US conservatives falsely blame renewables for Texas storm outages by Martin Farrer
Article by Martin Farrer and agencies
Originally published on The Guardian
February 17, 2021
Lawmakers and the Murdoch media target wind and solar but grid operator says fossil fuel generators suffered biggest problems
The Wall Street Journal said in an editorial that “the power grid is becoming less reliable due to growing reliance on wind and solar, which can’t provide power 24 hours a day, seven days a week”.
While some wind turbines did freeze, failures in natural gas, coal and nuclear energy systems were responsible for nearly twice as many outages as renewables, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (Ercot), which operates the state’s power grid, said in a press conference on Tuesday.
Frozen instruments at gas, coal and even nuclear power stations were among the main problems, Ercot director Dan Woodfin said, according to Bloomberg.
Despite evidence to the contrary, a variety of misleading claims spread on social media about renewable energy, with wind turbines and the Green New Deal on the receiving end of much of the attention.
A viral photo of a helicopter de-icing a wind turbine was shared with claims it showed a “chemical” solution being applied to one of the massive wind generators in Texas. But the photo was taken in Sweden years ago, not in the US.
Other social media users, including Republican congresswoman Lauren Boebert of Colorado, labelled the Green New Deal as the culprit. Boebert tweeted on Monday that the proposal was “proven unsustainable as renewables are clearly unreliable”.
But no version of the Green New Deal exists in Texas or nationwide, said Mark Jacobson, director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program and professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University.
“It’s really natural gas and coal and nuclear that are providing the bulk of the electricity and that’s the bulk of the cause of the blackouts,” Jacobson told the Associated Press. Ercot said on Tuesday that of the 45,000 total megawatts of power that were offline statewide, about 30,000 consisted of thermal sources – gas, coal and nuclear plants – and 16,000 came from renewable sources.
Renewable energy is a popular scapegoat for new problems as more frequent extreme weather events strain infrastructure, according to Emily Grubert, an assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology.
“It’s easy to focus on the thing that you can see changing as the source of why an outcome is changing,” Grubert told the AP. “The reality is that managing our systems is becoming more difficult. And that’s something that is easy to blame on the reaction to it, but it’s not actually the root cause.”
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Photograph: David J Phillip/AP
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