Addressing Texas’ power grid concerns

On Wednesday, officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, shared a seasonal assessment that shows extreme temperatures over the summer may put the state in an energy crunch. These worries stem from what officials with the Public Utilities Commission of Texas and ERCOT said is Texas’ failure to keep up with population growth in terms of the grid.

PUCT Chair Peter Lake explained between 2008 and 2022, Texas’ population grew by 24%, but the state’s dispatchable power supply only grew by 1.5%. On-demand, or dispatchable power as it’s called, comes from coal, natural gas and nuclear energy and it can be turned on during times of peak demand. If demand outstrips our state’s base power supply, plus dispatchable power, then Texas has to rely on renewable energy like wind and solar to fill the gap.

“So we’ve got all of the above, it’s a question of do we have the right mix at the right times that we need it,” said Ramanan Krishnamoorti, Chief Energy Officer at the University of Houston.

Krishnamoorti said Texas needs to build more energy storage facilities and so-called “peaker” plants; these are natural gas facilities designed for short term use.

“They come on for very short periods of time, they come on for maybe two, three hours and then they go back down,” said Krishnamoorti.

Krishnamoorti said the other side of this problem is the current marketplace doesn’t make it economically enticing for companies to build new power plants in our state. Texas’ market works by constantly seeking out the lowest cost energy to put into the grid.

“You’re picking winners and losers and there’s no reason for people to invest into difficult to invest infrastructure,” said Krishnamoorti.

Lastly, Krishnamoorti says Texas has to improve it’s transmission system to avoid the problem of parts of the state having too much of a power supply, while other parts are desperate. He suggests in the short term postponing plans to shutter legacy coal and natural gas facilities.

“Give them a new lease of life, at least for this summer,” said Krishnamoorti.

Krishnamoorti said if all these issues were addressed today it would still take at least two years to get Texas to the point where it can “breathe easier.” State lawmakers have filed bills to help entice power producers to build more plants in Texas. Those measures are still working their way through the legislature.

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Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”