ERCOT: Grid Should Meet Upcoming Electricity Demands

A look inside the ERCOT control center in 2013.
A look inside the ERCOT control center in 2013.

Texas should have more than enough electricity to keep its lights on this fall and winter, the operator of the grid covering most of the state says.   

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas on Tuesday released two reliability forecasts – a final assessment for the fall, and a preliminary outlook for the winter. Both estimates, which looked at weather patterns and new sources of electric generation, said the grid should have enough electricity to meet the state’s biggest demands and avoid the threat of rolling blackouts – a condition the state narrowly escaped last winter.

The grid will have more than 75,500 megawatts of generation available this fall – 2,100 megawatts more than it had a year ago – while peak demand is expected to hover around 48,700 megawatts, according to the analysis. (A megawatt-hour can power 500 typical Texas homes for an hour during mild weather.) 

Considering that some generation may, at times, be taken offline for routine maintenance or an unexpected outage, the council expects its power reserves will range from 2,600 megawatts to 14,000 megawatts throughout the fall.

The council said it expects to have enough generation during the winter unless a huge spike in demand coincided with unexpected “extreme fuel supply restrictions that affected generation availability."

Last winter, the council was a step away from issuing rolling blackouts after the bone-chilling  “polar vortex” knocked two North Texas power plants offline just as residents began turning up the heat and revving up power use. Peak demand on the grid set a new record for the winter, and an unusually chilly March shattered the previous record for that month. 

“Last winter’s extreme winter weather did prove challenging, both for generation resources and the transmission system,” Ken McIntyre, the council’s vice president of grid planning and operations, said in a news release. “Generation providers in the ERCOT region have continued to improve their weatherization practices, and we continue to evaluate possible impacts associated with fuel supply restrictions to generators, drought conditions and environmental regulatory changes.”