ERCOT addresses summer strain on grid and plan for winter conditions

Lileana Pearson Image
Wednesday, October 18, 2023
3,000 MW of backup power aimed to improve winter's grid performance
ERCOT is making plans to ensure more energy is available during the winter after demand on the Texas power grid this summer was historic.

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) -- ERCOT held a board of directors meeting on Tuesday, where a portion of it focused on a review of this summer.

ERCOT said what we've all known: this summer was longer and hotter, putting more demand on the grid.

This is how the group says those conditions impacted the grid's performance:

"This summer, we experienced some meaningful change on when the scarcity period shifted from just a year ago at the same time," ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas said.

According to ERCOT, a major adjustment this year was the change in the demand peak. In a typical year, peak demand happens around 3 p.m. or 4 p.m., the hottest part of the day when solar power can be drawn on.

For the summer of 2023, the peak hours extended past sundown, requiring a bigger draw on wind and thermal generation. But ERCOT says wind levels were also low for portions of the summer peaks.

"In 2021, we had zero days where load on the system was over 80 gigawatts. In 2022, we had one day where we hit 80 gigawatts. This summer, we had 49 days where we were over 80 gigawatts. The system was clearly stressed and stretched, but it held," Vegas said.

Despite the unexpected environmental demand, ERCOT said they were expecting record economic demand. According to the U.S. census, 1.5 million new residents are expected to move to Texas by the end of the year. But ERCOT says the addition of more rooftop solar panels and high-efficiency appliances in homes means that even with the growth, it wasn't residents putting demand on the grid. The highest draw came from industrial sources, forcing ERCOT to power up generators to keep electricity flowing through the grid.

"You can see there are a few days in July last year in the middle of July that that was true. You can see this summer there are a lot of days in which every generator we had that was available that was not on an outage was online and needed to be online," Vegas said.

RELATED: ERCOT issues report showing likelihood of outages this winter

ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas talked to ABC13 about the measures being taken to keep power on after a new report showed the likelihood of outages this winter.

And even with a forecasted mild winter, ERCOT said they're working to add more power and capacity to the grid to keep up with unexpected weather events and a growing Texas population. To do this, they are currently working to procure an additional 3,000 megawatts of generation, which will power around 600,000 homes.

All this is to avoid strains on the system like we saw during the December 2022 winter storm.

"We did see in our analysis that if we were to have (a Winter Storm) Elliot-type storm again, there was a 20% chance of an EEA," Dan Wilcomb with ERCOT said.

Plainly put, grid capacity needs to grow fast to keep up with environmental and economic growth.

The highest demand on the grid this winter is expected to be just before the sun comes up and after it goes down, which is outside the solar output. This means there will be more reliability in wind and thermal generation. The additional 3,000 megawatts of backup power will help get us through low wind or thermal generation outages.

"When the sun goes down, and now the amount of generation you've got to serve the load in that area is pretty well matched, and you need a little more," Wilcomb said.

By adding more generation, they hope to eliminate the instances where output matches or exceeds input, potentially overpowering the grid.

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SEE ALSO: ERCOT looks to increase operating reserves to ensure there's enough power for winter

ERCOT said it's working to store up more non-renewable electricity so it will have extra power in the system in case energy usage spikes this winter.