, readily buys part of its electricity from France's nuclear power stations.

      Even better, Luxembourg buys its power from Germany so as to say that it doesn't use nuclear power.

      We're going to have to face the fact that nuclear is the only future of power generation. Preferably with thorium reactors, and fusion the day we get there.

      1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

        Re: Power Grid

        > Germany, who has the heavy anti-nuclear lobby, readily buys part of its electricity from France's nuclear power stations.

        Except one winter when it was really cold and they had to shut down their reactors (need water to cool, ice does not work). Germany sold energy to France.

        Btw. last time I looked Germany was a net exporter of energy.

        1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: Power Grid

          last time I looked Germany was a net exporter of energy

          Despite which, Germany is causing international tensions by arranging to pipe in gas direct from Russia.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @Kubla Cant - Re: Power Grid

            Germany is wise and pragmatic because natural gas is not only used to produce energy. I'm not going to waste space on this website trying to educate you, use Google instead.

            And if international tensions means US troups leaving Germany, good riddance. German army is more than capable of defending the country and allies around.

            1. IceC0ld

              Re: @Kubla Cant - Power Grid

              the German armed forces are a crock ffs

              the available numbers of Leopard tanks are in the single digits, their air force is in dire straits too, they have retention / recruitment issues that just help to make the whole mess ridiculous, they were supposed to spend 2% of GDP on defence, but since WWII they have spent their money on making more money, and the forces have seriously declined

              they ARE trying to up the spend, but the basic setup of the Govt is not necessarily pro defence

              and we thought UK had problems, at least we try ................

          2. cosmodrome

            Re: Power Grid

            Germany has already been piping gas from Russia since the 1980. Nord Stream 2 is just a new pipeline that will be a lot shorter.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Power Grid

          "Btw. last time I looked Germany was a net exporter of energy."

          You're right, but it's falling, fast.

          "Power exports by Europe’s biggest economy, which shares borders with nine countries, fell 11.6% to 52.5 TWh last year compared with 59.4 TWh in 2019, the energy regulator, called the Bundesnetzagentur, said in a publication on Saturday.

          Meanwhile, electricity imports into Germany in 2020 increased by 38.8% to 33.6 TWh, compared with 24.2 TWh in the prior year.

          Cross-border trade is especially strong with France, which still bets on nuclear power - shunned in Germany for safety concerns which resulted in its plan for a scheduled withdrawal"

          https://www.reuters.com/article/germany-electricity-statistics-idUKL8N2JF16X

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Power Grid

            Meanwhile, electricity imports into Germany in 2020 increased by 38.8% to 33.6 TWh, compared with 24.2 TWh in the prior year.

            TWh claims can be very misleading. So-

            https://gridwatch.co.uk/Wind

            minimum: 1.21 GW maximum: 13.872 GW average: 6.559 GW

            For January, vs demand-

            minimum: 23.57 GW maximum: 47.02 GW average: 34.922 GW

            So if demand is 47GW, but wind is 1.2GW, something else needs to take up the slack or the grid has a bad minute/hour/day. W is power, Wh is energy, or power over time. Having some energy for some part of that Wh doesn't help, if you want those Watts now.

            Which is also one of those challenges with EV adoption. Or just what happens when a couple of million people turn on their kettles or jump in their electric showers together*, or get home from work and plug their cars in. Also why plans to reduce power for things like kettles are proposed by idiots. All things being equal, a 2kW kettle will just take longer to boil than a 3kW, but both will use pretty much the same amount of energy. Won't stop politicians trying to change the laws of thermodynamics to 'save energy' though**.

            *I don't mean everyone jumping in just the one shower, although I guess that could be fun.

            **Telling them they could boil their kettle simply by lowering the pressure will probably confuse most of them however.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Power Grid

          "Btw. last time I looked Germany was a net exporter of energy."

          Maybe a net exporter of electricity, but not of energy - ~64% of total energy used was imported in 2018 and I can't find more recent statistics but they are likely to have increased with the increase in Russian gas imports as German and other European reservoirs are depleted.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Power Grid

        "Germany, who has the heavy anti-nuclear lobby, readily buys part of its electricity from France's nuclear power stations."

        Germany also buys from Poland thanks to the greens getting the nukes shutdown. Poland still uses a lot of "brown" coal, some of the dirtiest power generation you can get. Great for the greens :-)

        1. vilemeister

          Re: Power Grid

          The absolutely massive wasteland caused by surface mining in western Germany had 1 train a day leaving before Germany shut down its nuclear generation capacity. Now it has ~6-7 trains a day leaving, all full of lovely coal to burn.

          All caused by a Japanese earthquake and Tsunami, of course Germany is well known for having a long coastline and being geologically unstable.

      3. cosmodrome
        Mushroom

        Re: Power Grid

        Yes. I'll agree. The very day we get to have power from fusion reactors.

    5. conel

      Re: Power Grid

      There are grid interconnectors between the UK and Ireland/ France. This is *very* different to a common grid, if you don't realise this then think twice about offering advice.

    6. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Power Grid

      Disappointed it's not the Electric Power Council of Texas... which would be EPCOT... but that's an acronym already taken by another Mickey Mouse organisation.

      1. IceC0ld

        Re: Power Grid

        OOOOOH there HAS to be room here for a TITSUP surely :o)

        T - exas

        I - n

        T - he

        S - hitter

        U - seless

        P - owerplants

        maybe :o)

    7. HausWolf

      Re: Power Grid

      This is a Texas thing, they wanted to be independent with all the good but none of bad that goes with it. You really have to get into the Texas mindset to understand it. And being rabid republicans, I'm sure they will just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and somehow blame those damn libruls

      1. Fortycoats

        Re: Power Grid

        Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, they're doing exactly that:

        https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/feb/17/conservatives-falsely-blame-renewables-for-texas-storm-outages

      2. MyffyW Silver badge

        Re: Power Grid

        As a Texan friend once remarked - "I ain't found no problem can't be solved by kicking ass..."

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00y3gV0dJow

    8. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Power Grid

      "Here in the UK we can and do share a grid with France."

      And other countries. We have a number of interconnects across the Irish Sea and the North Sea.

    9. Kibble 2

      Re: Power Grid

      Sorry, Adelio, but they worked very hard to create their separate state-wide grid. Now the lone star state is reaping what it has sown. Texas still produces a great deal of oil and natural gas which it uses to power non-nuclear electrical plants (Apparently there are two operational there.)

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Power Grid

        Now the lone star state is reaping what it has sown.

        Also importing electricity from Mexico. But having interconnection to neighboring states is a good news/bad news thing. The good news would be in milder times, being able to flog power to California and other states that charged down the 'renewables' route without thinking things through. The bad news would be assuming that things would be much different given importing electricty rather assumes someone has a surplus to export. Given the current weather event is not unique to Texas, and nor are blackouts, the problem is still mostly one of the wrong energy policy & believing the lies told by the 'renewables' lobby. And when I checked last night, although forecasts are warmer weather in Texas, there was more cold inbound to from the East.

        It's much the same in EUroland. Energy policy has been great for the 'renewables' lobby, France, and has probably helped EDF avoid bankrupty. But bad news for pretty much everyone else because when there are shortages & high demand around Europe, prices rocket, and electricity bills rise.

        Those used to get blamed regularly on 'rising global oil prices', but never reduced once prices for both oil & gas fell. The reall answer is of course paying for the 'Green crap', which in the UK accounts for nearly 25% of residential electricity bills. For some odd reason, any time anyone suggests those charges get itemised, the 'renewables' lobby objects. Can't think why.

  3. CrackedNoggin Bronze badge

    Borrow the old Indian strategy of self sufficiency, where manufacturing plants all have their own power supplies because of the unreliable grid.

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Diesel tends to gel/freeze at very low temperatures so the generators might not work.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        I has to get mighty cold for that to happen these days.

        My diesel car was still running in the -25°C temperatures we had last week. It was a little rattly when starting up, but soon started running normally.

        1. Snake Silver badge

          Re: diesel car

          Your diesel car continued to run at that temperature because fuel companies treat their fuel for child weather in areas that require it, when the season requires it. In other words, your diesel is treated with anti-gel before it entered your fuel tank.

