In its annual summer outlook report released Thursday, ERCOT says the power grid will be ready to handle record-breaking demand for power forecasted this summer.
The anticipated increase in electric demand is due to expected hot and dry conditions along with continued economic and population growth throughout the state. The report also outlined several scenarios that could potentially lead to situations like outages Texans experienced in February.
The chance of that happening is less than 1%, according to ERCOT.
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“While the risk for emergency conditions remains low this summer based on many of the scenarios studied, a combination of factors in real-time, including record demand, high thermal generation outages and low wind/solar output could result in tight grid conditions,” Vice President of Grid Planning and Operations Woody Rickerson said in a press release. “We cannot control the weather or forced generation outages, but we are prepared to deploy the tools that are available to us to maintain a reliable electric system. We hope this report helps market participants prepare to assist the grid if needed.”
According to ERCOT's forecast, the new record for energy consumption will be set this summer with a peak demand of 77,144 megawatts. Based on this forecast, the ERCOT region will have a 15.7% reserve margin this summer season. The current system-wide peak demand record for ERCOT is 74,820 megawatts set on Aug. 12, 2019.
Ed Hirs, an energy economics professor at the University of Houston, says while grid operator is reassuring they can handle the demand, there is significant distrust from the public. The winter storms in February left millions in Texas without power for days as temperatures plunged, while many were without clean running water. At least 151 deaths have been linked to the weather event, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Alarms were raised again in April when ERCOT issued a conservation notice on a mild spring day over concerns there may not have been enough power to meet demand.
“ERCOT has suffered a tremendous blow to its credibility. There’s no question about that and they know it. If you just read the reports and read the releases, you can tell they have been wordsmith by lawyers,” Hirs said. “On average, ERCOT expects us to make it through August without too many issues. But for the consumer, if you have any kind of critical exposure such as life support machines at your home, then maybe you want to think about having some kind of back-up generation.”
This year, ERCOT and the Texas Reliability Entity plan to visit about 30 power plants to evaluate their summer weatherization plans. This process will be similar to the winter weatherization checks performed by ERCOT.