Another week, another warning about the capacity of the Texas electric grid. Speaking to state lawmakers earlier this month, Trip Doggett, President of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, once again served notice to Texans about the tenuous balance of supply and demand in the Texas grid.
Doggett reiterated that blackouts would only occur if there is a spike in demand or a sudden drop in power generation. If you think a sudden drop in generation seems unlikely, consider the fact that the Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, and Texas has over 300 miles of coastline with the Gulf of Mexico. On average, about 2 storms of tropical storm strength are greater hit the Texas coast any given year. These types of storms are certainly capable of disrupting electricity generation and distribution.
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As for a spike in demand, record high temperatures would certainly accomplish that. Anyone who has been outside or seen a newscast any time in the last 18 months would certainly assign a high probability to the likelihood of Texas seeing more record temperatures this summer.
As it is, even without any extraordinary events on the generation side or demand side, things are going to be very tight for theTexaselectricity grid this summer. According to Doggett, ERCOT fully expects there will be a need to issue occasional Energy Emergency Alerts asking consumers to conserve during certain peak periods as well as procedures to turn off power to certain industrial users who have previously agreed to usage restrictions at peak times.
ERCOT likes to maintain a 13% margin of safety between expected peak demand and available supply. This so-called reserve margin is intended to cushion the state against the aforementioned demand spikes or supply disruptions. However, the state’s electricity producers have been stingy about investing in new projects to help maintain that safety margin. It’s partially because of this that officials have recently increased the state’s wholesale rate cap on electricity. A move that will likely result in higher electricity rates for consumers, even though we have the power to choose.