          This may not occur in districts like Texas, as the entire problem is caused by their belief that cold weather never affects then, and therefore there was no cold weather preparation. They would need to prepare for cold weather systemically, even their stationary diesel fuel supplies would need to be properly treated, and from this event we see that can't be guaranteed.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: diesel car

            The point being, the companies knew the cold spell was coming, maybe not as dramatic as it turned out to be, but they had warning. They could have ensured their diesel was "winter ready".

            Every year, we get a couple of cold days (0 to -5°C) and maybe a few icy days and a couple of days of snow. But we (a majority of German drivers) drive around from October to March with winter tyres (or all season tyres) on "just in case". We don't know if we'll need them, but we are prepared for the worst.

            Surely ensuring the diesel in winter ready is part of the disaster planning for these companies? If not, I hope it is for next time they get a proper winter.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: diesel car

              "Surely ensuring the diesel in winter ready is part of the disaster planning for these companies? If not, I hope it is for next time they get a proper winter."

              Disaster planning and actual preparedness, costs money. Unless it's mandated in law, eg having insurance, no one is going to spend money on something they can blame the gummint for. Especially if their competitors won't spend the money either, so if you do it's hits your bottom line and your share price drops. It'll never happen here, this is TEXAS!!!111!1

              1. NorthIowan

                Re: ensuring the diesel in winter ready

                Some years it gets cold sooner than expected. Or there are newbie truck drivers from the southern US who don't know to not bring a full tank of "southern" diesel up north in a cold spell. Then their semi-trucks come to a stop when the fuel jells.

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: ensuring the diesel in winter ready

                  Yeah, I've seen some of those reality documentaries of truck recovery in Canada. Even there, people forget to put snow chains on or don't have any, or don't know how to put them on. In a country where snow is guaranteed! Even here in the UK, where I am, snow is relatively rare, and rarely for more than a week, but frequently the place comes to a standstill due to a light dusting of the white stuff. Worse, you get people who have been driving for 4-5 years and have never had to drive in snow so go really, really, reeeeaaaly slow,

                  I can see why Texas is having major issues. I used to have a friend in New Orleans. I remember him describing the chaos some years ago when they got a bit of snow too.

              2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                Re: diesel car

                It'll never happen here, this is TEXAS!!!111!1

                But Texas, energy capital of the world! If not the US.

                But once upon a time, Texas deregulated it's energy market. That was 2002, and sadly too late for a little known Texan company by the name of 'Enron'. Which had grand plans (and frauds) thanks to trading in other US markets. Texans may have looked at how Enron gamed California's market and felt.. a little untrusting, unless they were energy traders. Some of which snapped up Enron's energy assets and carried on.

                Then there was/is TXU. Texas's other anwser to Enron. Which took advantage of deregulation, expanded across the world, got raped & pillaged by a combo of KKR, TPG and the vampire squid in a deal to become Energy Future Holdings and/or Luminat & Oncor. Sadly it wasn't to be a bright future (other than for the vultures (not of the El Reg kind)) given that happened in 2007, and by 2014, EFH had gone the way of the Enron.

                A few years later, and several rebrandings, it's kinda chugging along under an umbrella of Vistra Energy. But such are the joys of the free market. None of which really helped increase investment in Texas generation or infrastructure, but was great for lawyers, and of course the vultures. At the time, being a $45bn, heavily leveraged deals, it proved better at generating fees than energy.

            2. spuck

              Re: diesel car

              "I hope it is for next time they get a proper winter"

              The 30 seconds of Googling I did show that the last time it was this cold in Texas was in 1988. I think we can give them a little bit of a pass for not having winterized diesel and snowplows standing by each winter if this happens every 30-35 years.

              The area that I can't understand being unprepared for winter is the eastern seaboard. It seems like every year Washington DC and Boston are surprised that it's snowing again.

              1. robert lindsay
                Mushroom

                Re: diesel car

                Boston is fine. DC is a southern city, and usually only gets about 11" of snow in a entire season, and the last three have had a TOTAL of 4. We are proud of our panic. Now if you'll excuse me, we have 4" coming tommorow and I have to loot the safeway...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: diesel car

            This is true its hard got get diesel in Austin right now.

            Our lot have huge generators twice the capacity needed, but one won't start in the cold and we had to down tools for a few hours because we could not get fuel to keep the other ticking over.

            Pumping fuel was not an option.

            When is so cold diesel doesn't work and you have no electricity to heat engines you have a real problem.

            We need gas heaters on the engines like they have in cold countries, that's hard to retrofit (safely)

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          It depends on whether the diesel is formulated for low temperatures. I remember one of British Snail's worse attempts to get me home one evening. The diesel for the signalling generators has curdled in the cold weather so the Chiltern Line stopped running.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            I remember news footage from the 70s, with HGV drivers lighting fires under the fuel tanks in an attempt to thaw out the diesel, so they could start their engines.

            1. Tom 7 Silver badge

              Was that thawing the diesel or thawing the battery?

              1. big_D Silver badge
      2. John Robson Silver badge

        If only they could use some of the power to heat the fuel tanks...

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Don't need to - just use the low-grade heat from the exhaust or cooling systems...

          1. John Robson Silver badge
            Coat

            I could argue that technically that's some of the power, albeit not some that would otherwise be used.

    2. Andre Carneiro

      Not a clever way of doing it if we're still thinking of transitioning to lower carbon intensity energy sources. Unless you're planning on deploying a small, modular nuclear reactor (apparently there are some in the drawing board)

      1. TimMaher Silver badge
        FAIL

        Wind farms

        Apparently a lot of the Texan wind farms have frozen shut. The turbines are frozen solid.

        1. PhoenixKebab
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Wind farms

          That information appears to vary depending on the political bias of your US news source.

          A lot of cold-weather turbines are equipped with a heating system to prevent freezing. Often just in the housing to keep the bearings working, but can also include warm air circulated inside the blades to prevent ice build-up. I don't know if the turbines in Texas have any of these measures in place.

          Of course this means that in cold and still weather, turbines are a drain on the grid. Probably insignificant when offset against the days they are working optimally.

          1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

            Re: Probably insignificant when offset against the days they are working optimally

            And that is, what, five days per year ?

            1. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

              Re: Probably insignificant when offset against the days they are working optimally

              In Texas? Generally speaking, unless there is a tornado alert, the wind turbines run 24/7.

              In a 7 year career, I have only seen tornado/storm-related plant shutdown. Occasionally you might have a severe lightning storm that takes out a couple of turbines or power lines.

              It's not like Canada...where they use cold-weather turbines that are quite happy operating at -29C.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Probably insignificant when offset against the days they are working optimally

                "In Texas? Generally speaking, unless there is a tornado alert, the wind turbines run 24/7."

                Only if the connection from the wind farm to the nearest substation stays up, and the connections from that sub to the rest of the grid stay up, which they haven't due to ice, wind, and the resulting conductor "galloping" that was occurring over the weekend. Add in loss of OPGW - the ground wire that runs atop the towers and has fiber in the middle for relay protection traffic - and even if the main conductors aren't damaged the lines trip out because the protection systems can't talk to each other. That's just some of what's gone on to take the wind farms offline and force them to lock the blades and get iced. Good news is they were de-icing some of them yesterday afternoon in prep to come back online, and the interconnects and OPGW are being repaired as we speak so more generation will start coming back on line in the next few days. And it's going to be in the 60s and 70s in Texas early next week so soon this will all be a bad memory. (Unless you run ERCOT - your fun is only starting.)

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Probably insignificant when offset against the days they are working optimally

                  Forgot to add that all this repair work is dependent on people actually being able to get to the damage to repair it. We've got a fiber splice crew stuck in a West Texas town right now because they can't get fuel for their trucks. The stations with power have no fuel, and those with fuel have no power. Dependencies...

            2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: Probably insignificant when offset against the days they are working optimally

              And that is, what, five days per year ?

              Texas called in it's National Guard to help it's other services do welfare checks & help transport people to 'warming centres'.

              Thing about the wrong kind of 'global warming' is when it's very cold, and unexpectedly cold, and there's no power to provide heating.. People die. Cold is bad like that.

              Texans are also learning some home truths. Ok, so those with gas, but not electricty have been finding out that their gas heating doesn't work in a power cut. UK folks can try this at home as well by turning off the electricity to their combi-boilers and seeing what happens. Some invested in pellet feeding wood burners. But the pellet feeding part requires power. Ground and air source heat pumps also require electricity. And there's more.

              But basically if you've got something that you think you can rely on to keep you warm, and it has a power cable, then you're going to be SOL. Especially in the UK when gas gets phased out to meet our decarbonisation targets.

