The extreme winter conditions in Texas expose the problems of a state that is very fond of its self-reliance. Because Texas has its own power grid, its also on its own. In addition, in the recent past there has been no reaction to any nuisance caused by cold.
places where it normally fluctuates around 10 degrees in February, the temperature in Texas has been close to -20 in the last few days, and that has had major consequences. Millions of Texans are out of power because the peak load of the network has been exceeded due to the exceptional winter weather. But they were warned.
These Texans say it feels like a “bad long camping holiday in the Arctic”:
Ten years ago, in February 2011, it was already extremely cold in Texas, when a cold front went down in the southwest, resulting in four days below freezing temperatures.
the time, the network proved to be unresistant, so a report with recommendations was drawn up to cope better with winter temperatures, says correspondent Lucas Waagmeester. “Nothing was done with that at that time, because the required investment would eventually have to be passed on to the consumer.”
The cold temperatures cause frozen and cracked water pipes, which makes many Texans dependent on the provision of drinking water:
The electricity market in Texas is also extremely competitive for American concepts. Because this cold winter weather is very rare, energy companies do not invest in a system that is more resistant to peak loads. Because that would mean that they would have to charge a higher price to their consumers.
According to journalist and American expert Laila Frank, it was a political decision not to put money into the network. “That conversation will certainly be held again in the near future. Texans now have a relatively low energy bill, but is cheap at the end of the day expensive buy?”
Problems due to autonomy
is also not possible to use energy from other states. There are three so-called power grids or electricity grids in the United States: one for the eastern side of the country, one for the western part and one for Texas itself. “It does not fall under the federal government and is completely self-sufficient. Texas sees it as an advantage that it doesnt need transactions with other states. “, explains Frank.
But this desire for autonomy is now causing the problems. “The states covered by the other electricity grids can use each others electricity, but Texas — with a few minor exceptions to New Mexico — cant import anything from outside the states borders,” Frank says.
A persistent theory shared by the Texan Governor Abbott is that green energy generated by frozen wind turbines is the major cause of the power outage. “Abbott said that way too early and its not true,” says Waagmeester. “The coal and gas plants still deliver the most energy and thats where things went very wrong.”
According to Frank, the question now is whether the government should make structural investments in that energy market, in order to avoid these situations the next time. “If the electricity grid is going to be made winter-ready, the costs must be recovered from the user. And the question is whether there is sufficient support for that.”
According to former Governor Rick Perry, that support is not there. “Texans would rather spend more than three days without electricity than the federal government interfering in their business,” he wrote in a blog post Wednesday.
Yet President Biden is likely to declare Texas a disaster area. In this way, money from the national government will be available for emergency aid. Biden has asked his team to speed up that process. Next week a visit from Biden to the state is scheduled. That will only happen if the visit does not get in the way of aid, says the president.