Texas Power Grid May Need ‘Breath of God’ to Keep Cool in Summer

Mar 12, 2023 by Bloomberg
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Buildings stand along the skyline of Houston, Texas, U.S., on Friday Jan. 22, 2010. Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth largest city in the U.S.

The Texas electric grid’s ability to provide enough summertime energy may hinge on whether renewable sources can meet growing demand that’s already sapped fossil fuel and nuclear power supplies.

That’s the view of Texas’s top power regulator, an official appointed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who contends that the state’s grid is becoming too dependent on intermittent wind and solar sources. Peter Lake, chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, maintains that more natural gas is needed to keep the grid reliable. Some grid analysts as well as solar and wind advocates disagree.

Texans will be “relying on the breath of God to keep the lights on,” he said in an interview this past week on the sidelines of CERAWeek by S&P Global in Houston. “We will be depending on wind and sun.”

Months ahead of summer, Texas is again bracing for stretches when its power grid is tested by significant electric demand during the hot and humid days of June, July and August. That uncertainty has contributed to a debate that’s rippled through the state about the dependability of its power resources.

While Abbott has been critical of renewables in the aftermath of the deadly February 2021 blackouts amid a historic freeze, solar and wind proponents instead have pointed to fossil fuels as the primary culprit for the grid’s collapse.

Lake has held meetings to discuss the potential of small nuclear reactors, which he said will be critical in the state “if the federal government is going to force feed us clean air emissions.” These meetings come as clean-power developers flock to Texas to build even more solar power.

Small nuclear reactors hold “tremendous promise and it’s really a necessity,” Lake said.

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©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

By Naureen S. Malik

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