              1. Pete B

                Re: Probably insignificant when offset against the days they are working optimally

                And that's why I have my own diesel generator with a week's worth of diesel. As you say Gas C/H won't work without mains, but the current required is laughably small, so you don't need a big genset if you just want to keep the lights and heating on.

                1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

                  Re: Probably insignificant when offset against the days they are working optimally

                  True, but you need the grid power to the gas network's pumps to keep going as well.

                  A major loss of the electric grid is going to utterly screw over any country in no time as practically everything depends on it.

                  1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                    Re: Probably insignificant when offset against the days they are working optimally

                    but you need the grid power to the gas network's pumps to keep going as well

                    Do you? I was once told by someone who used to work on the gas pipes that the two new pumping stations near where I lived at the time were self-powered. That is, that they used some of the gas in the pipes to power a small gas turbine which both pumped the gas and (could) generate power for the control systems. Sort of makes sense, though of course it may not be the same for all pumping stations. They don't half make a racket.

                    As for running the central heating, two points.

                    First, do not try running a boiler on a cheap UPS. At least, not one which has a "normal" circulating pump and fan. They really don't like the "modified sine wave" or "stepped square wave" outputs. I have found that newer heating pumps - the sort that are speed-controlled either internally or externally - seem to work, though I have yet to try one for more than a minute or two. The speed control is basically a switch-mode power supply so is better able to cope with odd inputs. We get more than our fair share of power cuts around here.

                    Secondly, a few winters ago we had a "gas cut", not because the pumps had stopped but because the local regulators had frozen. Gas only came to the village in the 1960s when a chemical plant opened up nearby. The regulators for the village were put in (or near) the gatehouse of the chemical plant. When the plant closed those regulators were not moved. The site was cleared except for the gatehouse which is, of course, now derelict. The "incidental heating" the regulators used to get no longer happens.

                    M.

            3. Kimo

              Re: Probably insignificant when offset against the days they are working optimally

              Out in West Texas, it can get damn cold for weeks at a time. I have seen few things sadder than ducks in Lubbock standing around on a pond waiting for it to thaw.

              1. Danny 2 Silver badge

                Re: Probably insignificant when offset against the days they are working optimally

                Swans frozen in ponds? [Don't rescue them unless their wingtips are in the ice, they can break out using their chest]

                Heart warming to see Texans rescuing thousand of cold-stunned sea turtles.

                Strange still seeing unscientific comments here decrying renewable energy. Here is a cheerier BBC article, plus yet another new form of long term storage.

                I'm amused by the Texan grid 'independence'. I'm for Scottish political independence but I wouldn't want disconnected from other nations electricity grids, quite the reverse. The HVDC link to Norway isn't operational until later this year but it will be a boon.

                According to the analysis, over the 25-year cap and floor regime (a regulation for how much money a developer can earn once the interconnector is in operation) the benefit of the United Kingdom consumers is expected to be around £3.5 billion under the Base case scenario. Once the cable is completed the average domestic consumer bill in the United Kingdom would be around £2 less.

                1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                  Re: Probably insignificant when offset against the days they are working optimally

                  Strange still seeing unscientific comments here decrying renewable energy. Here is a cheerier BBC article, plus yet another new form of long term storage.

                  I think you mean 'cheerleading' BBC, who rarely get anything energy related right. Like Harrabin advocating on behalf of his fellow ecofreaks for stopping a new coal mine. Because coal bad! Ignoring it's to produce coking coal for steel making. Steel good! Steel need carbon! Adding hydrogen to iron or steel, bad!

                  But I digress. Compressed air is nothing new. If you take your Tesla to a garage to get winter tires fitted, you'll probably find mechanics using tools powered by compressed air, not electricity. At least not directly. Behind the scenes, you'll still need that to run compressors. So suck in air, compress it, deal with the heat that generates, store it, release it, feed it into a turbine. All very old tech, but previously ignored by pretty much any sane engineer as being horrendously inefficient and expensive.

                  But on the plus side, the ability to compress air using cheap electricity, then release when it's very high like when it's really cold and there's no wind.. And that part is potentially hugely profitable.

                  But Harrabin wouldn't understand any of that. It's Green, it must be good, ban fossil fuels and nuclear now! His world runs on hot air, why shouldn't the real world?

          2. TimMaher Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: US news source

            Oddly enough @Phoenix it was either Euronews, the Beeb or the Independent.

            Can’t remember which.

        2. aregross

          Re: Wind farms

          My understanding is that the blades themselves became so ice encrusted they weighed too much to move properly and that's not counting the wind resistance. Up here in the midwest the blades have de-icing heaters like you'd see on aircraft. Texas decided that was too costly and would cut into the ROI (read: Dividends)

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: Wind farms

            Also texas decided that they have bascially never seen enough ice to justify that cost...

            And they'd be right, this isn't a common weather phenomenon for them - it's the same reason they don't have snow plows available.

            1. Tom 7 Silver badge

              Re: Wind farms

              This wasnt a common weather phenomenon for them. I'd keep an eye out for a few more of these. Especially when La Nina is about.

        3. HausWolf

          Re: Wind farms

          The turbines were not winterized, there are plenty of turbines in the northern states still working, it is a matter of type of lubricant and maintenance.

          1. Kimo

            Re: Wind farms

            Which wouldn't be as much of a problem if the Texas grid could draw power from the Great Lakes or the Southwest. Texas is a big state with several weather zones, so they seldom have a state-wide problem of this magnitude. They intentionally bet on that when the grid was designed. Once in a while they lose.

    3. Adelio Silver badge

      I guess they would have been coal or oil powered as well

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    SpaceX

    I spotted this days ago after investigating why none of the SpaceX Starship video feeds were working!

    There were over 4M without power at one point yesterday. https://poweroutage.us/area/state/texas shows this is now less than 3M, but it's night time at the moment and may get worse again.

    Not sure why it's taken on long to make the news in the UK.

    1. Andre Carneiro

      Re: SpaceX

      Because it's ALL ABOUT COVID these days...

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: SpaceX

      Maybe it's not usual in Texas, I guess that such cold weather is more unusual in Athens this week compared to Houston area. Although the Greek utilities seem to have managed to keep their power on.

      But in the US, in the 90s, I was in the Bay Area and we used to get regular daytime power cuts from PG&E during the hot months when all the aircon was on. They just accepted it as normal. Has it changed and better now?

      1. Spanners Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: SpaceX

        we used to get regular daytime power cuts

        Was this part of the Enron frauds? I heard a story that they instituted rolling power cuts to increase their profits in some way.

        The fail is because those power cuts were not needed and were just a way of increasing executive bonuses.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: SpaceX

        "the Greek utilities seem to have managed to keep their power on"

        I've lived a couple years in Athens, Greece, and while the summers are very hot, there was at least one day each winter with snow, which in the northern, higher outskirts of Athens didn't melt for a day or two. As for northern Greece (Athens is in the south), there are apparently villages cut off by snow every winter. So yes, the Greeks know snow and ice is a possibility.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: SpaceX

      "Not sure why it's taken on long to make the news in the UK."

      It appeared on the Beeb News site at least two days ago. First I saw was the big pile up on a major road due to ice.

  5. jmch Silver badge

    "Samsung has shortlisted Austin as the location for a new chip plant, and is seeking big tax cuts as it plays off Texas and other states in an effort to find best place to invest"

    Typical bullshit divide-and-conquer that works because there's always at least one (and usually many) idiot that falls for empty corporate promises, just like you always find many idiots ready to fall for empty political promises. That's one of the problems of having tax decided at a municipal/local level.

    1. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo
      Coat

      When the lights go out in the multi-billion chip fab might be the time to think whether avoiding taxes in general and settling in the state with the biggest tax cuts is a good idea after all.

      I mean, if we starve the public sector, can we expect the public sector to function?

      I'll get my coat, it's cold outside.

      1. Spanners Silver badge
        Unhappy

        I mean, if we starve the public sector, can we expect the public sector to function?

        Talk to BoJo about that.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The goal of the GOP may be to starve the public sector, but that's not what those big companies actually want. Those big companies want to get all the benefits of being in an area with a well funded public sector but not to actually have to pay anything towards that public sector themselves. That's why the emphasis is on tax *breaks* in return for development, rather than just gravitating towards areas with lower tax rates overall. Corporate parasites.

