Article: Lessons from the Texas big freeze

Article - Media, Publications

Lessons from the Texas big freeze

Carl Pope, 24 March 2021

The Texas power market caps wholesale prices at an astonishingly high $9,000 per/mwh. When the crisis hit, the computers managing the market price crashed. Regulators then arbitrarily set prices at the peak rate, and left them there for four days, knowing that generators could not provide more power because their facilities were frozen. During the freeze, household daily utility bills of $2,500 and more were incurred by homeowners who had signed up for variable plans, even when for most of the four days they had no power. The City of Denton incurred $300 million in power bills in a week, $2,000 for each of its 15,000 residents.

The power companies maximised their profit from those units that were up and running. By the third week in February, it appeared all the energy companies serving the Texas market had made as much money in 2021 as they had in the previous three years.

“We were able to get super premium prices, that’s going to pay off handsomely like hitting the jackpot,” said Chief Financial Officer Roland Burns of Comstock Resources, a leading Texan energy producer. He later apologised when his remarks hit the headlines. Continue reading “Article: Lessons from the Texas big freeze”

Article: The Big Texas Shootout: Where Did The Deep Freeze Money Go?

Article - Media, Publications

The Big Texas Shootout: Where Did The Deep Freeze Money Go?

Llewellyn King, 15 March 2021

The shootout is a deeply revered piece of Texas mythology, even though the most famous shootout of all was in Arizona at the O.K. Corral. In fact, only half a dozen public disputes which were settled with the gun took place in Texas, but the myths endure and are cherished.

A shootout of another type has started in Texas — one which will last longer than any brief gunplay and will substitute legal briefs for bullets. This dispute is over the exorbitant charges for power generated during the mid-February deep freeze.

The first to draw was Brazos, the state’s oldest and largest electric power cooperative, which filed for bankruptcy. Some think it will be the first in a long column. Then Denton, the municipally owned utility, sued the Texas grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), contesting a $200-million electric charge during the winter storm.

On March 12, San Antonio’s CPS Energy, the largest municipally owned utility in Texas, drew a bead on ERCOT and fired off a number of heavy rounds in a complaint that pitted the otherwise progressive and low-key utility against ERCOT.

‘Illegal Wealth Transfers’
The complaint, filed in the District Court of Bexar County, seeks immediate and permanent injunctive relief. It states: “CPS Energy sues ERCOT its officers and directors, who are presiding over one of the largest illegal wealth transfers in the history of Texas.”

The lawsuit states that CPS Energy plans to conduct discovery under the Texas civil code and its purpose is to protect its customers from “excessive and illegitimate power and natural gas costs.”

CPS Energy President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams said at a press conference, “We are fighting to protect our customers from the financial impacts of the systemic failure of the ERCOT market, and the outrageous and unlawful costs associated with that failure.”

Read Full Article

Article: Texas Grid Failure: Why More Heads Need To Roll

Article - Media, Publications

Texas Grid Failure: Why More Heads Need To Roll

Ed Hirs, 02 March 2021

The Texas electricity market failed. Yet in the words of ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, it functioned just as designed. ERCOT has congratulated itself for losing only 40% of the grid and is proceeding to settle transactions to transfer more than $50 billion from consumers to electricity generators. Why is there such an obvious disconnect?

The core premise of effective governance is that the officers and directors of any entity understand the business they govern. The late Yale University economist Paul W. MacAvoy used to state it this way: The purpose of the board of directors is to assist the CEO to develop the corporation’s strategy and then monitor performance. If performance is not up to expectations, the board must ask two questions. Continue reading “Article: Texas Grid Failure: Why More Heads Need To Roll”

Article: Texas power consumers to pay the price of winter storm

Article - Media, Publications

Texas power consumers to pay the price of winter storm

Scott DiSavino, Stephanie Kelly, 18 February 2021

(Reuters) – Texas residents suffering a winter storm that has left millions without power are set to face a future challenge in higher utility bills, after the days-long cold snap put an unprecedented strain on the state’s power network.

Some 2.7 million households in Texas, the largest electricity consuming state in the United States, were without heat on Wednesday as freezing temperatures in a normally temperate part of the country overwhelmed demand, causing blackouts and widespread anger.

Wholesale power prices soared more than 300-fold, stirring memories of the price spikes that accompanied California’s energy crisis of 2000-2001, when Enron and others artificially increased prices. Continue reading “Article: Texas power consumers to pay the price of winter storm”