Guest Editorial: Alvin Barksdale, It’s time to quit kidding ourselves about Texas’ power grid failure; it’s all about money

People wait in line to fill propane tanks Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Houston. Customers waited over an hour in the freezing rain to fill their tanks. Millions in Texas still had no power after a historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures created a surge of demand for electricity to warm up homes unaccustomed to such extreme lows, buckling the state’s power grid and causing widespread blackouts. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Alvin Barksdale, Jr., Guest Editorialist to The Golden Hammer

The colossal failure of the Texas power grid is not a “green power failure, as wind power only accounts for about ten percent (10%) of the State’s power. The remaining ninety percent (90%) of Texas’ power comes from natural gas and coal.

Natural gas and coal are forms of power, which have been around much longer than wind and solar. They’re used from Canada and Alaska to the southern United States. Most parts of Canada and Alaska never suffer power outages, even though they endure much colder temperatures than what Texas is experiencing right now.

The difference to explain why Canada and Alaska don’t suffer the outages, which Texans are seeing now, is not the engineering behind wind, solar, natural gas, or coal. Rather, it’s a much easier problem we can all understand.

The root of the power failures over the past three days is referred to as “money.”

Texas suffered power failures during the winter storm of 2011. That’s when the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), a nonprofit consortium of electric utility providers, should have kicked in and done the job for which they came into existence. They should have had a sober discussion among utility companies to ascertain what they learned from the problems in 2011.

The primary problem Texans faced in 2011 was the failure of generators and related equipment at electrical power plants. Those failures simply arose from the lack of proper maintenance.

ERCOT failed to lead electric utility companies into a carefully-planned program to replace or repair aging generators. 2021’s disastrous winter storm has resulted in two dozen deaths and the displacement and suffering of millions of people, because ERCOT failed to lead those companies to make the investments necessary to protect Texas’ electric power infrastructure.

I know these are bad words, but “Global Warming” is real, and changes in the normal weather patterns come along with it. We’re likely to see more extreme weather, regardless of the reason you may believe why global warming has occurred.

These infrastructure investments must occur to assure Texas’ prosperity and competitiveness in the future. Changes need to occur at the legislative level to give ERCOT the incentive to make those changes before there is, God forbid, more loss of life.

Alvin Barksdale, Jr., a telecommunications engineer who resides in Lawrenceville, Georgia, is a long-time friend and reader of The Golden Hammer.

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