Friday, June 21, 2024

ERCOT grid nearly reaches max demand before temperatures fell

Now the preparation for winter is underway

Posted

With September and August having many record-breaking temperatures the ERCOT grid reached its peak of energy usage and set an all-time unofficial demand record. On Aug. 10, the grid hit 85,435 megawatts.

In 2022, the peak demand of August was 78,465 MW. This summer alone, ERCOT set 10 new all-time peak demand records, according to ERCOT.

From June through September there have been 77 triple digit days that Granbury has faced. According to Margaret Campbell Emergency Management Coordinator of the Office of Emergency Management of Hood County, “There were eight Excessive Heat Warnings from June 2023-current, 14 Heat Advisories from June 2023-current and 11 Red Flag Warnings in August.”

ERCOT issued several voluntary conservation notices asking Texas to reduce electricity if safe to do so due to high demand and lower reserves.

On Sept. 6, ERCOT initiated its alert level two noting that conservation is critical. An EEA 2 is issued when ERCOT’s operating reserves have dropped below 1,750 MWs and are not expected to recover within 30 minutes according to ERCOT. Fortunately, no rolling outages occurred, and reserves and levels returned to normal later that evening.

“ERCOT will continue to operate the grid conservatively, bringing generating resources online early to mitigate sudden changes in generation or demand. ERCOT will continue to use all operational tools available, including implementation of new programs, like the new ERCOT Contingency Reserve Service (ECRS), as well as executing previous sessions’ legislative reforms (like summer and winter weatherization inspections),” a spokesperson from ERCOT communications said.

Improvements have been implemented to make the grid more reliable according to ERCOT Communications, includes:

  • New Ancillary Service, ECRS. The ERCOT Contingency Reserve Service went live June 8 and brings a 10-minute response to our other Ancillary Services.
  • Weatherization and Inspections. Electric generation units and transmission facilities weatherize and are inspected by ERCOT. 
  • Firm Fuel Supply Service. An additional source of fuel onsite for generators benefits the grid by providing a redundant, or additional, fuel source should there be a natural gas scarcity.
  • Scheduled Maintenance Period. ERCOT has worked with generators and transmission operators to schedule their maintenance so they could prepare their equipment for winter.
  • Fast Frequency Response Service. This is a new addition to our ancillary services that provides a group of generators that can power up quickly during operating conditions that change rapidly.
  • Reliability Unit Commitments. ERCOT can bring more generation online sooner when needed.
  • Critical Supply Chain and Critical Infrastructure Map. This map was created to share the locations and connectivity of all the critical parts of the Texas power infrastructure.
  • Improved Communications. Agencies are seeing improved communications through both the Texas Department of Emergency Management and Texas Energy Reliability Council.

ERCOT also announced on September 14 a new peak demand record webpage that will provide Texans with current and yearly demand records.

“The new Peak Demand Records webpage increases public visibility into current and past record-breaking demand on the grid,” said ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas. “Providing updated, readily available information on grid operations remains a key part of ongoing transparency in our communications with the public.”  

With the 2021 Texas Freeze, a historical winter event occurred that set records all over the state including being the first billion-dollar weather disaster of the year. It was the coldest winter storm for Texas since December of 1989. The freeze also broke records for the longest freezing streak in the state’s recorded history, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

A survey conducted by the University of Houston (UH) Hobby School of Public Affairs in mid-March found that more than two out of three, or 69%, of Texans lost power at some point during Feb. 14-20, and almost half, or about 49%, had disruptions in water service.

The storm contributed to at least 246 deaths, ranging in age from less than a year old to 102 years old. In addition, causes of death ranged from hypothermia, exacerbation of pre-existing illnesses, motor vehicle accidents, carbon monoxide poisoning, fires and falls according to The Texas Tribune.

“This statewide disaster clearly illustrates the lingering effects of the retirement of the many coal-fired and gas generation plants in Texas. Relying on wind and solar for such a large part of our needs does not provide flexibility and sustainability for this type of an event,” City Manager Chris Coffman said during the freeze in February of 2021.

From this freeze thousands of cases were filed against ERCOT according to The Texas Tribune. Some of which included San Antonio’s municipally owned utility, CPS Energy, alleged that ERCOT mishandled the soaring price of power during the 2021 winter storm. And private equity investors at Panda Power Funds alleged that 10 years earlier ERCOT issued reports that misled them about how much power the grid needed.

The Supreme Court of Texas voted 5-4 that the ERCOT could not be sued and was protected under sovereign immunity which stated that’s a sovereign or state cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, "Texans will need to bundle up, as unseasonably cold weather is forecast throughout January and February, with a possible major winter storm in mid-January."

The Farmer’s Almanac had an accuracy of just about 70% for last year’s winter across the country.

ERCOT has taken more measures to prepare for the winter season ahead. In July, the Public Utility Commission voted in favor or ERCOT’s proposed plan as part of their winter weather readiness efforts, that include ERCOT to,

  • Require each generation entity and transmission service provider to file with its declaration of winter weather preparedness the ambient temperature and wind speed design values for each resource or facility under that entity's control
  • Assess, in part, a resource's or facility's winter weather preparedness on the 95th percentile, minimum average 72-hour wind chill values
  • Inspect documents verifying the design criteria and the entity's efforts to prepare its resource or facility to that design criteria, as needed
  • Evaluate actual temperature and wind speed experienced at a resource or facility that suffers an outage or deration during winter weather conditions

This plan will take into effect beginning this winter starting on December 1.

“As we move out of summer and winter approaches, we are beginning to look at the expected needs of the community and plan accordingly. After the 2021 freeze event, we established a network of facilities that are available to us to serve as warming centers or shelters when needed,” Campbell said. “Additionally, the 2021 event brought a loss of both power and water to our county. During that time, we distributed over 100,000 bottles of water to the community with the help of our local first responders. We have been making preparations so that should we have another winter such as this, that we are prepared to offer a quick and effective response as well as up-to-date information throughout the event.

To stay up to date with the current conditions of the grid visit ercot.com/gridmktinfo/dashboards. To learn about peak demand records, visit ercot.com and go under the helpful resources page. To learn more about ERCOT and their current plans for the winter more in detail visit ercot.com