Electricity prices spike to $9K again as emergency declared

Source: By Mike Lee, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, August 19, 2019

Texas’ main grid operator declared a power emergency for the second time this week, as the state’s generation fleet suffered a series of unusual breakdowns.

About 5,200 megawatts of generating capacity went offline unexpectedly yesterday, about 7% of the state’s projected power need for the day, Dan Woodfin, senior director of systems operations for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said on a conference call. Spot power prices hit $9,000 per megawatt-hour, the maximum allowed on the grid, for more than an hour.

Texas set a record for electricity demand Monday, as people and businesses ran their air conditioners to cope with temperatures that topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit across most of the state. ERCOT declared an energy emergency Tuesday as the heat continued (Energywire, Aug. 14).

Temperatures were lower across the state yesterday when ERCOT declared the second energy emergency, but Woodfin said the steady high demand was beginning to stress the state’s power plants.

“A lot of it is related to just generators that have been running every day,” he said.

It wasn’t clear how much of the offline capacity involved conventional coal- and gas-fired plants and how much was solar and wind power, Woodfin said.

ERCOT serves about 90% of Texas’ electric customers, and it has only limited tie-ins with the national electric grid.

Before this week, ERCOT’s last energy emergency was in January 2014. The last time the grid operator declared more than one emergency in a week was in August 2011, at the end of a record-setting hot summer. Those emergencies happened Aug. 2-5 and Aug. 23-24 of 2011.

ERCOT has three levels of energy emergencies, based on how much reserve power is available. At the lowest level of alert, which was declared yesterday and Tuesday, the grid operator can call on all available generating plants in the state and import power from other grids.

As the reserve margins shrink, ERCOT has the ability to order large industrial customers to stop using power and can implement other so-called demand response measures. In more extreme cases, the council can order rolling power outages throughout the state.