Texas families were once again asked to reduce their electricity use to keep the state’s electrical grid from failing on Wednesday. The state, which boasts a GDP larger than Italy, has pleaded with its residents to keep its grid online 10 times this summer as extreme heat and fossil fuels’ unreliability have increased demand and constrained supply. At about 7:30 Wednesday evening ERCOT, the state’s grid operator, issued a Level Two emergency alert — the first of its kind since Winter Storm Uri in 2021 — with just 2,300 megawatts of operational reserve available.
With extreme heat fueled by climate change, and earlier sunsets limiting solar energy output, September evenings are a particularly tenuous time for a grid beset by unexpected coal- and gas-fired power plant failures. Asking families to cool their homes less and not run the dishwasher isn’t the only thing Texas is doing to keep its electrical grid online, however. It’s also paying Bitcoin miners to just sit there. ERCOT paid Riot Platforms, one of the state’s largest Bitcoin miners, $31.7 million in August (presumably not in crypto) to pause their energy-intensive operations, the firm said Wednesday — more than the $13.5 million it paid Riot in Q2 of this year, and more than it paid the firm across all of 2022. (Level 2 emergency: Houston Chronicle, Texas Tribune; Septembers: Heatmap $; Bitcoin payouts: Bloomberg $, CNBC; Climate Signals background: Extreme heat and heatwaves)