ERCOT seeks to calm concerns ahead of summer heat, peak power demands

ERCOT forecasts record-breaking power demand this summer
ERCOT forecasts record-breaking power demand this summer

HOUSTON – The Electric Reliability Council of Texas announced the state is expected to reach a new record for electricity demand this summer. ERCOT reported Texans are expected to hit a peak demand of 77,143 MW this summer, which outpaces the previous record of 74,820 set in 2019. For comparison, 1 MW equals 200 homes.

Ercot Summer 2021 (KPRC)

Word of a new demand record instantly sparked concerns among those still reeling from damage caused by blackouts during February’s winter storm.

“I was like, ‘Oh, no! Is that like something we’re going to have to go through again?’” Perla Sandoval asked in reference to power outages.

Sandoval remembers the four days without heat, the fish dying in their small aquarium because the water was too cold, and the eight pipes bursting in their home.

“My kids were freezing, and even my daughter was crying. She was like, ‘Mommy, I’m cold.’ And my baby, he got a rash from the cold,” said Sandoval.

Those who manage our power grid are now trying to repair that broken trust, saying Texans like Sandoval shouldn’t worry.

“The generators in the Texas region traditionally have been extremely focused on operating under very hot conditions,” said Warren Lasher, ERCOT Sr. Dir. of System Planning.

Lasher said those who pump power into our grid have always been better prepared to deal with the heat than cold. Plus, he said this year ERCOT has run several scenarios, considering even the most extreme forecast, regarding summer heat, demand, and power supply. He said ERCOT can meet what is expected to be a record demand while keeping an extra 15.7% of power generation in reserves.

Lasher said reserves have grown over the years due to investments in wind, solar and gas. He said those power generators consider to be in reserve status have been tested to ensure they can operate in extreme heat. He also said considering extreme weather scenarios when trying to predict supply and demand is also part of the way ERCOT is working to regain the public’s trust.

You can read ERCOT’s Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy for June through September below.

ERCOT (KPRC)

The new chairman for the Public Utility Commission, Peter Lake, and new commissioner, Will McAdams, met for the first time since being appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to the positions. The two briefly discussed a litany of items relating to changing the PUC’s oversight of ERCOT and how the grid is managed. No action was taken on those items as the legislature considers a host of bills relating to the oversight and management of our power grid.

Lake and McAdams both said they are in favor of a change to the scarcity pricing rule. This rule states that when prices hit $9,000/megawatt-hour, as prices did during the February storm, then pricing cannot go over above $2,000/megawatt-hour or 50 times the Fuel Index Price for the remainder of that calendar year.

Both said they support removing the 50*FIP provision for this calendar year to help bring stability to markets trying to project summertime prices.

“This addresses a very specific problem that was acutely felt in the February event,” said Lake.

That proposed change now moves to the public comment phase before a decision is made on implementation.