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Report: Texas' Energy Use Could Exceed Capacity by 2022

Texas' chief power-grid operator forecasts that in 10 years, demand for electricity in Texas will outpace the state's capacity to generate it. Demand for electricity is rising with growth in the population and the economy.

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Some Texans could face blackouts in 10 years as a result of electricity shortages, according to a report released Tuesday by the power grid operator for most of the state.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ report on its long-term outlook forecasts that by 2022, Texas will need more electricity during peak hours than it can generate. Peak hours are when the most electricity is used, usually between 3 and 7 p.m. in the hottest days of summer. The report did not specify how often and where blackouts might occur.

“To ensure future electric reliability in the ERCOT region, we need to take immediate steps to address this issue — on both the supply side and the demand side of the resource adequacy equation,” Trip Doggett, ERCOT’s chief executive, said in ERCOT’s news release on the report.

The Texas electric grid covers 75 percent of the state and provides electricity to 23 million Texans. The Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Legislature oversee ERCOT, which is a nonprofit corporation.

Texas’ reserve margin — the gap between energy supply and demand during peak hours — will be 14.3 percent in summer 2013, but that number is forecast to shrink to 9.8 percent in 2014 and drop below zero in 2022, by which time some Texans could face blackouts. ERCOT looks to maintain a 13.75 percent reserve margin in case of extreme weather, such as last year’s summer, and unplanned power plant outages, the news release said. The reserve margin will remain well above the target during winters.

The peak demand for electricity will rise in the next few years because of high temperatures and economic and population growth, ERCOT’s news release said. It notes that peak demand could outgrow projections if Texas’ economy grows faster or summer temperatures rise higher than accounted for in the report. If peak demand turns out to be higher than forecast, the reserve margin could deplete even quicker than expected. 

The report says the amount of electricity Texas generates will not keep up with the growth in peak demand, even with the addition of new energy sources such as renewable and gas-fired power. The forecasts for generation capacity could change if economic and regulatory conditions change, the news release said.

ERCOT will release another report next week on how to “improve the outlook for future electric generation,” the news release said. That report involved a “detailed look at market conditions, actual discussions with resource developers and then an analysis of economic conditions,” Warren Lasher, ERCOT’s director of system planning, said in a conference call.

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