Texas braces for summer of lower power reserves

Source: By Ryan Maye Handy, Houston Chronicle • Posted: Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Photo: Ryan Holeywell. Workers in in the control room of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates most of the state’s power grid, must keep a balance between electric generation and demand to prevent transmission lines from overloading.

Texas’ electricity grid operator expects that customers will have to voluntarily reduce power consumption this summer in order to keep electricity flowing through the grid, according to a report released Thursday.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees 90 percent of the state’s grid, estimated that it would have just enough power to meet electricity demand this summer. But Texas’ summer power reserves are at their lowest in more than a decade, a shortage that is expected also to drive up wholesale electricity prices.

The grid’s balance of supply and demand could be upset by low wind energy production, numerous outages and extreme heat, ERCOT said in a summer power forecast. If any of those scenarios were to happen, ERCOT would not have enough power to meet demand, according to the report.

The worst case scenario would be a repeat of the summer of 2011, when ERCOT frequently urged customers to raise thermostats and cut power consumption. If such steps don’t succeed, ERCOT’s next step would typically be to cut off power to large consumers – such as industrial plants.

ERCOT’s most recent projection estimates that peak demand this summer will reach nearly 73,000 megawatts, well above the record off 71,110 megawatts set in August 2016. One megawatt is enough to power 200 homes on a hot Texas day.