Massive winter power outage: Can what happened in Texas happen in Canada?

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Winter Storm Energy Prices in Texas Leave Customers With Astronomical Bills That Can Reach Up to $17,000

EXCERPTS: As if freezing for days and living with power outrages weren’t bad enough, some Texans now have to deal with the steep financial consequences from the storm. The latest blow came via the electricity bills, some of which have reached outrageous sums that can reach $5,000 or even $17,000 for just a few days.

[...] At times, plans like those offered by Griddy mean that customers save money when the cost of energy is low. However, when prices go up, it can mean trouble. ... Ty Williams, a Griddy customer from Arlington, told a local Fox affiliate that he and his family were lucky because they never lost power during the storm. Apparently, that luck did not come cheap: Griddy charged him $17,000 for five days of use.

[...] Last weekend, Griddy warned its customers that it was expecting significantly higher prices in the near future. It even told all of them that they should switch to another provider. But that was easier said than done. Williams, the Griddy customer from Arlington, stated that he tried to switch providers but that he was told making the change would take at least a week. Griddy customers who spoke the Morning News reported similar experiences. Fox reported that Williams was finally able to switch at the end of this week... (MORE - details)

What caused the deadly power outages in Texas and how Canada's grid compares

EXCERPTS: Millions of people in Texas were left shivering without power, heat and running water for several days this week and at least 30 died after a severe winter storm crippled power plants and the electricity grid. How did that happen? And could Canada face similar risks? Here’s a closer look.

[...] While most power plants in Canada are designed for winter weather and housed in buildings, that's not the case in Texas, said Emily Grubert, assistant professor of environmental engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in an interview with CBC's The Current. "They might not have walls even, in quite the same way," she said. "They might not have insulated pipes.… The whole grid was subject to extreme conditions that it was not designed to handle."

[...] a review following a previous extreme freeze in 2014 identified the problems that devastated the state this week and recommended steps such as winterizing generating plants. But upgrades take time.
Deregulation, politics may have played a role

The problem wasn't just lack of time, but the fact Texas is a fully deregulated electricity market that doesn't necessarily have the same central long-term planning authorities that exist in Canada, Bradley said. "The market signals don't necessarily move in the right direction to facilitate these kinds of long-term investments that are required."

Tom Seng [...] summed up the utilities' perspective in that context: "Up until now, it's been an issue of, 'Well, we don't think that's worth it to ratepayers for what might be a very infrequent weather event.'"

[...] In Canada, Bradley said, most systems are regulated. Ontario and Alberta have partially deregulated electricity systems, he said, but still have strong regional long-term planning and regulation to ensure the provinces are prepared for extreme events that could impact the electricity system.

Prof. Jatin Nathwani [...] said he thinks the organization that oversees Texas's grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), is capable of central co-ordination and planning, but other factors, such as local politics, can hamper upgrades. "It is a political climate, I think, which is a little less receptive to the kinds of investments I'm talking about that would make the system a lot more resilient and stronger," he said.

Electricity systems in Canada — and most systems across North America — have a backup source if their local power generation can't meet demand for whatever reason. They're connected to supplies in neighbouring provinces and states, often as part of larger regional grids, and can import power if needed. "Every province is connected either east-west or north-south, and in many cases both," Bradley said.

That's not the case for Texas. "The problem they're having is they don't have a lot of interconnection with other grids."

Of course, there can be a downside to that connectivity. In 2003, an issue in Ohio triggered a huge blackout throughout much of the northeastern U.S. and Ontario. However, Bradley said that type of event has only happened twice since the 1960s, and each time resulted in upgrades to standards and equipment that made the chance of it happening again less likely.

Some provinces, such as Ontario, benefit from power imports and exports every single day. Mostly, that benefit is economic, said Leonard Kula [...] But the imports can also cover shortages in the province when needed, such as during a 2005 summer heat wave, without the public even noticing... (MORE - details)
Zinjanthropos Offline
Probably make a fortune if I drove down to Texas with a truck full of standby gas powered generators right now. Imagine charging up your EV for couple grand worth of electricity.

In 2003 our house and couple hundred others were unaffected. I was on some special dedicated line from Niagara Falls. Didn’t know about it until next day.

I think Ontario actually pays NY to take our excess hydro everyday. From what I understand the excess is produced in case nuclear plant(s) go down for some reason.

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