On Tuesday evening, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, told Fox News host Sean Hannity that due to the weather “our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10% of our power grid and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis.”
Facts First: It’s incorrect to claim that issues with wind and solar were directly or even primarily responsible for the state’s power outages. Additionally, suggesting that Texas has “force[d] the grid to rely in part on wind” energy is misleading.
Most of the power outages were due to losses in coal, natural gas and nuclear energy, according to ERCOT.
Webber also clarified that “Texas does *NOT* force the grid to rely on wind” as Crenshaw claimed.
“Other than a small mandate signed into law in 1999 by Governor Bush and revised in 2005 that we install a few GW of renewables, we use market forces to make decisions about what to build and what to operate,” Webber told CNN.
Preparing for the cold
On Fox, Abbott also said that the failures from renewable energy sources like wind turbines “shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America.” He added that “[i]t just shows that fossil fuel is necessary.”
Facts First: Wind turbines can properly function even in freezing temperatures if properly winterized. Furthermore, the cold weather also caused generators and other parts of Texas’s energy infrastructure to fail and regulators have previously warned about the lack of preparedness when a 2011 cold snap caused power outages in the state.
Webber disagreed with Abbott’s assessment, noting that “Wind performs just fine in many colder climates where they prepare for it.”
However, the state had previously been warned about the issues in its infrastructure and what steps they could take to be better prepared for future cold weather situations.
The 2011 report also notes that after a similar cold snap in 1989, recommendations to better prepare energy infrastructure for such weather went largely unheeded.
“[T]he answer is clearly that the corrective actions were not adequate, or were not maintained,” the report says. “Generators were not required to institute cold weather preparedness, and efforts in that regard lapsed with the passage of time.”
David Tuttle, a research associate in the Energy Institute at University of Texas at Austin, told CNN “[T]here is a fair criticism that the Texas generator fleet was not sufficiently winterized” but noted that the North American Electric Reliability Corporation did not mandate Texas to follow its recommendations.
“It looks like NERC made recommendations on best practices but did not make them mandatory,” Tuttle said.