Lots of interesting angles here.
Texas’ largest power line company says it has found a way to quickly revolutionize the state’s electrical grid, making it more reliable and friendlier to renewable energy without driving up consumer costs. The problem? It is likely to require a fundamental change in state law.
The company, Oncor, which has 119,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines delivering power to more than three million homes and businesses, surprised the energy world last month when it announced that it was willing to spend billions of dollars by 2018 to install some 25,000 batteries across Texas that would store electricity to be discharged when needed.
Standing in Oncor’s way is a law that prevents it from selling electricity on the wholesale market. State lawmakers erected the wall between transmission companies and electric generators when they deregulated the electricity market in 1999.
Neither a transmission company nor a generator could make the battery economics work under the current system, the Brattle analysis said. A company would need to tap cost savings on both sides of the divide.
A big question for us Texans is whether Texas is about fossil fuel, and thus at its peak, or about energy in general, which makes it the nexus of the future.
The complete domination of the state by Republicans leads you to think it’s the former. But when there’s no serious opposition, the dominant party tends to grow up a little, since they no longer have anyone to blame for the problems.
Oncor has found a friendly ear with state Sen. Troy Fraser, R- Horseshoe Bay, who chairs the Senate Natural Resources Committee. He said he was looking for options that would not require a legal change. But Fraser said he remained bullish on the competitive market and would only support a “revenue neutral” plan that did not shift costs from one sector of the energy industry to another.
For the whole world, though, it shows that the intermittency of renewables is a fading argument for nuclear or fossil energy.
Whether or not Texas takes the lead, dispatchable stored energy looks likely to happen soon. For now, in Texas,
“It’s a good idea; it’s good market fundamentals; it’s good technology; it’s also against the rules,” said Michael Webber, deputy director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.
We’ll see whether the party of free marketry upholds their principles when they act in favor of renewables. Or whether they find some excuse to bend their principles just this once.
If I were a bettin’ man…
See also my talk:
and this similar quandary