A Free-Market Energy Blog

Excusing Wind in Texas? (ICN in spin mode)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- August 4, 2022

“On Monday, wind was functioning at 8 percent, which is not unheard of,” so it was weird to be called out in the press release, because it’s something that we know happens so we should be ready for that sort of thing.” – Joshua Rhodes, Webber Energy Group, University of Texas at Austin. July 15, 2022

[Electricity] anxiety, coupled with misleading claims about the role of renewable energy in power outages, may also leave Texans disillusioned about the future of clean energy. – ICN, below)

We will see if Texas’s wounded electricity grid escapes conservation alerts and rolling blackouts in the next month. But a false narrative has been set: it is fossil fuels plants that are unreliable, since everyone knows that wind and solar are intermittent and will not show up at times.

So it this what we get for several tens of billions of dollars spent on wind and solar and related transmission? And then there is the open secret that is well known in the industry: wind and solar have damaged the profitability of the reliables so, yes, they underperform.

For the narrative, here is a Inside Climate News piece, July 15, 2022 Texas Officials Blame Renewables for Heatwave Blackout Risk. Experts Say That’s Misleading. Here are some excerpts and my comments.

“All through June, renewables performed particularly well,” said Doug Lewin, an energy consultant and president of Stoic Energy based in Austin, Texas. “And I just think this whole narrative that some are pushing that renewables are reducing the reliability of the grid, it’s just not accurate.”

Comment: Exactly wrong. The cancer of wind and now solar, spreading for more than a decade, has wounded the Texas grid by taking the incentive away from the reliables–gas-fired, coal-fired, and nuclear generation. As Robert Bryce has documented,

In fact, the state has been losing thermal generation capacity. You won’t read about this in the state’s big media outlets, or in the New York Times, but the decline in thermal generation is a huge problem. Between 2014 and 2020, about 6,200 megawatts of coal-fired capacity in Texas was retired. Furthermore, as I explained back in February, over the past two decades, despite rising demand, Texas has not added any new gas-fired generation capacity. Investors aren’t building those types of plants in Texas because the state’s electricity market is being distorted by the lavish federal subsidies for solar and wind energy. 

In fact, Lewin, who has worked on energy and climate issues in Texas for over 17 years, said wind and solar combined are now providing Texas upwards of 20 percent of its total electricity during times of peak demand.

Comment: What is the peak capacity of wind and solar versus “upwards of 20 percent of its total electricity during times of peak demand”? And what is Texas getting for $50 billion in costs and subsidies to erect the iffy intermittents and their transmission from nowhere to somewhere?

But some energy experts say the description ERCOT painted for the public in its reports this week is misleading, and that solar energy and battery storage in particular have played a major role in keeping air conditioning units running and the state’s power grid afloat this summer.

Comment: Again, for $50 billion, what is the state getting in return?

Texas has a history of issues with its grid, and public scrutiny of those problems has only grown in recent years as extreme weather, made worse by climate change, has increasingly highlighted the state’s vulnerabilities. In May, a blistering heat wave led to six power plant outages. And a massive winter storm in 2021 led to widespread blackouts across the state that contributed to about 250 deaths.

Comment: Let’s not pretend that climate change is the problem rather than unreliable grid energies. And why has the Texas grid subject to “a history of issues”? The underperformance of the reliables is precisely because of bad economics created by subsidized, must-take wind and solar. [1]

Yet, despite evidence showing the 2021 winter blackouts were largely caused by freezing gas pipelines and a general failure of the state’s natural gas systems, ERCOT officials blamed wind energy for the incident—an argument state Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbot, have continued to echo….

Comment: Wind and solar performed very badly during the freeze. But it was also wind and solar that caused the natural gas industry to not answer the bell. And central planning errors by ERCOT too. This story is told here and here.

“In the press release [for Monday] they said we’d only have 3000 megawatts of wind…between 2 and 3 p.m.,” said Lewin, “At 5 p.m. on peak there was nearly 7,000 megawatts of wind.” In its second conservation appeal this week, ERCOT also cited low wind as a factor for potential blackouts, despite the fact that wind turbines were expected to input more energy than they did on Monday. 

Comment: So a two-to-three-hour shift of 4,000 megawatts? That’s a problem–a big one. Intermittent resources should not be on the grid–and would not be except for massive government intervention.

“As more grids become dependent on renewable sources to provide energy and capacity or power, we need to make sure of when they will be producing and how they interact,” said [Joshua] Rhodes [of Webber Energy Group] … because if we’re not it’ll hurt the energy transition.”

Comment: Why assume or desire the “energy transition”? It has already failed in Texas as events in 2021 and so far this year have demonstrated. (BTW, Joshua Rhodes is on the staff of Michael Webber of Webber Energy Group, a consulting firm housed at the University of Texas at Austin that …. is a renewables think tank.)

“On Monday, wind was functioning at 8 percent, which is not unheard of,” said Rhodes, “so it was weird to be called out in the press release, because it’s something that we know happens so we should be ready for that sort of thing.”

Comment: What apologetics! Wind should be fired! No more additional wind (or solar) capacity, and existing capacity should be retired as soon as possible.

Monday’s triumph against power outages was not only a testament to the power of renewable energy, but of collaborative, voluntary energy conservation. Residents were able to conserve around 500 megawatts of energy, enough to power 100,000 homes, by lowering their energy use. Businesses preserved even more energy when they followed suit. 

Comment: Beware of voluntary conservation to save wind and solar. What is done today serves as an excuse to ratchet up the inconvenience and pain later on. And what is accepted as voluntary can and will become mandatory–all to save the Texas grid from wind and solar.

Texans have been in a state of angst since the winter storms of February 2021 brought on deadly blackouts, leaving them distrustful of ERCOT and the energy Texas can provide. This anxiety, coupled with misleading claims about the role of renewable energy in power outages, may also leave Texans disillusioned about the future of clean energy. 

Comment: A very biased conclusion to an apologetic article that can’t even hide the breakdown of wind and solar. Texans should know better than to let the unreliables off the hook. There is more bad news to come ….


[1] “Must take” wind and solar is the regulatory requirement that utilities purchase the available output (pursuant to the Public Utility Regulatory Practices Act of 1978). The low marginal costs of wind and solar (without fuel costs) also makes wind/solar output preferential compared to the reliables that have fuel costs.

The federal Production Tax Credit is also paid when wind is actually produced, which means that wind owners can bid negative prices and still make a profit, at least on an operating cost basis.

All these factors explain why the reliables ‘fail’ in wind/solar states.


  1. John W. Garrett  

    The foregoing piece saves me the trouble of explaining why I have such contempt for proselytizers, salespeople, professional meddlers and politicians.


  2. David Peters  

    The article points out the loss in thermal generation capacity for coal. However, the combined thermal generation capacity in the state has not increased since 2010. Contrast the stagnant thermal generation capacity with the population increase. Since 2000, the Texas population has increased by 8 million people. An increase in population by 8 million with most of the new power generation since 2000 made up of unreliable intermittent power. The state must make radical changes to encourage more reliable power.


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