Punxsutawney Phil wasn’t kidding when he predicted six more weeks of winter. As most of the nation plunges into a bitter cold snap — with temperatures falling into the unheard-of single digits in Texas — we have fossil fuels to thank for keeping Texans warm and safe. For now, anyway.
This week, as the state and nation are blanketed in ice, we can expect most of our wind turbines to be still and solar panels to produce little to no electricity. Texas energy experts are projecting wind to produce, at most, 10% of its generating capacity.
Fortunately, our abundant natural gas and clean coal power plants can be ramped up to meet our power needs at any time. Without this consistent source of electricity, the consequences could be disastrous. Even Germany, while noisily and aggressively pursuing a 100% renewable energy agenda, is quietly grateful for fossil fuels keeping the heat on.
Though renewable energy activists will point to utility-scale battery storage as the turnkey solution to keep our heaters on when the wind isn’t blowing and sun isn’t shining, the technology remains impractical and expensive.
A study by the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Life:Powered project found that Texas would need more than 2 million MWh of energy storage to cover the needs of a 100% renewable grid during an average Texas winter. Even as statewide battery storage capacity will soar to 1,900 MW by 2025, that’s still only 0.4% of Texas’ power needs. That’s a lot of families left in the cold.
Losing power is more than an inconvenience. A recent study by Northwestern University researchers found that increasing natural gas prices lead to increasing deaths in the wintertime. When utility bills become unaffordable, families struggling to make ends meet are forced to choose between keeping their house warm and more pressing needs like putting food on the table or refilling essential prescriptions. Being trapped in the cold is not only uncomfortable, but also increases risk of illness and exacerbates preexisting conditions that weaken resilience against disease.
As President Biden continues his crusade against our affordable, reliable energy resources, Texans should stand firm in defense of the Texas-made fuels keeping us warm, cozy, and safe this winter.
This commentary originally appeared in The Cannon Online on Friday, February 12, 2021.