Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Annual household energy resilience planning: a new imperative?

 For the past 10+ years, in December, I usually publish an entry on winter weather and "maintenance of way" for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit, as most snow clearance planning and practice prioritizes motor vehicles.

-- "Snow, winter and the Sustainable Mobility City," 2019 (includes links to many previous entries)

While there is a fair amount of writing about how many households are installing generators in places where the electricity system is likely to fail, I haven't been in a situation, either in DC or Salt Lake, where utility interruption is a frequent occurrence, therefore the cost isn't justified.

But we all know what happened in Texas last February, a record cold snap, and the state's regulatory regime's failure to require winter hardening for critical supply and transmission infrastructure, in particular natural gas, led to massive failures across the state, blackouts, water system failure, and many hundreds of deaths.

-- "Talk and lying versus doing: The electricity crisis in Texas is produced by state regulatory failure"
-- Cold wave: the Texas power debacle disproportionately impacts the less well off"
-- "It's not rocket science: 10 ways to fix the Texas power grid, according to experts (From the Houston Chronicle)"
-- "October is National Energy Awareness Month"

In response, mostly the State of Texas has done very little to mandate system hardening, even though the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission once again has recommended that they do so, just as they did after a similar but less deadly event in 2011 ("Feds call for more regulation of Texas power grid, natural gas industry," Austin American-Statesman).

So what's up for Texans this winter?

The Dallas Morning News reports ("ERCOT report says Texans face steep shortfalls in power capacity if extreme event hits this winter") that the state energy coordination ERCOT, is warning Texas residents that the state is still vulnerable to catastrophic utility interruptions, if this winter is particularly cold.

Texas’ grid operator on Friday released its predictions for peak electricity use in Texas for this winter that showed steep shortfalls in power capacity in an extreme event, despite not accounting for February’s deadly freeze. 

ERCOT’s power demand projection known as the Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy was already facing criticism for using data that did not account for climate change and did not take into account weather and outage data from February’s deadly winter storm. 

The main failure of the report, according to Texas A&M University professor Andrew Dessler, is that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas based projections of extreme demand on the 2011 winter event that left wide swaths of North Texas without power. 

Dessler, an atmospheric sciences professor, said the report shows that Texans have around a one-in-10 chance of seeing weather-related power outages this winter. “One in 10 years seems to me to be not a great worst-case scenario,” Dessler said. “That means that there’s a 10% chance we’re going to do worse than that.”

It's definitely criminal that the State Legislature, Governor, and regulatory authorities have basically done nothing in response to February's crisis, which also affected states outside of Texas, because they were dependent on natural gas supplies from Texas.

This means that residents that can afford it are likely to install generators ("Facing power grid anxiety, Texans are buying generators and bracing for blackouts," San Antonio Report), install converters if they have solar power systems, and buy vehicles, like the Ford F-150 truck, which if you buy the special electricity generation package can power their houses in case the utility distribution system fails, although it still needs gasoline ("Texas man uses new 2021 Ford F-150 to heat home, power appliances during blackout," Detroit Free Press).

But what about the people without the means to protect themselves by buying large stocks of water and generators?

And in any case, if water systems fail because of power interruptions, people will have to store large supplies of water as well.


States that frequently experience winter cold have long since weatherized their electricity generation systems.  It's the southern states, that before climate change became as serious as it has didn't worry much about "cold snaps," that haven't done this.  It's particularly important in Texas, since it is such a large energy producer.  When systems fail there, they don't just effect Texas, but all the other states that rely on Texas energy production.

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At 2:55 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth: ERCOT CEO Worries $150 “Easy Out” for Gas Companies Could Threaten Grid.

At 8:37 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

This article has a different take, that there will be plenty of energy so long as weather conditions are normal (not extreme).

Community Impact Newspaper: ERCOT: Texas power grid ready for expected winter demand.

At 12:17 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

KSAT San Antonio: “People should probably be worried”: Texas hasn’t done enough to prevent another winter blackout, experts say.

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