The state of Texas experienced widespread electricity outages following this week’s winter storm that left much of the nation in a deep freeze.
Reacting to news of the energy emergency, Alabama Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh believes the situation was made worse by choices Texas made in building its energy policy.
“Texas pursued policy that is trendy but doesn’t result in reliable energy,” she told Yellowhammer News. “There are really two things they did wrong. First of all, if you look at their energy portfolio, they rely on wind more than they do coal. So much can go wrong with the way the technology currently exists with wind and solar. When the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining, just know those things won’t work. They don’t produce energy. Or in the case of Texas this week, the wind turbines froze and couldn’t turn.”
With reliability the key factor in withstanding the demand associated with frigid conditions this week, Cavanaugh sees one obvious solution.
“When in doubt, burn coal,” she stated. “That’s what I always say. God put more than two centuries worth of coal in the ground for a reason.”
Along with that approach comes a commitment to maintaining diverse sources of energy, according to Cavanaugh.
“One of the things we have done in Alabama is take the all-of-the-above approach,” she explained. “Coal, natural gas, nuclear, solar, wind, hydro, we need all of it. But during crunch time, like the record cold week we have had, you have to be set up with what is most reliable.”
A reported 4.1 million Texans have lost power since Monday. Some residents have been without power for more than 24 hours as temperatures continue to dip below freezing.
Cavanaugh pointed out that this is not the first time in recent months a state has encountered difficulty generating enough power.
“Someone said this week, ‘The less we use fossil fuels, the more we need them,’” she recalled. “That’s so true. We have seen too many cases now of trendy, liberal policies gone wrong. California gloated about getting rid of coal and natural gas, and now they struggle to keep their electrical grid in operation.”
Last August, a summer heatwave pressured California’s electrical grid at a time when it was attempting to transition to generating power exclusively through solar and wind. The state’s grid operator was forced to declare a system emergency, and millions of homes and businesses experienced rolling blackouts, some for hours on end.
At the time, Cavanaugh called it “a nightmare energy scenario.”
Continually planning for these type of weather events is an important part of the Public Service Commission’s work, according to Cavanaugh.
“The other thing we have done in Alabama, that they didn’t do in Texas, is to maintain a large cushion of electricity for times when demand peaks,” she outlined. “In the industry it’s called a reserve margin. In our state, Alabama Power keeps ample reserve margin. During the cold of the winter or the heat of the summer we need to know that we have excess electricity generation capacity in case of an emergency.”
Cavanaugh did not hesitate to pin substantial blame on national policy-making, as well.
“We heard John Kerry tell oil and gas workers they didn’t need those jobs,” Cavanaugh said. “That’s the same thing Obama told coal miners during his term in office. Do you know who wishes those coal miners had kept those jobs that Obama laughed at? Families in Texas freezing in their own homes.”
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered an investigation into the cause of his state’s blackouts, calling them “unacceptable.”
From her vantage point, Cavanaugh would like to see a broader discussion on the future of energy generation throughout all 50 states.
“There’s a lot to learn from this week,” she concluded. “I hope that as a country we take a more sobering look at the direction our energy policy is headed. With what California and some states are doing, plus the Biden administration becoming the Obama years all over again, we’re heading for an economic catastrophe in America. Not to mention it is putting our quality of life in peril. The bottom line is that what constitutes fashionable energy policy in Manhattan and San Francisco has no application in the real world.”
Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia