ERCOT Predicts Record-Breaking Summer Electric Demand, Chance of Outages Low But Possible

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New numbers by the Texas Department State Health Services found that February’s extreme winter storm killed many more Texans than initially reported.

New totals show 111 Texas deaths are linked to the extreme weather event, double the number previously reported.

In North Texas, 11 deaths are believed to be linked to the storm.

The Houston area reports 31 people who died, many of hypothermia.

Thursday, the state’s power grid operator, Electric Reliability Council of Texas or ERCOT, says it is prepared to handle the power needed during the hot Texas summer.

ERCOT officials say Texans will likely not be left power-less, but can we believe them?

During a media call with journalists from around the state, ERCOT detailed its latest spring and preliminary summer assessment called Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy (SARA)

The assessment uses statistical and historical data over the past decade for their findings, according to ERCOT.

The assessment is performed on a yearly basis.

ERCOT is anticipating another summer with record-breaking demand, as well as a low risk for outages.

Of note, ERCOT released the same assessment leading up to winter 2021.

February’s deadly winter storm then hit, leading to blackouts that left millions without power or heat in sub-freezing temperatures for days.

ERCOT later revealed during a hearing before the state legislature that the electric grid system was ‘minutes’ away from blackouts that could have lasted weeks or even months.

So why should Texans have confidence now when the winter assessment was wrong, officials were asked Thursday afternoon.

“This was a winter event where we had basically where our gas supply infrastructure was largely shutdown, which was certainly not expected or anticipated,” responded Pete Warnken, ERCOT manager of resource adequacy. “For the summer, we don’t have that situation and we are accounting for a case where you have an extreme heatwave.”

ERCOT stated it is traditionally a summer peaking region, and generators in Texas are typically built to maximize performance during hot weather conditions.

Due to the February tragedy, the embattled operator announced it has added three ‘extreme risk scenarios’ to its assessment, as well as power resources.

The extreme risk scenarios include a heatwave and low wind output and high thermal generation outages.

Based on ‘expected system conditions,’ specifically power reserves, ERCOT believes they are in a better position than in years past.

“Overall, power reserves are in a better position heading into this summer compared to the past few years,” said ERCOT’s Vice President of Grid Planning and Operations Woody Rickerson in a press release.

The operator anticipates there will be ‘enough generation’ to meet peak demands June through September.

However, controlled outages are still possible and although improvements are being made, the process for outages will mostly remain the same, said Dan Woodfin, ERCOT senior director of system operations.

“A lot of processes will be the same,” said Woodfin. “The likelihood of having to do something like that [controlled outages], as extreme during the summer is not as high unless you get into one of those extreme scenarios.

ERCOT explained their yearly assessments are not designed to predict ‘catastrophic events.’

ERCOT anticipates a summer 2021 peak demand of 77,144 MW, which would be a new system-wide peak demand record for the region, according to a press release.

‘ERCOT anticipates there will be nearly 87,000 MW of resource capacity available for summer peak, including 5,489 MW of planned summer-rated capacity (i.e., gas-fired, utility-scale solar and wind). Additionally, ERCOT expects to have 939 MW of operational battery storage resources, which includes 717 MW of planned additions. While some of these battery storage resources may help meet customer demand, they are not currently included in ERCOT’s capacity contributions for summer. One MW typically provides enough power for 200 homes on a hot summer day.'

The final summer SARA report will be released in early May.

It will reflect the expected summer weather conditions, including developing drought conditions in West and South Texas.

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