Dallas Morning News: Blackouts began with coal

Today's Dallas Morning News has a thorough and detailed accounting of the rolling blackouts that took place in Texas Feb. 2, including an hour-by-hour timeline of the event. A few highlights:

– “[T]he breakdown of a cluster of coal-fired plants in Central Texas was at the heart” of the electricity generation shortage that led to the blackouts.

– During the blackouts, wholesale electricity prices spiked from the normal 7 cents per kilowatt-hour to a whopping $30 per kilowatt-hour (in a Texas Tribune story published yesterday, the CEO of the company that operates the state's utility system noted that operators of plants that suffered outages will be on the hook, in the form of penalties, for most of the cost difference).

– Because of unusually low temperatures across the state, “[U]tilities faced the highest demand for natural gas in 30 years, and had to cut supply to natural gas-fueled power plants. Atmos Energy, the North Texas gas utility, cuts supply to power plants several times each winter, when supply gets tight. Power plants enjoy a reduced rate for gas in exchange for the inconvenience.”

As we said in our initial backgrounder to reporters issued late in the day Feb. 2, the Texas experience demonstrates the value of having a diversified portfolio of types of power plants, including wind, which was able to generate during the blackouts and helped keep them from being worse.

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