  6. Chris G Silver badge

    With all of those semiconductor manufacturers in Texas, they could try looking at large scale thermoelectrics, even if they won't scale enough torun a chipworks they could still use any temperature difference to produce some useful power.

  7. LDS Silver badge
    Devil

    The lone star state

    That's the power reliability rating, it looks....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The lone star state

      Yelp rating

  8. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

    It's a bit more complicated than you might imagine. Have you seen the sodding weather? It was -23C the other day in North Texas. Most Texan homes are not kitted out for arctic survival and apparently many homes were internally sub-zero if you did not own a log/gas fire.

    The power demand has hit a record demand by a considerable margin (10% higher than any other day on record). I work in wind power and had a huge number of tech support queries. Most 'basic' wind turbines will switch off at -10 to -20C (or if the control sensors on the roof freeze over). There are cold-weather turbines that will happily run down to -30C, but honestly I can understand why you would not spend the money in North Texas (expecting a typical low of 5C?). Add in, the general variable of low wind in some areas, that didn't help.

    The largest drop in power is from the nuclear/gas thermal power plants. It turns out you need employees and water to run these plants, neither of which are easily available (the roads are frozen, the snow is 10-40cm deep in places) and the rivers and water supplies have frozen. The oil and gas wells have frozen pipes (rock solid) and don't have any electricity to keep gas extraction pumping out of the wells, so even those are shutdown.

    As a comparison, at one point they have 45GW of disabled power, enough to power the whole of Britain (easily). Amusingly, they run hourly power auctions, where the prices paid went from ~$50 per unit to the legal maximum $9000 per unit. Ouch.... supply and demand huh?

    1. big_D Silver badge

      It is interesting, we had similar temperatures and about 50% more snow, yet most things kept running here. I live at the bottom of a steep hill and was still able to drive out the next morning. I did nearly get stuck in a snow drift on a back road, when taking the dog for a walk, but managed to rock myself free...

      But, even though this is the worst winter since '87 here, most things kept running. There were delays on trains due to the availability of snow ploughs and the autobahn, mainly lorries without winter tyres getting stuck. But power, gas and water kept flowing here.

      Also, there are building codes, where you have to have a minimum amount of insulation, so that it doesn't lose too much heat in the winter and doesn't warm up too quickly in the summer.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Where is "here" - you mention autobahn, so I'll assume Germany.

        Worst winter in 20 years doesn't mean much - texas rarely gets more than a light frost, so this isn't just worse, it's worse by a very long way. They have no snow plows, they just don't need them.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          North Germany.

          I also lived in Bavaria for a while, so 5' - 6' of snow was a "thing", as was -20°C to -30°C and I experienced sub-zero temperatures between November and March more than once.

          But North Germany is usually much milder.

          1. spuck

            When 5'-6' snow is common every year, people tend to plan to handle it. The huge populations centers of Texas (Dallas, Houston, Austin, etc.) apparently haven't had temperatures like this in over 30 years. Taxpayers get grumpy when the city starts buying snowplows in places like that.

        2. TomG

          The part of Texas where I live has snowplows.

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            OK - Texas is big, so my over generalisation was, well, an over generalisation...

            Most of my colleagues now have power back, several are still without water, some without a home, and some homing multiple neighbouring families who don't have a habitable home at the moment.

    2. Elledan Silver badge

      The nuclear plants (Comanche Peak 1 & 2, South Texas 1 & 2) are doing fine, and only South Texas 1 is currently down due to an issue unrelated to the reactor or its cooling water: https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/event-status/reactor-status/ps.html

      Apparently some geniuses over in Texas figured that turbines in Texas do not need to be put inside a turbine hall, but can be put on an open deck, exposed to the elements. Because it's always nice weather in Texas, obviously.

      From what we know so far, a pressure sensor in the turbine section flaked out due to the cold, which caused the turbine and reactor (ST1) to shutdown as a precaution. Why they haven't yet corrected this issue and put the reactor back on the grid is still unknown at this point.

    3. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      I work in wind power and had a huge number of tech support queries.

      FIgures.. A spectacularly dishonest industry.

      The largest drop in power is from the nuclear/gas thermal power plants.

      I guess you being an industry type, you'll have data showing outages/reduction in supply by generation type? Or not. Your lobby is out in full force, eg-

      https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/feb/17/conservatives-falsely-blame-renewables-for-texas-storm-outages

      The electricity outages suffered by millions of Texans amid frigid temperatures sweeping across the United States have been seized upon by conservative commentators presenting a false narrative that renewable power was to blame.

      ...Ercot said on Tuesday that of the 45,000 total megawatts of power that were offline statewide, about 30,000 consisted of thermal sources – gas, coal and nuclear plants – and 16,000 came from renewable sources.

      But that's the Grauniad for you. So you have (ie need) baseload, peaker and load following power generation, none of which your windmills can do. So because your windmills can't do any of that (or deal with inertia very well) you need something to provide dependable, reliable power. Which your windmills can't do. So you then have to invest in stand-by capacity to deal with those regular occasions when your windmills can't deliver. Which usually means a combo of gas turbines, which can do the load following when your windmills can't deliver. Which means a lot of additional costs to cater for the inadequacies of your windmills.

      Which is especially ironic given it's far cheaper to generate electricity by gas, than wind. But because gas is reduced to intermittent operation, the investment case for gas gets harder. And then for Texas, their problems were compounded by thinking the combo of wind + gas would work in unusually cold conditions, and that gas supply/distribution kit wouldn't freeze up. And of course thanks to pressure from the 'renewables' lobby, Texas is has closed most of it's coal power stations, and the remainder are due to close in the next couple of years.

      But such is politics. The 'renewables' lobby is out in force desperately trying to shift blame, even though Texas's 'investment' in wind energy is delivering close to zero. Basically Texas's mix is-

      40% gas

      23% wind

      18% coal

      11% nuclear

      8% other (mostly solar)

      Only 1 nuclear unit (STP-1) has shut down.

      1. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

        Jellied, was that really necessary? I started work as a technician at Texaco offshore and I happen to work in wind power these days, I've had good experiences with both industries. Getting all tribal and blaming either industry is rather dumb, considering we have gas, wind and nuclear units operating below expectations.

        If I misspoke about the reasons for STP1 3GW nuclear power station going down, I apologise. I note that officially the reason provided is similar to the quick explanation I provided (cold weather water failure):

        "The trip resulted from a loss of feedwater attributed to a cold weather-related failure of a pressure sensing lines to the feedwater pumps, causing a false signal, which in turn, caused the feedwater pump to trip. This event occurred in the secondary side of the plant (non-nuclear part of the unit)."

        https://atomicinsights.com/south-texas-project-unit-1-tripped-at-0537-on-feb-15-2021/

        Source appears legit. I would take the Guardian with a pinch of salt ;)

        In any case, if I was a biased wind power analyst, I would not be admitting that a bunch of wind power assets are down. It is what it is - no excuses, many are just not specced out to operate in this weather.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Jellied, was that really necessary?

          Yup. The 'renewables' industry is incredibly dishonest, unethical, and kills people. And anyone who dares criticise either 'renewables', or globaly warming dogma is often called a 'denier', or worse.

          I started work as a technician at Texaco offshore and I happen to work in wind power these days, I've had good experiences with both industries. Getting all tribal and blaming either industry is rather dumb, considering we have gas, wind and nuclear units operating below expectations.

          Good for you. You managed to get out of one offshore industry and into another before your new industry has managed to shut down your old. But also one of the reasons why the 'renewables' industry kills people. Offshore working is dangerous, as is working at hights, around high power, or just massive chunks of metal than has crushed workers. I think wind is still a bit less dangerous than the oil industry, but far more dangerous than nuclear.

          But it's also due in part to having trained as an engineer, and having a father who was a historian focusing on the transition from sail to steam. Which is why I really don't like the 'renewables' lobby given many of the claims made are blatently untrue, and there's ample historical evidence why they're a bad idea. Windmills became quaint character homes when more reliable power became available. Wind powered ships, the same. Your industry is fundamentally at the mercy of the weather, unlike alternatives.

          Texas has simply highlighted these problems. Plus how many windmils will return to service, if there's been no power to prevent brinelling on shafts or bearings, or the shaft's now look like Bill Clinton's due to the mass of ice on the blades. Which means some operators may chose to declare bankruptcy rather than pay the costs of repairing/replacing windmills.. Something of a problem in your industry.

