Sunday, August 14, 2011

Texas Teetered on Blackout’s Edge Just One Week Ago: Is America's power supply is serious peril?

The electric power grid in Texas is at the crisis point, its managers on the verge of having to impose rolling blackouts on a sweltering population, and is providing a leading indicator for the rest of the country. It is not only the heat that is placing unprecedented demands on the grid (after February cold and storms led to rolling blackouts), it’s the attitude of the people in charge that pretty much guarantees catastrophic failure ahead.

First, the situation: Texas is in the grip of an historic heat wave and drought, the effects of which are gathering on water supplies, food crops and energy supplies. Temperatures in much of the state have exceeded 100 degrees F. for more than a month, and consequent demand for electricity set all-time records three times this week. The optimistically named Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, said just two weeks ago that it had plenty of capacity to see the state through the heat wave, thank you very much. But this week it was running every facility it had flat out, and intermittently cutting power to large industrial users to keep the grid from going down. It was, it admitted, one technical glitch away from blackouts. (more)