“Replacing gasoline-powered cars with electric vehicles will increase demand for power … [but] Texas’ grid lacks the transmission capabilities…. And without more batteries to store power when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, it will be difficult for renewables to become a stable source of electric generation.”
“The electric vehicle maker Canoo announced in late June it would build a large factory in Oklahoma instead of in North Texas, citing the Lone Star State’s unreliable energy infrastructure as one reason.”
– Houston Chronicle, July 5, 2021, B4.
Renewables cause “greenouts” by disappearing at the peak and wounding conventional (‘reliable’) generation otherwise.
And greenouts are putting electricity for transportation in doubt–and discouraging new business from relocating to PUCT/ERCOT’s Texas.
Read it for yourself: Shelby Webb in “Houston’s energy transition not likely to be smooth.” Warning: it comes in the middle, after a beginning and closing ‘pep talk’ in favor of the ‘energy transition.’ But three key points are loud and clear (in green).
Houston’s role in the energy transition to lower-carbon fuels has started to pick up steam in the past few months.
Greentown Labs — North America’s largest clean-energy-tech incubator — opened its second location in Midtown at the beginning of May. U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm visited in late May to highlight green energy and Houston’s potential role in leading the industry. Several multinational companies have announced plans to erect giant solar arrays across the state, including one in Fort Bend County….
But despite the optimism from local officials, major roadblocks stand in the way.
Among them: Texas’ troubled electric grid.
Replacing gasoline-powered cars with electric vehicles will increase demand for power, and while that may seem like a boon for renewable energy projects, Texas’ grid lacks the transmission capabilities to bring a decent portion of electricity generated by renewables to the largest population areas. And without more batteries to store power when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, it will be difficult for renewables to become a stable source of electric generation.
Some companies have balked at the prospect of relocating to a state where about 12,000 megawatts of power generation went offline due to mechanical issues that have yet to be explained. In early June, forced plant outages left the state facing possible electricity shortages and led the state’s grid manager, ERCOT, to call for conservation measures.
Case in point: The electric vehicle maker Canoo announced in late June it would build a large factory in Oklahoma instead of in North Texas, citing the Lone Star State’s unreliable energy infrastructure as one reason.
Renewable jobs are booming in Texas right now, but openings in the industry are expected to remain much smaller than the number of jobs in traditional oil and gas. That has worried some labor unions and oil and gas producers, who fear moving too quickly with newer sources of energy, or doing away with fossil fuels, will lead to a rise in unemployment.
That said, there is reason for optimism among clean-energy advocates.
Activist investors rallied to elect three people to Exxon Mobil’s board who are committed to more aggressively pursuing lower-carbon initiatives. A court in the Netherlands ordered Shell to cut its carbon emissions by twice their original goal.
Oil majors have announced new projects and plans aimed at lowering carbon emissions. BP is spending $220 million to buy solar energy projects. Exxon has floated a $100 billion carbon capture and storage hub in Houston.
Occidental’s Oxy Low Carbon Ventures and bio-engineering startup Cemvita Factory announced in April that they would construct and operate a bio-ethylene pilot plant that could generate one metric ton per month. Ethylene is a key component of plastics.
It seems years of hypothetical talks about a cleaner energy future are turning into action, but what that means for the region’s economy has yet to be determined.
The Houston Chronicle is notoriously anti-fossil fuel. But the truth creeps into the regular business reporting. That is energy reality.