          There are also many other problems. Oil company has a dead common duck in a settling pond, big fines and outcries. Wind companies kill thousands of protected/endangered birds & bats annually, and.. nothing. Other than increasing demands to force the shut down of 'Big Oil' and direct the spending in the direction of the 'renewables' lobby. And then there are all the other environmental impacts, starting with the obvious impact on visual amenity. See the Scottish Highlands for more info. But there's also potential problems with low frequency vibrations, shadow flicker, boundary layer mixing causing downwind climate change (typically drying out land) and harming insect populations.. Which may also be true offshore wrt to marine life.. At least there, it's easier to hide the bodies. If the wind farms happen to be on migratory paths for birds, or marine life, well, that's just a small price to pay to protect the environment I guess..

          If I misspoke about the reasons for STP1 3GW nuclear power station going down, I apologise. I note that officially the reason provided is similar to the quick explanation I provided (cold weather water failure)

          I've found conflicting (or multiple) answers from different sources, but mostly been looking for primary ones (ie ERCOT, the NRC). So one reason given was it was triggered by a turbine shutdown on account of the turbine hall not having a roof. Oops. Being nuclear, the NRC should have a more complete incident report later.

          It is what it is - no excuses, many are just not specced out to operate in this weather.

          Just ask yourself 'why not?'. But it's a highly political subject, with the 'renewables' lobby trying to deflect blame, and politicians like AOC pointing the finger at the Texas governor, not the Texan energy regulator.. Again it's not like cold weather is uncommon in Texas, and according to climate science, 'extreme' weather events like this will increase in frequency. So from a simple engineering & regulatory POV, it would seem prudent to make sure 'renewables' are rugged enough to cope with bad weather.

          But again that's back to basics. Windmills were, and always will be more vulnerable to weather than alternatives. That's just fundamental in their design & operation.

          1. DS999 Silver badge

            You've been brainwashed by fake news

            Iowa generates over a third of its electricity (I think actually over 40% now and going to be 50% in a couple years) from wind, and it does just fine in the winter despite having much more severe winters than Texas. I haven't had a single power interruption nor have I heard of anyone anywhere in the area where I live in Iowa despite a record breaking cold snap.

            But keep pushing your right wing lies, the utility industry knows the real score which is why more and more wind turbines will keep going up despite your fake news. And maybe the idiots in Texas will learn that a little "regulation" is a good thing if it forces utilities to spend a little extra to winterize sensors on their fossil fuel and nuclear plants - since that is where 86% of ERCOT's supply loss came from, with only 14% of their supply loss due to wind turbine shutdowns.

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: You've been brainwashed by fake news

              Iowa generates over a third of its electricity (I think actually over 40% now and going to be 50% in a couple years) from wind, and it does just fine in the winter despite having much more severe winters than Texas

              Well.. duh. Colder state is better prepared to deal with cold. Stay tuned for more news after this break!

              But keep pushing your right wing lies, the utility industry knows the real score which is why more and more wind turbines will keep going up despite your fake news.

              So here's the deal-

              https://iub.iowa.gov/regulated-industries/wind-powered-electric-generation-iowa

              2019 Installed capacity 9,906.3MW Generation 25,328,971MWh

              2018 Installed capacity 8,386.7MW Generation 21,334,053MWh

              Were you watching the pea? No?

              Ok, so-

              9,906.3MW x 8760= 86,779,188MWh (power x hours in a year)

              8,386.7MW x 8760= 73,467,492MWh

              capacity being 'nameplate' capacity, then how much energy would be produced, if that capacity could run at 100% all year. Which it can't, wind being vague like that. Then looking at the difference between actual and potential gives you the capacity factor, so

              2019 29% of nameplate across the year.

              2018 29% again.

              So figure Iowa's wind fleet was only 29% efficient over those two years, and adding around 1.6GW didn't really change things. Or suppose you installed a 100MW turbine, on average it'd produce 30MW over the year. Newer designs might be slightly more efficient, but won't change variability due to unpredictable wind, or issues like the 'best' sites for windfarms might already be taken on account of those potentially being the most profitable.

              But the 'renewables' lobby just loves switching the pea with capacity and energy, glossing over capacity factors and basing 'enough to power 5,000 homes' claims based on nameplate, not capacity factor.

              But such is politics. Not sure if the nuclear industry adopts some of the same tricks just to wind up their blustery bretheren, but when they do., New build nuclear is often 2-3GW+ and typically runs a closer to 100% capacity factor 24x7x365. So just for lulz..

              2GW nameplate wind x 8760 x 30%= 5,250GWh

              2GW nameplate nuclear x 8760 x 97%= 16,990GWh

              Or nuclear's more than3x more efficient. Which is where there's also creative cost comparisons that can favour wind vs nuclear, because the wind figures may use nameplate, not capacity factor.

              TL;DR adding windmills does nothing when there's no wind. Other than wasting tax/bill payer's money.

              1. John Robson Silver badge

                Re: You've been brainwashed by fake news

                "TL;DR adding windmills does nothing when there's no wind. Other than wasting tax/bill payer's money."

                Well that assumes no storage, and assumes that there are times when there is no wind on the planet (at least within the area of your grid and any connected grids) which is very rare indeed on large scale grids.

                Noone has ever claimed that a turbine produces 100% of it's rated capacity at all times, an average of 30% is just fine, and that's built into the calculations.

                Your declaration of global climate change as "dogma" is a complete misrepresentation of the scientific consensus - we know what is happening, and why, we just see more short term profit in ignoring it than long term benefit in doing anything about it.

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Most Texan homes are not kitted out for arctic survival and apparently many homes were internally sub-zero if you did not own a log/gas fire."

      It doesn't need weather stopping generation for this to be a problem. A local cable fault can have the same impact. We had an outage of about 15 hours at the beginning of December, That knocked out the central heating but we have gas fires and a gas hob so we could keep warm and prepare hot drinks and food. But as HMG policy is to ban dual fuel in new builds that's a problem stacking up for the future. However if it's a problem that only becomes serious in a future electoral cycle it doesn't matter as they can go into the next election waving their green credentials.

      1. adam 40 Silver badge

        Well that's easy, don't buy a new house. Apart from anything else they are the ones built on flood plains and the like.

        I'm quadruple fuel: gas, leccy, wood and coal. Plus a petrol generator which I can run the central heating off. I can cook on the multifuel stove if needed, and it can even burn old copies of Computer Weekly and the like.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Apart from anything else they are the ones built on flood plains and the like."

          And also not constructed that well. And small. And lacking in outdoor space. :(

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "And lacking in outdoor space."

            Which is a problem if you're depending on a heat pump extracting heat flux from the area you don't have.

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "where the prices paid went from ~$50 per unit to the legal maximum $9000 per unit."

      The cap is set at $9000????? Shit. Crisis profiteering at it's worst!

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        The cap is set at $9000????? Shit. Crisis profiteering at it's worst!

        That's why the 'renewables' lobby is keen on gridscale batteries, like Australia's Hornsdale-

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hornsdale_Power_Reserve

        1) 70 MW running for 10 minutes (11.7 MWh) is contracted to the government to provide stability to the grid (grid services)

        Necessary to prevent outages because NSW's 'renewables' can't provide stable power.

        2) 30 MW for 3 hours (90 MWh) is used by Neoen for load management to store energy when prices are low and sell it when demand is high..

        During two days in January 2018 when the wholesale spot price for electricity in South Australia rose due to hot weather, the battery made its owners an estimated A$1,000,000 (US$800,000) as they sold power from the battery to the grid for a price of around A$14,000/MWh

        Now, I wonder why some folks are so keen on these batteries? A rather classic example of socialising costs, privatising profits..

        Another problem is battery fires. Possibly why Texas's Sheila Jackson Lee wants to ban .50 cals. Given American's love of taking potshots at pretty much anything, .50BMG API or SLAP vs large battery cabinet would probably be bad.. As in a large fire releasing large amounts of flourine compounds. Whch would be bad for anyone unlucky enough to be downwind.

        On the plus side, an emergency broadcast could be condensed to 'Good Luck, HF!'. Might also want to explain why inhaling HF is rather worse for your health than Covid though. A risk typically downplayed in planning applications, eg the recent one in the UK.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          "Another problem is battery fires. Possibly why Texas's Sheila Jackson Lee wants to ban .50 cals. Given American's love of taking potshots at pretty much anything,"

          The problem there is entirely one of US gun ownership, not one of battery technology.

