Grid manager assures ample electric power for Texas summer

Texas power (KPRC)

(AP) – The group that manages the grid that provides electric power to most of Texas assured Thursday that its latest assessment showed the grid was expected to provide sufficient power to meet peak summer demand.

However, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said in a statement that it expected record-breaking demand for electric power that could mean tight supply reserve margins.

ERCOT predicted a demand peak of 77,144 megawatts this summer against a total generating resource capacity of 86,862 megawatts.

“While the risk for emergency conditions remains low this summer based on many of the scenarios studied, a combination of factors in real time, including record demand, high thermal generation outages and low wind/solar output could result in tight grid conditions,” Woody Rickerson, ERCOT's vice president of grid planning and operations, said in the statement. “We cannot control the weather or forced generation outages, but we are prepared to deploy the tools that are available to us to maintain a reliable electric system.

ERCOT was checking high-risk situations, such as low wind power conditions and early-evening loss of solar power, to prevent a recurrence of the February cold wave’s catastrophic grid collapse that left more than 100 dead. Many died of hypothermia or carbon monoxide poisoning.

ERCOT also will, for the first time, inspect summer weatherization at selected power plants.

Analysts said ERCOT has far to go to restore consumer confidence after the February disaster.

“What they are saying is that, at least in a normal situation, we shouldn’t expect any trouble, but they’re also giving themselves an escape route if some type of black swan event occurs,” said Mark Jones, a senior fellow at the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston. He helped produce a study by the Hobby school on the impact of the February freeze.

“The difficulty is, after February, people are skeptical of anything ERCOT says,” he told the Austin American-Statesman. “They lost a lot of credibility in February, and it is going to take time to build that back up.”

Daniel Cohan, atmospheric scientist and associate professor of environmental engineering at Rice University, was even more skeptical and did not believe the chances of outages this summer are as remote as ERCOT said.

“Instability like what we’ve seen recently should make Texans worried for summer,” he told The Dallas Morning News.