Drops in power generation from wind farms, hydro dams and nuclear reactors has forced the operator of the electric grid in Texas – one of the largest power systems in the United States – to increase fossil fuel use so far this year, resulting in higher carbon dioxide emissions. Higher temperatures this spring have raised electric power use from air conditioners and spurred the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to ask electricity generators to delay or cancel recent planned outages. Power plants do annual maintenance in April, which takes thousands of megawatts offline, making it harder for the grid to handle increased power demand from higher temperatures. Through mid-April, ERCOT has increased coal-fired power generation by 5 percent from the same period in 2023, and natural gas output by 12 percent, raising ERCOT’s total fossil fuel-powered generation by 10 percent from the same period in 2023.

In contrast, ERCOT generation from non-carbon-emitting sources has increased by just 3 percent through April 15 from the same period in 2023, due to a 23 percent drop in hydro output, a 3 percent drop in wind power, and a 4 percent decline in nuclear generation. Solar generation has helped pick up some of the slack, increasing by 60 percent through April 15 from the same period in 2023.

Overall, fossil fuels remain the main source of power within the Texas electricity generation system so far this year. The decline in output from wind, hydro and nuclear sources has resulted in non-carbon emitting power losing its share of the ERCOT generation mix compared to a year ago. Through mid-April, they accounted for 49 percent of the ERCOT generation total, down from 51 percent over the same period in 2023. While only a 2 percentage point swing on the year, the drop means fossil fuels are again the main source of electricity for the Texas power system so far in 2024, after having played a lesser role over the same period in 2023.

The higher use of coal and natural gas in the state’s electricity generation has raised power sector emissions higher so far this year. In January, 18.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide was emitted by Texas power producers, which is 40 percent more than the 13.1 million tons emitted in the same month in 2023.

Texans’ electricity demand keeps growing due to demand from crypto mining, data centers, electric vehicles, manufacturing and more people moving to the state. Average residential electricity prices in Texas are 14.25 cents per kilowatt hour—around 10 percent less than the national average and 52 percent less than in California, so it is no wonder that people are flocking to Texas. If temperatures continue to climb across Texas this summer, homes, schools and businesses will further increase their use of air conditioners, which will place further strain on the state’s power system, and may result in even greater quantities of fossil fuel use in electricity generation. Coal and natural gas are reliable and can operate around clock, which wind and solar power cannot do.

ERCOT will likely see increased solar power output this summer, as solar generation output tends to peak during high demand periods in the summer and record amounts of new solar capacity have been added to the Texas grid in 2023.  But since solar does not produce electricity at night, solar power’s contribution to the overall generation mix will likely be limited to around 8 percent to 10 percent of the total. Texas wind power output tends to hit its seasonal lows during the summer due to lower wind speeds, so renewable generation may actually approach its annual low just as total power demand hits its highs this summer. Power firms in Texas will likely remain heavily reliant on fossil fuels for electricity over the near to medium term, despite efforts to wean power systems off fossil fuels over the longer term.


Texas has the most wind capacity in the country but wind generation hits seasonal lows during the summer due to lower wind speeds, just when demand increases due to high use of air conditioners. Texas is adding more solar generation to its grid, which will produce more energy during the summer months, but solar power is limited as it does not produce generation at night. So, Texas will continue to rely on its coal and natural gas generators as more people and industry move to the state, where electricity is much more affordable than in many blue states such as California.

President Biden should recognize that his energy transition is not working as wind and solar power cannot even replace current coal and natural gas generation no less meet higher demand from his electrify everything program. Diversity of supply is still needed if America wants to remain an industrialized country. One only has to look at the fiasco in Europe to see the writing on the wall.

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