          Not sure where the HF is going to come from when looking at current battery tech, I know flourine is/was being investigated as an alternative to lithium, but I'm not sure it's made it yet.

  9. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

    PS I am not 100% sure HVDC interconnected states is the solution in Texas. Sure - they could do with some 200-300km interconnections as backup, but on either side of the state, is it really practical to build 500-100km power lines to Alabama and Oklahoma?

    I think they could do with a moderate-massive extension of battery storage and locally stored hydrogen generation (there is a giant movement towards this in the UK, Denmark and Australia at the moment) and frankly Texas is known as a superpower in the power industry. I suspect there will be a move to move technologies.

    If nothing else, it is a real political headache to implement 500km of HVDC lines across mostly private property. The lawsuits and land fees will escalate quickly!

    1. big_D Silver badge

      I remember a UK TV ad during the late 70s, early 80s, where the electric company was talking about how they pumped water up into a reservoir over night using cheap electricity and used that to run generators the next day during peak times.

      As to 500km lines, no idea, but Europe's network stretches from the Nordic region in the north to Portugal in the south west. But it is more densely populated, so that although it is a very long distance, the distances between stations is not so great.

      1. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

        It's a tricky one. The European continent has predictable dense population centres, so the UK has a variety of interconnections between Ireland/France/Belgium/Denmark/Norway/Sweden. We often save our surplus wind power in Norwegian hydro stations (the Norwegians happily take our money to store it for us). Or heck, having the option between 3x countries power grids, means you can use cheaper surplus energy from other countries.

        Trying to do this in Texas is trickier, because you might have 1000km of Desert farmland to the West of Texas. It probably makes sense (and perhaps where Biden will push) is interconnections to the high wind speed areas, down the centre of the US central regions. Frankly, Texas has enough land and wind to run its own wind power (it would be more valuable to the low-wind regions in far-West, or possibly in far South-East/Alabama/Flordia, where power companies have been nervous about installing wind turbines, due to the regular hurricane-storms that hit the region).

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          It probably makes sense (and perhaps where Biden will push) is interconnections to the high wind speed areas, down the centre of the US central regions. Frankly, Texas has enough land and wind to run its own wind power

          Oddly, those are the parts of the US currently most affected by the Great Windmill Freeze of 2021.. It would be far more sensible to figure out why our ancestors switched from the Age of Sail to the Age of Steam, ditch the windmills and invest in nuclear power instead.

          1. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

            Nuclear has its pros and cons. I suggest a small partial role for it, depending on price.

            In Europe, new nuclear is probably dead. Why? Capitalism. New nuclear plants cost £100 per unit, but the latest offshore wind prices are below £40 in the UK, while new solar has dropped to below £15 per unit in Spain/Portugal (actual cost, not based on 'maximum capacity'). It is also far easier to build a solar/wind farm compared to a nuclear plant.

            This is also true in the USA, but to a different extent. Gas and onshore wind are just far cheaper and less problematic, and there are better govt subidies for the wind power sector.

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              In Europe, new nuclear is probably dead. Why? Capitalism. New nuclear plants cost £100 per unit, but the latest offshore wind prices are below £40 in the UK, while new solar has dropped to below £15 per unit in Spain/Portugal (actual cost, not based on 'maximum capacity'). It is also far easier to build a solar/wind farm compared to a nuclear plant.

              Quit with the BS and leave that to the likes of Ed Davey, when DECC came up with their 'levelised costs' scenarios. It's easy to make 'renewables' look favorable, if you simply gloss over the costs. Like tieing wind farms into the grid, additional costs to upgrade the grid to deal with windmill's unreliability, the massive subsidies paid out to wind farmers etc etc.

              Despite nuclear being practically zero carbon, it doesn't benefit from any of those benefits. This is often sold as 'supporting new technology', even though the first commercial wind turbines were installed in the UK long before we figured out how to split the atom and generate power on err.. Windscale!

              But the most obvious rebuttal to your BS is that despite the regular claims that wind is the cheapest form of generation, as we keep adding windmills to the UK fleet, our electricity bills keep rising. How can this be? So cheap, yet so expensive..

              1. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

                Some of these are valid concerns about grid connection, reliability and storage costs.

                There have been serious cost reductions in the last few years in the offshore wind market. I assume you are aware of that?

                1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                  There have been serious cost reductions in the last few years in the offshore wind market. I assume you are aware of that?

                  Nope. Can't say I've noticed any of those reflected in my electricity bills. Those just keep going up, and up. A bit the cost of Hornsea's energy thanks to that being even more expensive than the guaranteed strike price due to the UK's new nuclear plants under construction.

                  But that's largely due to financial engineering rather than the real thing. In the UK's capacity auctions, there were some very low bids for offshore windfarms. The MSM rejoiced! Wind will soon be too cheap to meter! Not looking too closely at the small print, ie the price is unrelated to the cost, and a minimum. Not what any energy will be sold for on the markets.

            2. Potemkine! Silver badge

              In Europe, new nuclear is probably dead. Why? Capitalism.

              Nope. Media pressure and FUD propagated among the population are the reasons.

              When talking only about money, costs are globally similar (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source#External_costs_of_energy_sources)

              Solar and wind are intermittent sources of energy and are not reliable, Texas seems to realize that. Also, you'll need to build a lot more of those farms just to cover the current needs without mentioning the future ones.

              Nuclear power plants are not the perfect solutions, far from that. But as long as we don't know how to build fusion-based power plants, it's the more efficient, the more reliable electricity source we have, without mentioning the efficiency in term of CO2 emission.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Even if wind and solar were legitimately the cheapest form of electricity generation the intermittency still presents a real problem. It may be rare for wind to fail on a countrywide basis but it does happen from time to time (speaking from the UK). If we went totally dependent on wind that would leave us facing a similar situation as Texas is now. Solar has similar intermittency issues, plus it provides less power during winter when we need it the most.

                Nuclear is unpopular with many people for many reasons, but it does seem to be the only viable way of providing a base load of generation capacity that doesn't release huge amounts of carbon if you have to ramp supply up quickly. Gas is the only other alternative here - geothermal and tidal energy are nice on paper but IIRC they're still a lot more expensive than nuclear. Regardless of where the base load comes from it's rather disingenuous to compare the cost per MW of renewables to base load generation capacity that is put on standby whenever possible. Plant standing idle on standby still needs to be paid for, and the costs of that translates to a higher cost per unit when they are running.

                1. jigr1969

                  15 January 2021

                  LAST Wednesday the wind died, and Britain’s fleet of thousands of wind turbines mostly stopped turning. The engineers at National Grid had seen the problem coming: temperatures and wind speeds had been low all week, and were forecast to fall further. Their response was to issue a ‘margin notice’ – a warning to generators that extra capacity was going to be needed. Prices rocketed from their normal £40 per megawatt hour to over £100. Some held off taking this remarkable price, and when the grid still couldn’t balance supply and demand in the evening peak, were rewarded with even higher sums.

                  On Thursday, with wind speeds even lower, prices for balancing during the evening peak shot up again, reaching £1,400. By Friday’s peak, that figure had risen to a record-breaking £4,000.

                  Price spikes this high are a new phenomenon. They were never seen before 2016, but since then we have seen, on average, a spike to that level every couple of years. Now we have had two in a week and we came within a whisker of a third.

                  It is clear, as some have been warning, that the attempt to decarbonise is destabilising the UK’s electricity grid. For twenty years, governments have given renewables generous subsidies and preferential access to the grid. The economics of coal- and gas-fired power stations have been wrecked. It is hardly surprising then that these generators – the backbone of the UK’s grid – have simply left the market. We lost two gas-fired power stations just last summer.

                  Does this mean power cuts are inevitable? It’s possible, but it is more likely that money will talk. If the price paid is high enough, big power users can probably be persuaded to switch off for long enough to see us through any crisis. The result is likely to be a surge in electricity prices. Early adopters of ‘time of use’ contracts are already feeling the pain. With low wind again this week, customers on Octopus Energy’s ‘Agile’ tariff have seen prices per kilowatt hour rise from 14p overnight to 35p. For the rest of us, the pain will be delayed until contracts come up for renewal.

                  The middle classes will probably be happy enough to pay extra for power in the winter. They can cope with the hit to their cashflow for a few weeks, or even fork out £6,000 for a battery pack allowing them to take advantage of lower prices in times of surplus power. But, as always, the poor are left high and dry. For them, there is only the prospect of tightening belts still further.

