Last Updated on December 21, 2021 by Mary Pressler
ERCOT NEWS – Up to Date Information on the Texas Power Grid
At Quick Electricity, we’re Texans too. As winter approaches, most of us wonder about the stability of our electric grid and worry about repeat blackouts. We’ve dedicated this page to all things Texas electricity in an attempt to keep everyone informed and impowered. Bookmark this page as Texas Grid Updates and return often, as we will keep you in the loop about ERCOT.
Texas Is Having an Unusually Warm Winter in 2021
Tuesday, December 21, 2021
Texas is having above-average temperatures this December, and many climate experts agree that having another severe winter storm in less than a year is extremely unlikely. The warmer-than-usual Christmas is caused by a combination of factors:
- The polar vortex is relatively stable this year, which means that large masses of cold air have remained above Canada and the Arctic. Winter storms are more likely when the polar vortex is unstable, since cold air masses can break away and reach farther south.
- The La Niña phenomenon has developed over the Pacific this year, and this generally leads to above-average winter temperatures in Texas and other southern states.
Surprisingly high temperatures have been forecast for the upcoming Holidays: Austin can expect a maximum temperature of 82°F on Christmas Eve, and 85°F on Christmas Day.
The Public Utility Commission of Texas Is Changing the Energy Market
Friday, December 17, 2021
The blackouts caused by Winter Storm Uri in February 2021 raised major concerns about the reliability of the Texas power grid. Currently, the state has an energy-only market where electricity is priced based on supply and demand.
- Generators are paid less when there is abundant power, and paid very high when electricity is scarce.
- However, PUCT Chairman Peter Lake refers to this as a “crisis-based business model”, which incentivizes generators to sell power when the supply is already tight and the grid is about to collapse.
On Thursday December 16, the PUCT approved several changes for the Texas energy market. The market will now reward power generators for their availability and reliability, and this includes payments for generators with onsite fuel storage, and for those who can respond quickly to grid frequency changes. To complement these measures, the PUCT will also introduce incentives for large consumers who can lower their demand when the power grid is burdened.
There have been mixed reactions to these changes. An energy market structure that rewards reliability can make the power supply more stable, representing an improvement beyond the current scarcity-based price model. However, energy experts and consumer advocacy groups are concerned that the recent market changes could increase electricity prices.
Thursday November 18, 2021
The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) published the 2021-2022 Winter Reliability Assessment. They concluded that the ERCOT grid can operate without problems under normal winter weather. However, if there is another extreme weather event like Winter Storm Uri (February 2021), blackouts are very likely in Texas.
The latest NERC assessment covers the period from December 2021 to February 2022, and the following were some of their key findings and conclusions:
- Under normal conditions, the ERCOT grid will have 84.3 GW of generating capacity for the winter months, and the expected demand is 59.4 GW. This is equivalent to a reserve margin of 42%, which means there is more than enough capacity to provide electricity.
- However, extreme conditions have the potential to disable 28.1 GW of generation capacity, while raising demand up to 76.8 GW. In other words, the power supply can fall below demand under extreme conditions. In this scenario, the ERCOT grid would suffer large-scale blackouts like those from February 2021.
In the worst-case scenario, NERC has forecast a capacity shortfall of -37.1% for the ERCOT grid. However, this would require another extreme event like Winter Storm Uri, and this scenario is not expected with normal winter weather. NERC has estimated a 0.7% probability of having large-scale blackouts in Texas due to extreme weather during the 2021-2022 winter.