(18 February 2021) The past week has been eye-opening for many Texans as the weaknesses of the state's private energy supply network,  priorities implicit in the system (commercial vs. residential), and regulatory gaps have come to light. A recent arctic air mass brought ice, snow, and persistent below-freezing temperatures through the central United States and all the way to Texas, hitting the state's energy markets and the welfare of millions of Texans.

  • Freeze-offs in natural gas lines affected US dry natural gas production, which decreased from 93.6 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2020 to 79.5 Bcf/d during the week of February 11, 2021. According to EIA estimates, a large portion of the national decrease in natural gas production was from declines in Texas, which decreased output by more than 10 Bcf/d over the February 8–17 period.
  • Disruptions in natural gas production moved the Henry Hub gas spot price to $23.9 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) by February 17, compared to just $3.8 MMBtu a week earlier on February 10.
  • Texas' electricity grid has also been impacted significantly. The cold storm moved 40,000 MW of generation (roughly 40% of which is wind and solar) offline, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), while electricity demand grew almost 80% YoY as of February 14. The next day, in response to generation shortages, ERCOT authorized rolling blackouts that not only failed to roll but also ended three days later despite the fact that almost 50% of the power generation capacity remained offline. Investigators will surely be reviewing this in the weeks to come.

In recent years, the growth of wind electricity has contributed most to the displacement of coal production in Texas. While this has helped reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses, natural gas still remains the power giant in Texas and is typically exported to other states. Under current conditions, the Governor of Texas has temporarily banned inter-state exports.

  • Recent cold weather has exposed the vulnerability of the state's energy supply due to natural gas pipeline failures as well as frozen wind turbines; wind power shortfalls contributed 13% to the overall outages.
  • In the face of climate change, this experience has required Texas to reevaluate its energy system to ensure viability in protecting the welfare of its citizens.
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