Last Updated on June 26, 2024 by Mary Pressler

Electricity Blackouts Not Likely this Summer in Texas 

Each year, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) publishes a summer reliability assessment for US power grids, which are separated into several regions. The summer 2024 forecast for the ERCOT grid in Texas is mostly positive in July. The margin between power supply and consumption could be tight on the hottest days of August at around 9:00 PM, but blackouts are not expected under normal conditions.

Here are the general conditions for the ERCOT grid in summer 2024, according to the analysis carried out by NERC:

  • Anticipated Resources: 102,139 MW
  • Net Internal Demand: 81,323 MW
  • Anticipated Reserve Margin: 25.6%

These figures represent a slight improvement from summer 2023, when the anticipated reserve margin was 23.0%. The current reserve margin is well above the reference margin of 13.75%, which is the minimum value recommended by NERC of the ERCOT region.

Since the ERCOT reserve margin for 2024 is almost twice the recommended level, rolling blackouts are unlikely to happen under normal grid conditions. However, energy consumers must be aware that the risk of blackouts is not zero – they can happen under unfavorable conditions.

According to NERC, the following are some unfavorable conditions that could increase the risk of blackouts in Texas, especially if they happen together:

  • Extreme grid demand, exceeding the current forecast.
  • Forced power plant outages due to excessive heating or maintenance issues.
  • Reduced power output from wind turbines due to unfavorable wind conditions.

Main Challenges for the Texas Power Grid in Summer 2024

NERC analyzes the unique challenges faced by power grids in different regions of the US. In the case of Texas, their summer 2024 report considers the following trends:

  • Electrical load is growing fast: Between summer 2023 and summer 2024, net internal demand in the ERCOT region increased from 78,927 MW to 81,323 MW. A large portion of the demand growth can be attributed to new data centers and cryptocurrency mining facilities. However, many of these facilities participate in demand response, which means they can lower their consumption voluntarily at times of peak demand.
  • Variable generation from solar farms has increased: Texas installed 11,708 MW of solar capacity in 2023 alone, exceeding the combined capacity installed by Florida and California. Solar farms can provide large amounts of electricity around noon, but they also create a challenge in the evening. Their power output drops to zero in a very short time, and other plants must ramp up their production to compensate.

In addition to the specific risk factors for the ERCOT region, NERC has determined that above-average summer temperatures will be a risk factor for the US in general. Power demand peaks tend to happen during high-temperature periods, since air conditioners in homes and businesses need more electricity to get rid of the heat. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) is also predicting a very active hurricane season in 2024, which means that power grid infrastructure could be damaged by extreme weather in coastal areas.

The ERCOT grid would be challenged if a period of high electricity demand matches a period of low output from solar and wind farms. The most critical period will be from 7:00 to 9:00 PM on the hottest days of August. The probability of ERCOT declaring an Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) is 16% between 7:00 and 8:00 PM, and 18% between 8:00 and 9:00 PM.

  • An EEA means that the grid is operating with a tight margin.
  • Blackouts are more likely during an EEA, but they will not necessarily happen.
  • NERC does not expect blackouts in Texas during normal grid conditions.
  • There is a 14.8% risk of having blackouts between 8:00 and 9:00 PM under a pessimistic scenario: extreme demand, extreme power plant outages and low winds.

As of 2024, the ERCOT grid has more than 1,100 power generation units and over 26 million customers. ERCOT covers around 200,000 square miles, using more than 52,700 miles of transmission lines.

ERCOT Monthly Outlook for July and August 2024

ERCOT publishes its own Monthly Outlook for Resource Adequacy (MORA), which complements the seasonal assessment conducted by NERC. Here we discuss the monthly assessments for July and August, which are generally the hottest months in Texas.

  • The MORA report for July 2024 is favorable. ERCOT estimates a reserve margin of 34.3% for the highest-risk hour, which is 8:00 to 9:00 PM.
  • The MORA report for August 2024 is less optimistic. The reserve margin drops to 17.9% during the highest-risk hour, which is also 8:00 to 9:00 PM during this month.
  • Although the ERCOT reserve margin drops by almost 50% between July and August 2024, it remains above the reference level of 13.75% established by NERC.

Since the ERCOT grid faces the most critical hour after sunset, solar generation cannot be counted on to help meet demand. The main risk factor is having low wind generation between 8:00 and 9:00 PM, exactly when demand is at its highest point. ERCOT considered this pessimistic scenario, reaching the following conclusions:

  • July 2024: If wind generation is low between 8:00 and 9:00 PM, the risk of an Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) is 4.80% and the risk of rolling blackouts is 2.36%.
  • August 2024: If wind generation is low between 8:00 and 9:00 PM, the risk of an EEA is 16.33% and the risk of rolling blackouts is 12.02%.

The following table shows the hours where an Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) caused by low wind generation has a probability of over 1%, considering the months of July and August:

ERCOT grid outlook summer 2024

Keep in mind that this scenario considers unfavorable wind conditions during the most critical hour. Rolling blackouts are unlikely if wind generation remains at normal levels.

Assuming normal conditions in July, the ERCOT grid would have 85,938 MW available to meet a demand of 72,387 MW during the most critical hour. The margin tightens in August, since the available resources decrease to 82,886 MW while demand increases to 78,112 MW.

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