Lockdowns and the Texas Power Disaster
Lockdowns and the Texas Power Disaster by Jeffrey A. Tucker for American Institute for Economic Research
Texas is right now consumed in debate over the question of how the catastrophic power and water outages could have happened. Some people are ready to put the blame on the fragility of wind power while others say that this is unfair scapegoating. It’s a hugely important discussion, given that at least 24 deaths are due to loss of power and that is probably only the beginning.
What seems to have escaped notice, however, is the role that Covid-related lockdowns may have played in reducing inspections and preparations for a possibly brutal winter. With so much of normal life shut down during the spring and summer, and so many people finding every excuse to Zoom meet rather than go to work, power plants were subject to neglect.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) – a quasi-government entity – “manages the flow of electric power on the Texas Interconnection that supplies power to more than 25 million Texas customers – representing 90 percent of the state’s electric load.” It is also responsible for inspections, training, and maintenance such as preparing for extreme weather.
An investigation by NBC found that ERCOT “did not conduct any on-site inspections of the state’s power plants to see if they were ready for this winter season. Due to COVID-19 they conducted virtual tabletop exercises instead – but only with 16% of the state’s power generating facilities.”
Thus in compliance with all the restrictions, and possibly also in order to avoid a germ, ERCOT shelved all its usual preparations in favor of pretend exercises. You can even see this from its board minutes dated October 8, 2020. Many of the regulations operations are suspended or made virtual. Some training was extended from 6 to 12 weeks with the option of being online. Board member Erik Johnson raised a warning flag: “This would significantly impact our ability to conduct continuing training for ERCOT operators.”