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Crypto Miners, Tesla Drivers, Asked to Power Down Amid Texas Electricity Crisis, Heat Wave

Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: July 13, 2022
Bitcoin miners and Tesla drivers were asked to power down during the current Texas heatwave and its accompanying electricity crisis.
A cowboy boot with the Tesla logo is pictured during the Cyber Rodeo event on April 7, 2022 in Austin, Texas. Amid a record and prolonged heat wave characterized by low wind plaguing Texas, ERCOT, the state’s power grid manager, asked crypto miners to power down during peak hours. Tesla drivers were asked via in-car notification as well. (Image: SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images)

The Texas power authority has asked businesses, which includes some of the largest crypto mining operations in the industry, to power down amid a heatwave that’s spawned an energy crisis.

Tesla owners were also asked to refrain from charging their vehicles via an on-dash popup notification.

On July 10, the state’s power grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), asked businesses to power down between the hours of 2 to 8 p.m. 

ERCOT cited a combination of scaled up demand from the heatwave in conjunction with a low/no wind scenario, leaving the state’s wind energy effectively offline.

The wind power generation situation was so dire that Texas turbines were only generating 8 percent of their available peak capacity. 

Wind power generates more than 35,000 of Texas’s roughly 127,000 megawatts of electricity generation.

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A July 11 Bloomberg article said that nearly all of the crypto mining firms in the state had powered down, returning 1,000 megawatts, or more than 1 percent of daily demand, back to the grid.

The sacrifice was financially significant, as operations that are powered down are generating zero revenue.

Bitcoin, for example, pays 6.25 BTC ($125,000 USD approx.) to the pool that finds each block. The software is designed to average that one block is found by all participants every ten minutes.

D.C.-based NGO Environmental Working Group (EWG) reported, however, that the assistance from miners was far from a public service.

“Most of the paused Texas crypto mining operations entered an arrangement with ERCOT that provides robust financial incentives, meaning the companies were basically paid by Texas energy ratepayers to temporarily stop operations,” a July 13 release stated.

Senior Energy Policy Advisor for EWG Grant Smith stated, “This situation facing the residents of Texas should be a wakeup call for anyone who lives in a state where energy-sapping industrial bitcoin mining operations are located.”

“The threat of blackouts and loss of electricity during extreme weather events can turn deadly fast,” Smith added.

It wasn’t just crypto miners who were asked to conserve electricity. July 12 reporting by enthusiast site Electrek stated that Tesla drivers in the area received a dashboard notification asking them to defer charging during peak hours.

Bloomberg noted that Texas has tagged two all-time records for peak energy usage this month. The first on July 5 at 77,460 megawatts, which was eclipsed just days later on July 8 at 78,206 megawatts.

The New York Post reported that temperatures were scorching all across the state, “In recent days, the mercury reached 107 degrees in San Antonio, 106 degrees in Austin, 111 degrees in College Station, and 110 degrees in the border town of Laredo.”

The outlet noted that by ERCOT’s estimates, “Crypto miners [will] increase electricity demand by up to six gigawatts by mid-2023, more than enough to power every home in Houston.”

Just days earlier on July 7, a natural gas pipeline in Fort Bend, Texas, exploded, causing the price of U.S. Henry Hub natural gas futures to pop 14 percent from an opening price of $5.539 to a high of $6.381. 

According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Texas is responsible for more than a quarter of the country’s natural gas production. 

The state holds almost 10 percent of the country’s reserves and produces more than 35 percent of its electricity through the firing of natural gas, the data showed.

July 11 reporting by NBCDFW said that parts of Texas were bracing for rolling blackouts, a call which brought back somber memories for survivors of the freak 2021 winter storm that left households without electricity for days during a serious, prolonged, and abnormal stretch of sub-zero temperatures.

“During the snow storm they had ‘rolling outages’ which did not turn out to be ‘rolling’ for us,” said one resident.

They added, “Our infrastructure wasn’t built for super cold — that I could wrap my head around…But we deal with heat and now we’re in the hot months and we’re having issues.”