Research highlight

Energy: Winterizing the Texan energy infrastructure pays off in the long term

Nature Energy

April 5, 2022

Preparing the energy system in Texas for winter—also known as winterization—can pay back its costs within a 30-year timeframe and the benefits to the wellbeing of the people of Texas can be an order of magnitude higher than the costs, suggests a paper published in Nature Energy.

The electricity system in Texas suffered massive outages in winter of 2021, leaving 4.5 million people without access to electricity in freezing cold weather. While debate about the causes of this failure continues, winterization of the energy system has been delayed. electric and gas companies as well as regulators have struggled to justify the winterization costs in a liberalized electricity market.

Katharina Gruber and colleagues estimated the potential for the recurrence of an event similar to the 2021 winter using historical data and found that eight similar blackouts could have happened in the past 71 years had the current market mechanisms been in place. They then estimated the winterization costs for various segments of the energy system from the power companies to the gas supply. These costs were then compared to the potential for revenue generation in a winterized system which comes out to about US$1.06 billion per GW for power companies over a 30-year period compared to a winterization costs of US$450 million per GW for gas power plants.

These findings suggest that current legislation can be improved by emphasizing the winterization of gas power plants and infrastructure, argue to the authors.

doi: 10.1038/s41560-022-00994-y

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