As a result of extreme heat along the Gulf Coast, Texas’s deregulated and largely methane-gas-driven electricity prices skyrocketed by 800% on Sunday, as the heat broke oil refineries incapable of operating at these temperatures. The concurrent impacts are both exacerbated by climate change, mainly caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels.
The Texas grid operator, ERCOT, has managed to keep the grid functioning by relying on renewable energy and asking customers to curtail their electricity use as the grid has broken all-time demand records multiple times this month alone and ERCOT projects it will set new all-time records every day this week. Solar installations in particular have been performing as or better than expected in the extreme heat, and without renewables, fossil- and nuclear-fueled power plants would have already failed to keep lights on and A/Cs running.
The extreme heat is also too much for oil refineries in the region, contributing to higher gasoline prices nationwide. Six refineries in Texas and Louisiana are currently shut down because they can not reliably operate in this weather. “Refineries are outdoors and exposed to the elements,” Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, told Spectrum News. “A lot of the equipment at refineries is designed for normal temperatures, not extremes.” (Texas Grid: Bloomberg $, Bloomberg $; Refineries: KXXV, OilPrice; Climate Signals background: Extreme heat and heatwaves)