                  And if the future looks dim now, how much worse will it be by the end of the year? During 2021, we will lose a coal-fired unit at West Burton and a nuclear one at Hunterston. The following spring, the Hinkley B nuclear unit will go as well. Imagine what it’s going to be like for Britain’s poorest on those cold, still winter nights in future, when everyone is expected to heat homes and power cars with electricity from the grid.

                  The BBC’s Roger Harrabin, observing the chaos last week, wailed on Twitter that ‘we need solutions’. Those of us who have been pointing out the foolishness of shifting to renewables while lacking any means of storing electricity – the people Harrabin has been trying to ignore for ten years or more – could hardly believe what we were reading.

                2. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

                  The intermittency problem is a biggie. But there are finally some bizarrely giant projects in the pipeline to fix this. It even works from a capitalist perspective, buy energy for £30/MWhr at night, sell it for £80 during the day/peak demand.

                  Take a look at some of the projects:

                  https://reneweconomy.com.au/pipeline-of-uk-battery-storage-projects-soars-past-16/ 16GW of battery storage in the UK

                  https://www.world-energy.org/article/14732.html 80GW of green hydrogen plants in the pipeline. Unusually, the UK has one of the bigger hydrolyser factories (a Sheffield company with a market value of £3bn of the FTSE).

            3. Lars Silver badge
              Happy

              "In Europe, new nuclear is probably dead".

              Not quite dead, Finland will have its fifth running in 22 increasing its nuclear energy production from the 16% of today.

              Not without problems though.

              " The start of commercial operation was originally planned for May 2009[2] but the project has been delayed and, as of August 2020, the latest estimate for start of regular production is February 2022.[1] In December 2012, the French multi-national building contractor, Areva, estimated that the full cost of building the reactor will be about €8.5 billion, or almost three times the delivery price of €3 billion.".

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Dinorwig?

        Dinorwig pumped-storage power station works that way. But you do need the right terrain for that type of system to work. Are the mountains bigger in Texas?

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Dinorwig?

          And it's only there to handle sudden changes of demand whilst more generation is being spun up.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dinorwig?

          Dinorwig pumped-storage power station works that way.

          But can only supply about 2GW for 5 hours, max. and all the others are smaller.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Keystone pipeline

      500km of pylons might be a headache, but Trump permitted (and Biden cancelled) the Keystone pipeline which would have been 1800km. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline is 800 miles (according to Wikipedia). There are means for US state and federal government to force access to private land. And oil pipelines can generate far more environmental damage when they leak than electric cables.

      How rare is this weather in Texas? Once-in-a-decade? Once-in-a-century? If it becomes common, then the political will be there to find a solution.

      1. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

        Re: Keystone pipeline

        The last time they had cold like this was ~ 1989.

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Texas is known as a superpower in the power industry

      Not any more.

    4. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      I think they could do with a moderate-massive extension of battery storage and locally stored hydrogen generation (there is a giant movement towards this in the UK, Denmark and Australia at the moment) and frankly Texas is known as a superpower in the power industry. I suspect there will be a move to move technologies.

      Good news! AOC thinks much the same way and the problem is that Texas is governed by a climate denier. Her solution? Add more windmills & solar! Like wot aren't working right now. But then AOC's not exactly known as an energy industry expert, hence her GND.

      But some points to ponder..

      How much do grid scale batteries add to energy costs? Especially given they're only really needed because of the problems caused by 'renewables'. Add together the cost of wind farms, interconnection, grid upgrades, battery arrays and a few GW of CCGT, and the sane economic business case for 'renewables' doesn't look so great.

      How well do batteries work at say, 0F? And how large a battery array would you need to provide emergency power for a state the size of Texas?

      How much does it cost to produce hydrogen, compared to say.. methane? And how would you produce that hydrogen, if you're not doing steam reforming of methane? And how would you produce that hydrogen, if you have no electricity? And why would the problems of distributing hydrogen in a Texas-style freeze event be any different to the problems it's experienced trying to distribute plain'ol gas?

      On the plus side, I guess you'd need less energy to compress your H2 at 0F, but you'd still need energy to compress & distribute it..

      1. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

        Ugh God, don't mention AOC, she does my head in. She seems almost anti-intellectual at times, her speciality seems to be far-left Twitter debates.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          I'm glad we can agree on something :)

    5. Kimo

      Connecting to the TVA and hydro power to the east and Arkansas' nuke plant to the north, as well as the solar and wind in New Mexico and Oklahoma might help.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Am I missing something here? They reached out to people with backup generation and asked them to shut down. Why should they if they do what the grid supplier tells them to do with their own backup power? I don't get it.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Other way round, the asked those with generators to switch over and those without to shut down.

      One thing to note, there is usually a penalty clause in the electricity contracts, that if the power is cut without warning (often several hours warning), the electricity company will be liable to penalty payments that can easily run to 6 or 7 figures. Consumers don't get the same level of treatment, unfortunately.

      Just cutting the power to a big manufacturing facility might not just cause the current production run to be ruined, but can cause irreparable damage to production line equipment, if the power is suddenly removed.

      I worked for an oil exploration company in the 80s in the UK and they had a contract with the local electricity company, that they needed a 6 hour warning for possible power outages, so they could shut down all the computers in an orderly manner. A sudden power loss could mangle tapes (around 100 tape decks constantly running) crash drives (removable platter stacks in transparent housings, great fun to watch, when one of those goes FUBAR!) and cause component failure.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        One thing to note, there is usually a penalty clause in the electricity contracts, that if the power is cut without warning (often several hours warning), the electricity company will be liable to penalty payments that can easily run to 6 or 7 figures.

        There's also a penalty for less-savvy business users who pay for electricity at the prevailing rate.. Which given shortages, meant the rate per MWh or KWh rocketed. Any users who hadn't hedged their electricity costs, or locked in pre-freeze market rates will be facing a rather large electricity bill.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Other way round, the asked those with generators to switch over and those without to shut down."

        To be fair the quote in the article was a bit obscure: "Those of our customers who have backup generation, we curtailed them." Just what does "curtailed" mean? In the context it seems to have meant that they excused them from a cut but without taking context into account it reads as if they were given short shrift.

        1. Jim Mitchell Silver badge

          curtail means to restrict. It implies they cut/reduced gird power supply to those with backup power available.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ah I get you, However,

        "Those of our customers who have backup generation, we curtailed them. We then reached out to others and asked them to shut down."

        It doesn't exactly read right in my mind. It reads like they curtailed the people with backup generation and curtail mean to deprive and they are saying we have curtailed. I get what your saying but there would have been better ways for them to put it.

  11. eta-beta
    FAIL

    A new addition to the Third World

    With their backwards mentality I am not surprised of what is happening. A new part of the "Third World"

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: A new addition to the Third World

      And the Republican party is actually looking to make that official: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_secession_movements

      I'm surprised the Samsung are still interested. But then, I suppose *everything* is bigger in Texas, including bungs.

  12. seven of five Silver badge

    "reach out" *barf*

    Oh how I hate that word "We've been reaching out..." Bloody arseholes, they asked a fucking question, that is not "reaching out". Or at least, it didn't use to be.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "reach out" *barf*

      "Curtailed" also appears to have changed its meaning.

  13. lafnlab
    Boffin

    Rolling blackout

    Is that what happens when a Tesla loses power and needs to be pushed?

    I wonder if Elon is rethinking the Texas move.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "rethinking the Texas move"

      More like he'll be thinking of investing the tax savings in local generation infrastructure ;-)

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: "rethinking the Texas move"

        He'll move into the business of tauntaun breeding...

  14. Spanners Silver badge
    Happy

    Doomsday Preppers

    I came across a story about "doomsday preppers" in Texas not being as prepared as they thought.

    Apparently, a lot of the food they have stocked up on is "canned" (tinned for English speakers). They do not seem to to be widely aware of the benefits of the mechanical tin opener. Their electric can openers are not working and little of their supplies have the nice ring pulls we are seeing nowadays.

    Their standby generators are failing and a lot of them do not know how to start a fire!

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Doomsday Preppers

      "Canning" in America often involves screw top jars.

      1. vistisen

        Re: Doomsday Preppers

        If it's a can and you don't have a can opener you are screwed anytay

        1. Jonathon Green
          Coat

          Re: Doomsday Preppers

          So more of a can’t then...

