Could Texas face more blackouts this summer? According to John Harpole, founder and owner of Mercator Energy, a gas brokerage firm based in Littleton, Colo., it is a growing possibility given the damage to the state’s power grid from the severe winter storm earlier this year that still needs to be addressed.
“There are experts that are predicting there could be two or three rolling blackouts again this summer when peak day of demands increase,” Harpole told Cornerstone Government Affairs’ Jack Belcher in this edition of Energy Policy Watch. “They’ve never seen this peak day of demand in the winter before, but I don’t believe that the grid issues have functionally been addressed yet.”
In the latest edition of Energy Policy Watch, Harpole, an expert on all aspects of the natural gas value chain and natural gas power markets, joined Belcher for a post-analysis discussion on the 2021 Texas power crisis plus an examination of solutions for the state’s power grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).
Harpole been his career in the late 1980s, sourcing gas for General Electric (GE), where he saw the deregulation of natural gas where the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission opened up access to pipelines so that GE could transport its own natural gas, he said.
“As we saw the deregulation unfold on energy and the effort to integrate the electric grid really with the natural gas grid, I saw a number of issues that I was concerned about,” he said. “Most recently, those concerns were lived out in the Texas rolling or, in some areas, permanent blackouts back in February.”
According to Harpole, ERCOT has some critical, fundamental flaws in the design of the transmission grid in Texas and how it responds. A second fundamental flaw he said hasn’t been considered is when ERCOT was forced to cut off demand, also known as a “shed load,” ERCOT cut off supply to critical natural gas infrastructure.
“One of the things that I’ve been worried about over the last 10 years is as we march on into this world that certain politicians would like to think that we’ll never burn anything, any time, any more and rely exclusively on renewable energy, they forget about that the dispatchable ability—the ability to turn on and turn off—for natural gas, coal and, to lesser extent, nuclear, when much needed is critical,” he said.
“In essence, electricity supply was cut off to natural gas infrastructure when natural gas infrastructure and natural gas, the commodity itself, could’ve answered a lot of the issues related to a shortage of electric generation,” he continued.
- Harpole’s background in natural gas (1:45)
- What makes the ERCOT market different in Texas (3:05)
- Comparing generation resources—wind, natgas & coal (5:35)
- “Renewable energy landed on a soft pillow” (7:15)
- Natural gas production during the winter storm (9:35)
- Drive to electrify natural gas production (11:40)
- Fatal flaw in natural gas market (13:05)
- Cost of natural gas storage (16:50)
- What does Texas need to do (19:00)
Energy Policy Watch is a partnership between Hart Energy and Cornerstone to bring regular video updates on legislative and regulatory actions affecting the energy industry. Guests range from key representatives or congressional staff to relevant cabinet-level officials and executive branch personnel. View More Energy Policy Watch Episodes Here.
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