Adding supply or reducing demand? Best options for Texas power grid on the table

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Wednesday, July 13, 2022
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With a punishing heat wave across Texas driving record-high power demand, what is the state doing to improve the grid? More in the video above.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- In the last legislative session, a bill that never made it to the floor could have added additional emergency capacity to the Texas grid. It would have been $8 billion worth of new gas-generating plants.

State Sen. Charles Schwertner authored the bill and said dedicated backup capacity and a new generation could be key to the grid's resilience.

"We have certainly found out that electricity is just as vital as water and air," Schwertner told ABC13. "We need to continue to look at ways to enhance our dispatchable generation. A generation that Texans can depend on when we are having high demand periods like we are seeing today."

A new generation is something the Public Utility Commission could recommend when it releases the next phase of its management plan in fall 2022. But it is not only about any new plants.

Texas has retired many reliable plants and has added less reliable types of generation-such as wind and solar.

"It's not a question necessarily of adding just resources but adding them at the capacities at which we need them," University of Houston's Chief Energy Officer Ramanan Krishnamoorti said.

The plans to build a backup system last session, which would function outside of the competitively priced Texas energy market and did not materialize, included one from Berkshire Hathaway Energy and another from Starwood, who sent a letter to the PUC about its own $8 billion plan.

ABC13 reached out to both companies. Berkshire Hathaway declined to comment. Starwood has not responded.

Texas has increased supply, although it might not feel like it.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's office told ABC13 this week that the state is "providing more power than ever before and doing so more efficiently, in large part because of the reforms passed last session and the increase in power generation by more than 15% over the last year."

PUC told ABC13 that lowering the emergency price hike cap, faster generator response ahead of emergencies, and greater ERCOT control over planned outages and maintenance or repairs are a list of some of those changes and those to come.

Still to come, this fall, the PUC is asking for public input on the next phase of its improvement plan-which includes potential supply backstops.

But there's another way to help ease the pressure in extreme weather. Alison Silverstein is an independent energy consultant in Austin. She thinks the legislature should enact energy-efficient requirements for new construction and expand its help to older communities, making existing homes more efficient.

"We have extraordinarily high temperatures and an extraordinarily large population that has grown faster than our ability to serve them," Silverstein said. "We could spend $5 billion, (or) $1 billion, a year for five years and improve the homes of 9 million Texans. And get seven gigawatts of summer capacity reduction and 11 gigawatts of winter capacity reduction in terms of a solid peak. Improvements that would reduce the amount of electricity that we need."

Click here to read more about the Phase 2 plan from the PUC.

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