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A natural gas power plant outside Dallas. Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The electricity grid that serves most of Texas, known as ERCOT, operates on a relatively rare energy-only electricity market. An energy-only market pays power plants only for producing electricity, while other markets provide "capacity payments" to generators to be available even when not producing power. Texas built this lean market to keep down costs, but this summer could pose a threat to its survival.

The big picture: A combination of sustained low natural gas prices and increasing supply from renewables has kept ERCOT’s electric wholesale market prices so low for so long that some power plants have been driven out of the market.

Citing low market prices, multiple coal plants in Texas have retired in recent months. Low wholesale prices have generally been good for consumers, as they have led to lower retail rates. But this reduction in supply means that reserves (power plants able to come online if demand exceeds predictions) will be low this summer, potentially leading to price spikes and blackouts.

The other side: High futures prices for electricity this summer have incentivized some power plants to finish construction early and enticed other "mothballed" plants to re-enter the markets. These actions may indicate that the energy-only market can still ensure adequate capacity.

The bottom line: Electricity prices change every few minutes, but decisions about power plant construction are made on multi-decade timescales. If Texas runs out of power this summer because it runs out of power plants, faith in the energy-only market might waver.

Joshua Rhodes is a research associate in the Webber Energy Group and the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.

Go deeper

Pew: Over 80% of Asian adults say violence against them is increasing

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

More than 80% of Asian adults say that violence against them is increasing, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

The big picture: The survey, conducted April 5-11, comes after the recent shootings in Atlanta in which eight people, including six Asian women were killed, as well as a yearlong spike in hate incidents against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

Danger lurks in the Democrats' police talk

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats celebrate last June after they passed the George Floyd Policing Act. Photo: Ting Shen/Xinhua via Getty Images

As Congress forges ahead with police reform legislation, Democratic operatives are warning lawmakers to steer clear of any defund-the-police rhetoric since it could hurt them in the midterms.

Why it matters: President Biden and his fellow Democrats say Congress needs to pass the George Floyd Policing Act, which would ban chokeholds, prohibit no-knock warrants and generally make it easier to hold officers accountable for misconduct.

Exclusive: Harris meets Guatemalan president Monday, travels in June

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris will meet virtually Monday with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei to discuss solutions to the surge of migration, and she'll visit the region in June, a senior White House official told Axios.

Why it matters: The administration is taking a multi-pronged approach to solving the problem and also hopes to announce details about its plan for investing aid in Central America on Monday — although a final dollar amount has yet to be decided.