The Texas blackouts: Don’t misplace blame on renewables

Texas is currently experiencing once-in-a-generation cold weather that has caused widespread blackouts across the state. Companies are working as quickly and creatively as possible to restore power to the residents and first responders bearing the burden of this anomaly, hopefully bringing an end to this hardship as soon as possible.

In the coming days and weeks, it will be critical to understand what went wrong so that similar events can be prevented in the future. However, it’s already becoming abundantly clear renewable energy isn’t to blame. Those arguing otherwise either haven’t looked at the data or are willfully obscuring the truth and politicizing the event to advance agendas that have nothing to do with restoring power to Texas communities.

While the extreme cold did force some wind turbines offline, the overwhelming majority of failures occurred at thermal power plants, like coal, natural gas and nuclear facilities. In fact, wind and solar produced at about the level ERCOT, the grid operator for most of Texas, expected. Check back here later this month where we’ll share a complete analysis of what this extreme weather event induced, and what can be done to prevent a recurrence, as we get a full picture of what happened. In the meantime, here’s a roundup of news and analysis:

Don’t point too many fingers at Texas wind turbines, because they’re not the main reason broad swaths of the state have been plunged into darkness.  …The majority of outages overnight were plants fueled by natural gas, coal and nuclear, which together make up more than two-thirds of power generation during winter….” —Bloomberg

It’s becoming harder for the U.S. to ignore the very real effects of global climate change — and despite the efforts of naysayers, it’s not a push to renewables that’s to blame for the outages sweeping the nation. It’s the country’s energy infrastructure…Shortages of natural gas, which must first go to heating homes, hospitals and other facilities that serve human needs, curtailed production of some power plants. Others could not operate under the extreme conditions which went “well beyond the design parameters of an extreme Texas winter.” —TechCrunch

“Since wind in Texas generally tends to produce less during winter, there’s no way that the grid operators would have planned for getting 30 gigawatts (GW) from wind generation; in fact, a chart at ERCOT indicates that wind is producing significantly more than forecast.” –ArsTechnica

“Unsurprisingly, the blackouts immediately led to many assuming that, somehow, wind power had caused the blackouts. Immediately, a narrative began to emerge, across media and far-right networks: the wind turbines were frozen solid by the cold…” — Renew Economy

“The biggest shortfall in energy production stemmed from natural gas. Gas pipelines were blocked with ice or their compressors lost power. Much of the gas that was available was prioritized for heating homes and businesses rather than generating electricity. That’s helpful for people who use gas for heating but less so for those who use electric furnaces.” —Vox


Greg AlvarezDeputy Director, Communications