ERCOT has facilities in Austin and Taylor. Industry experts are still discussing whether it is necessary to change the Texas electricity market to make the grid more reliable in winter and summer. After saying that there was an “unacceptable risk” of a power grid emergency during a severe winter storm, the Texas grid operator's plan to better prepare the state for extreme winter weather was unsuccessful this fall. In early October, officials from the Texas Electrical Reliability Council, which oversees the state's main power grid, announced that they wanted more power plants to be available for operation this winter.
They explained that demand for electricity had generally grown and that the extreme winter storms of the past showed how high demand could increase during freezing temperatures. ERCOT's plan to encourage companies to increase their energy availability consisted of asking if they were willing to put some closed gas and coal power plants back into operation and, if so, how much it would cost ERCOT. It just so happened that no company thought it made sense to reactivate an old power plant, and the November ERCOT also offered to pay companies that were willing to reduce their energy consumption by up to six hours when necessary, a concept that, according to industry observers, could help. That attracted three offers, but the presentation was so bad that ERCOT threw out the whole idea. The president and CEO of ERCOT, Pablo Vegas, said in a statement that they were seeking “an additional level of caution” and that they would consider the experience as a learning opportunity.
However, the attempted plan perplexed the state's Public Utilities Commission, which oversees ERCOT. In a scathing memo, Public Services Commissioner Will McAdams argued that going ahead with the idea, which did not involve a public spending limit, could undermine a carefully maintained sense of regulatory stability in the market. Companies need to “know the rules of the road,” he wrote, and the ERCOT plan would have changed the rules. Katie Coleman, energy advisor to the Texas Manufacturers Association, which represents large industrial companies that consume a lot of energy, said the request that companies be prepared to rapidly reduce their energy consumption was too hasty.
At a public meeting held in October about preparing for winter, Brandon Manley, a senior program management analyst at ERCOT, said they had conducted 1,648 inspections of power plants and utilities to ensure they were complying with the new standard. Utilities such as CenterPoint Energy, Oncor and AEP Texas, which distribute electricity, assured officials that they were prepared. However, in October, ERCOT leaders were clearly still concerned about the network's ability to withstand extreme winter weather. According to ERCOT calculations, if a winter storm like the one that hit last December occurs again, the network faces what ERCOT called an “unacceptable 20%” probability of entering into emergency operations.
In the worst case, emergency operations allow ERCOT to request continuous blackouts. Some experts in the energy sector were surprised by this characterization and pointed out that the chances of a repeat of such a storm are still slim. ERCOT itself places the probability at 10%. Pete Warnken, resource adequacy manager at ERCOT, said that ERCOT expects the riskiest time for the network this winter to be 8 in the morning.
Every day, when the cold persists overnight, wind power may be disappearing and the state's solar power generation isn't at full throttle. Warnken estimated that the probability of entering emergency conditions at that time on any given day in December was 5%, and the probability of continuous power outages was 4%. Earlier this year, Public Utilities Commission Chairman Peter Lake pushed forward a market-change proposal designed to create an additional way to generate revenue for gas-fired power plant generators, in the hope of boosting the construction of more power plants. Gas-fired plants can operate at any time, unlike wind and solar energy, but they produce more expensive energy and release emissions that worsen climate change.
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AUSTIN (KXAN) The Texas Electrical Reliability Council, the main operator of the Texas power grid, canceled its emergency level alert that indicated that continuous outages were possible due to casualties energy reserves.