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

Pooja Lodhia Image
Thursday, October 5, 2023
A look to winter and state's power grid ahead of dropping temps
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.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- It was in February 2021 that 43 people died in Harris County when a winter storm caused widespread power outages.

More than two years later, the images still haunt so many of us as we approach winter.

"When it happened before, I had no idea the grid was so delicate, and now I'm acutely aware," Houstonian Samantha Wolcott said. "So, I've stocked up on things, just in case the power goes out at random."

To prepare for extreme winter weather, ERCOT officials want to store up more non-renewable electricity.

That way, the system can provide power quickly if use goes way up.

Remember that cold weather that hit Harris County last December?

It was nowhere near what we saw in 2021, but ERCOT officials say without extra power reserves, even a hard freeze like December's could push the grid into a 20% chance of an energy emergency.

RELATED: ERCOT can't be sued over power grid failures during 2021 winter storm, Texas Supreme Court rules

"You have to keep the supply and demand in balance over very, very short periods of time. Otherwise, the system gets out of kilter, and we can have a very dangerous complete black-out," Peter Hartley, with Rice University's Baker Institute, said. "We got very close to complete black-out in 2021."

ERCOT officials have asked customers to conserve energy several times this summer.

But, the state got through the record heat without widespread outages.

The problem is that winter is usually trickier than summer because the coldest times are usually in the middle of the night when solar power isn't being generated.

"The reserves are going to be provided by plants you can ask to be turned on or off," Hartley said. "The problem is that you can't turn the sunshine on or the wind on. The sun is either shining, or the wind is blowing, or it's not."

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SEE ALSO: ERCOT CEO gives the grid an 'A' for how it handled the record summer heat and demand