ERCOT Adding 83,000 Lubbock Power & Light Customers to Texas Grid

Lubbock-area customers expected to add 470MW of demand, bring 120MW of generation to the grid

NBC 5 News

On Saturday and Sunday, ERCOT will load 70% of customers from Lubbock Power & Light onto the Texas power grid which suffered widespread catastrophic failures during a winter storm in February that left millions of Texans without power for several days. In their summer forecast, ERCOT says they're prepared to handle the upcoming demand this summer.

ERCOT said Friday the move of 83,000 Panhandle customers from the Southwest Power Pool, the grid serving the central United States, onto the Texas grid is the culmination of six years of work and is the single largest transfer of customers in ERCOT's history.

The move would give residents in the Lubbock area access to Texas' deregulated power market.

"We look forward to welcoming LP&L customers into the ERCOT region where they can take advantage of our competitive wholesale power market and electric rates," said ERCOT Vice President of Grid Planning and Operations Woody Rickerson in a prepared statement.

The switch will add about 470 MW of customer load, or demand, to the Texas grid. To help cover the demand, LP&L brings about 120 MW of generation from three owned gas-fired power plants that will be incorporated into the ERCOT region.

According to ERCOT's summer forecast, a new record for energy consumption is expected to be set this summer with a peak demand of more than 77,000 MW. 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 MW set on Aug. 12, 2019.

The added generation and demand from LP&L have already been included in ERCOT's Capacity, Demand and Reserves Report for this summer.

While ERCOT is reassuring Texans they can handle the summer demand, there is still significant distrust from the public. The winter storm in February left millions in the Lone Star State without power for several days as temperatures plunged to zero or below. 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.

Despite ERCOT's assurances, a report released Wednesday by the authority that regulates electric reliability in North America warns that Texas is at an “elevated risk” of energy shortages and potential power outages this summer.

Meantime, state legislators are working to reform ERCOT and prevent another catastrophe like the one suffered earlier this year. Lawmakers have until Sunday night to finalize and pass their bills during the regular session.

Prior to the LP&L transition this weekend, ERCOT said the largest transition of customers to the Texas grid was the move of Bryan and College Station in 1992.

To help LP&L customers make the transition, ERCOT said "Oncor constructed multiple switching stations and several new 345-kV and 115-kV transmission lines that connect Lubbock to the ERCOT system towards the north, the south and the east."

ERCOT said Friday the new equipment and lines added to facilitate the LP&L transfer do not include any additional connections between the Texas and SPP power grids.

ERCOT said the new stations and transmission lines into ERCOT not only make it possible to serve a portion of LP&L customers, but they will also increase the available transmission capacity for generation resources in the Panhandle region.

"We currently have a limitation on how much power can be exported out of the Panhandle, and these new lines will allow more power to flow from the Panhandle to all ERCOT consumers," said Rickerson.

Rickerson said in a statement that they are anticipating a smooth transition with minimal impact on customers. LP&L warned customers to expect a planned outage of about 30 minutes while the switch is made.

NBC 5's Scott Friedman and Lili Zheng contributed to this report.

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