        2. Claverhouse Silver badge

          Re: Doomsday Preppers

          Canned food was invented by the French c. 1810 ( or 35 years earlier by the Dutch Navy in a way ) and the first canning factory was created in London 1813. All very impressive.

          However for nearly half a century they opened their tins with hatchets, knives ( with a strong chance of slippage and self-maiming, hitting with rocks, and bayonets. Which certainly did the bayonet no good.

          Preppers should stockpile bayonets.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Doomsday Preppers

            The term can is a shortening of the word canister. Originally from the 1700s in fact the can was a glass jar. In 1809 the metal canister was perfected and quickly overtook glass due to the inherent fragility of glass for both shipping and in mechanisation. The tin can is now synonymous with canned food in the UK but in the US home preserving using Mason jars is still common and the practice retained the name canning. Not all cooking and preserving in glass jars can properly by called canning though. The process is well defined.

      2. ThatOne Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Doomsday Preppers

        > "Canning" in America often involves screw top jars.

        Or pink slips...

        1. seven of five Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Doomsday Preppers

          Oh, my girlfriend has a pair of these, look nice on her.

          Ssorry. But not very much.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doomsday Preppers

      Ironically amusing as this is, I doubt this would be a real problem for them. Most penknives have very usable can openers, and at a push even a plain knife will do for opening a can. And Texans really do love their knives (almost as much as their guns). I also doubt they're having problems starting fires - Texas is the land of the barbeque.

      You may have a point about the generators; it sounds like Texans don't bother treating their diesel to stop it gelling in the cold, so a lot of them really will be out of luck on that count.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Doomsday Preppers

        > Most penknives have very usable can openers

        But no prepper worth his camouflage pants would carry anything less than a Rambo 12" short sword knife. You won't impress a rampaging zombie/commie with a Swiss pocketknife...

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Doomsday Preppers

      Texan preppers would probably just try & open the cans with a .45, likely shooting themselves in the process.

  15. willyslick

    Can't resist in this context having a go at Texas senator Ted Cruz - certainly a very slimy politician even by the lofty US standards:

    "California is now unable to perform even basic functions of civilization, like having reliable electricity," Cruz said. "Hope you don’t like air conditioning!"

    https://www.newsweek.com/ted-cruz-tweet-attacking-california-energy-policies-resurfaces-amid-texas-power-outages-1569502

    Let's hope Ted finds better friends in his hour of need than himself. Hope you don't like heating!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Joke

      Proof the Dems did it just to spite Cruz!!!

      Note icon, for the hard of thinking ------------->

    2. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

      We did joke Texas would freeze over if Biden won the presidential race.

      I didn't expect that would be a literal thing this quickly...

  16. Gene Cash Silver badge
    FAIL

    There is no chip shortage!

    There's only a lack of planning by the car companies that failed to make the proper orders for their Just-In-Time crap, so now that chip production capacity is making other things.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: There is no chip shortage!

      Just in time = just too late when anything changes unexpectedly.

  17. nxnwest

    Infinite Source

    Texas has an infinite source of hot air. AKA - Ted Cruz.

  18. jason_derp Bronze badge

    So now a multi-billion-dollar intenational corporation won't select your state to, what, not pay taxes? Create jobs that are primarily construction that will disappear once the plant is built and not paying taxes?

  19. DS999 Silver badge

    I wonder if this will give Samsung pause

    About that idea of building another fab in Texas. Fab shutdowns are extremely expensive, not just in the time they are shut down but a lot of the in progress work is lost as well unless you have days to perform it in an orderly fashion which I'm guessing they didn't.

  20. Boo Radley

    2 Hours South of Austin

    In what we call South Texas, many of us are without power. We're also without water, which means we can't flush the toilets.

    This morning I took a crap in a plastic Walmart bag, double bagged it, and threw it in the dumpster.

    It's almost like living in a third world country here at times.

    1. whitepines
      Joke

      Re: 2 Hours South of Austin

      It's almost like living in a third world country here at times.

      When you reach the point where you don't bother to bag it any more and just leave it near the dumpster, Texas will have officially become a third world country.

      1. Cederic Silver badge

        Re: 2 Hours South of Austin

        San Francisco?

        1. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

          Re: 2 Hours South of Austin

          Los Angeles or Portland??

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: 2 Hours South of Austin

      In what we call South Texas, many of us are without power. We're also without water, which means we can't flush the toilets.

      From chatting with friends in Texas & looking at the news overnight, my sympathies. One had been without water for 3 days. And lots of Texans trying to find bottled water, firewood, propane or even just food.

      (one was complaining about all the food in her freezer that would be wasted. I asked her what the outside temperature was. Think it was 5F, so a freezer's one thing a lot of Texans don't need right now. She's cute, fun, but not always the brightest.. and she's an excellent shot, so hope she's not reading this.)

      But one of the worst things I saw/heard was all the flooding inside & outside properties due to burst pipes. So even when power's back & the weather turns, water seems like it's still going to be a huge and expensive problem. Especially as it sound like the frost & frost heaving is damaging water mains.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: 2 Hours South of Austin

        Just to add latest from her.. She's been seeing more patients coming in with carbon monoxide poisoning due to people bringing outdoor BBQs indoors to heat or cook.. Which is a bad idea, especially if wood or charcoal burning. So she and other docs at her hospital got the local news to warn people about doing that. And she's also glad I convinced her that buying a fancy gas BBQ was un-Texan, so she and some of her neighbors have been organising winter BBQs for folks without power to cook.

        It's kinda neat the way crisis can bring communities together like that :)

  21. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Good To Know

    Former Texas governor Rick Perry suggests that going days without power is a sacrifice Texans should be willing to make if it means keeping federal regulators out of the state’s power grid.

    .

    https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/energy/article/Perry-says-Texans-wiling-to-suffer-blackouts-to-15956705.php

  22. s2bu

    WSJ's view

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-political-making-of-a-texas-power-outage-11613518653

  23. ecofeco Silver badge

    Half a nuke plant went down

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/energy/how-and-why-a-nuclear-reactor-shut-down-in-texas-cold-snap-when-energy-was-needed-most

    One of two reactors shut down at the South Texas Nuclear Power Station an hour southwest of Houston, knocking out about half of its 2,700 megawatts of generating capacity.

    The plant, which is one of the newer ones in the country, normally provides power to more than 2 million Texas homes.

    “It’s very rare for weather issues to shut down a nuclear plant," said Brett Rampal, director of nuclear innovation at the Clean Air Task Force. "Some equipment in some nuclear plants in Texas has not been hardened for extreme cold weather because there was never a need for this.”

    According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the shutdown of the nuclear reactor was caused by a disruption in a feedwater pump to the reactor, and that caused the plant to trip automatically and shut down early Monday.

  24. WYSIWYG650

    TX finally proves to anyone reasonable that the cost of low regulation is paid for in blood. Dont you worry, Ted Cruz is in Cancun and will be OK.

    If you think TX is mad now, wait until they get the preditory power bills that will very surely be insult to injury! Meanwhile Joe Rogan will have a new 3 hours episode with Elon Musk explaining once again why TX is better than CA...

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      TX finally proves to anyone reasonable that the cost of low regulation is paid for in blood. Dont you worry, Ted Cruz is in Cancun and will be OK.

      Ah, politics. Never let a crisis go to waste. Whether that's spreading fake news during impeachments, or just blaming Republicans for Texas woes.. Again blame is on ERCOT, PUC and the state legislature.. Plus idiots like AOC who think 'renewables' are the solution, not the problem.

      Meanwhile Joe Rogan will have a new 3 hours episode with Elon Musk explaining once again why TX is better than CA...

      That could be fun. Especially if Rogan asks Musk about the gas & oil fraccing he's got going on down Boca Chica way..

  25. Sherrie Ludwig

    Well, it would be warmer.

    “If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell”

    ― General Philip Henry Sheridan

  26. whbjr
    Unhappy

    Priorities

    "stopping semiconductor production mid-cycle can damage products."

    Boo-f'ing-hoo. People DIED in this rare freeze. Samsung et al will be back in production in a few weeks or months. The dead will not be back, and their families won't care about delays in semiconductor production.

    (FYI, I live in Austin)

    1. jason_derp Bronze badge

      Re: Priorities

      Well investors don't care about dead people in families that can be replaced through the long-honoured technique of reproduction. If the dead people are so upset they should have tried being richer?

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