Texas power grid has 'sufficient' generation this summer, ERCOT claims

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) -- The heads of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, and the Public Utility Commission of Texas said Wednesday they believe the state's power grid should have no trouble keeping up with demand as the hottest days of summer approach.

ERCOT interim president and CEO Brad Jones and PUC chairman Peter Lake gave an update on some operation changes that have been completed recently.

ERCOT revealed 60 initiatives earlier this month aimed at shoring up the grid's reliability after last winter's massive outages. Jones said 22 of those initiatives have been completed.

That 60-item roadmap will be updated regularly through the end of the year, according to Jones.

Here are a few of the items, according to ERCOT:

  • Taking a more aggressive approach by bringing more generation online sooner if it's needed to balance supply and demand. The grid operator is also purchasing more reserve power, especially on days when the weather forecast is uncertain.
  • Requiring CEO certifications. After a rule change, all market participants who own or operate generation resources and/or transmission/distribution power lines will be required to submit a letter signed by their CEO twice a year certifying their companies have completed their weatherization preparations to protect the electric grid for the summer and winter seasons.
  • Adding new requirements for generation owners. ERCOT is proposing a new market rule that requires generators to provide operational updates more frequently.
  • Assessing on-site fuel supplies. ERCOT is reviewing the need for on-site fuel supplies for some generators.
  • Performing unannounced testing of generation resources. ERCOT says this testing helps verify that generators have provided accurate information about their availability.
  • Addressing transmission constraints in Rio Grande Valley. ERCOT and the PUC (Public Utility Commission) are initiating a process to address RGV transmission limitations and provide increased market access for resources in the Valley. ERCOT says this will improve reliability for customers during normal conditions and high-risk weather events.

ERCOT and grid woes continue to be top of mind for Texans.

At least 220 generators were offline the week of June 14 when council officials called for Texans to conserve power.

While ERCOT told ABC13 that many of those plants were offline for repairs, most simply gave the regulators no clear reason for why they couldn't produce power. When we asked ERCOT officials about the summer, they couldn't say for sure that there would be enough power to get us through the hot season.

But ERCOT first came under fire due to February's deadly blackout in Texas. More than 4 million people lost power when temperatures plunged into single digits over Valentine's Day weekend, icing power generators and buckling the state's electric grid. State officials say they have confirmed at least 151 deaths blamed on the freeze and resulting outages, but the real toll is believed to be higher.

ERCOT manages the flow of electric power to more than 26 million customers in Texas. That represents about 90% of the state's electric load. ERCOT is also overseen by the PUC.

Last week in a letter to the PUC, Abbott directed the commission to have ERCOT incentivize the development and maintenance of additional natural gas-, coal- and nuclear-powered generating capacity.

Abbott also directed the PUC to require solar- and wind-powered generators to compensate customers for the cost of their unavailability; instruct ERCOT to establish a maintenance schedule for gas, coal and nuclear electric generating plants; and order ERCOT to accelerate the development of transmission projects to improve connectivity between existing and new power plants and areas needing power.

"The objective of these directives is to ensure that all Texans have access to reliable, safe, and affordable power, and that this task is achieved in the quickest possible way," Abbott said in the letter. "Through clear communication, transparency, and implementation of these critical changes, the PUC and ERCOT can regain the public's trust, restore ERCOT's status as a leader in innovation and reliability, and ensure Texans have the reliable electric power they expect and deserve."

That contrasts with his June 8 declaration that the Republican-controlled Legislature's reforms "fix all of the flaws" that lead to the blackout.

At the time of Abbott's declaration, energy experts thought the Legislature's reforms were inadequate.

In his letter, Abbott said that while the Legislature had overhauled the ERCOT board of directors, strengthened power plant weatherization requirements and improved communications, more was needed.

"While these laws significantly reform Texas' energy and electric power market, more can be done to increase power generation capacity and to ensure the reliability of the Texas power grid," Abbott's letter stated.

The letter presumes that the non-renewable power sources of gas, coal and nuclear provide reliable power.

Texans were asked to conserve power less than a week after the declaration. At the time, Texans were asked to raise thermostats to 78 degrees and limit the use of electric appliances.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Eyewitness News has covered ERCOT extensively. For the latest developments, follow Nick Natario on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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