Energy Excursions

How Much Water to Power Texas in the Future?

The deregulated power grid in Texas means no one company owns power plants, transmission lines, and distribution networks, and about 60% of Texas customers choose between dozens of power retailers on an open market.1Cameron, D., Albracht, E., Douglas, E., & Ferman, M. (2021, February 25). How Texas’ power grid works. The Texas Tribune. How does the Texas power grid actually work?

Texas Power Grid

Electricity generators (e.g., NRG) produce power, while retail electric providers (e.g., Griddy) sell power to residents and businesses. Power is transported by transmission companies (e.g., Oncor) who are compensated through a fee on customer’s bills from their electric provider.2Cameron, D., Albracht, E., Douglas, E., & Ferman, M. (2021, February 25). How Texas’ power grid works. The Texas Tribune.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the price of power and also balances supply and demand in the grid. Because electricity cannot generally be stored, supply and demand have to balance and electricity supplies have to match demands during the hottest hours of the year in Texas. ERCOT is regulated by the state government. ERCOT and electric utilities answer to the state Public Utility Commission. The state governor appoints the commission’s board. The Texas Legislature can write laws to regulate any part of the system.3Cameron, D., Albracht, E., Douglas, E., & Ferman, M. (2021, February 25). How Texas’ power grid works. The Texas Tribune.

Design Challenge Part 2

Using the information from previous topics in this course as well as the answers you found in Part 1 of the Design Challenge, you now have the opportunity to design your own energy mix for powering the Texas power grid.

Considerations for Selecting your Fuel Mix

  • Length of time to build out a specific type of power plant
  • Cost per Mwh of electricity for specific fuel types
  • Base load considerations—don’t leave the state without electricity at night
  • Primary energy sources that are abundant / produced in Texas
  • Public acceptance of using particular energy sources or building specific types of power plants
  • Emission statistics for different fuel types

To begin, click on the button below and walk through the activity sheet to complete Part 2 of the Design Challenge. Afterwards, consider the reflection questions below. There are no right or wrong answers. The questions are intended to help you reflect on the assignment and promote discussion with others.

Parts 2E and 2F Reflection Questions

  1. Why did you select the particular fuel mix you did? (refer to Considerations for Selecting your Fuel Mix listed above)
  2. Is the mix of energy sources you chose to power our state annually (429,800,000 Mwh) more or less water intensive than what the state currently uses (Refer to Parts 1A and 1B)? How does it compare to the scenario based on market demand drivers from 1C and 1D?
  3. Now that you have completed both parts of the Design Challenge, would you change anything in your fuel mix scenario? Why?
TEKS Standards
College Board Units and Topics