‘Too Close For Comfort:' Texas Grid Stops Short of Emergency

The 'close call' came during ERCOT's conservation appeal on Wednesday

NBCUniversal, Inc.

For the second time this week, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas asked Texans to conserve power Wednesday.

But this time ... “It’s far tighter than it was Monday,” said Doug Lewin, president of Stoic Energy Consulting.

Lewin and other energy experts said there are several reasons Wednesday was a much closer call than Monday.
They say more gas and coal plants are offline than Monday. The reason why, though, is unclear.

Texans also got less than three-hour notice Wednesday to reduce electric use starting at 2 p.m. instead of the 18-hour notice ERCOT gave for Monday's conservation appeal.

“Obviously the more lead time you give people, common sense and intuition, you give people more time, it’s more successful,” Lewin said.

In a press release Wednesday, ERCOT blamed its request for conservation on 'record high electric demand' due to the heat wave, 'low wind', 'forced thermal outages' and 'solar,' affected by cloud cover in West Texas.

With so much strain on the system this early in the summer, we asked one expert if the grid can hold up.

“On average, August is hotter than July in Texas. So from that perspective, yeah, there is reason for concern,” said Daniel Cohan, associate professor of environmental engineering at Rice University.

The biggest strain on the system appears to have been at about 3:20 p.m. Wednesday.

Operating reserves dropped to 2,409 megawatts, close to the 2,300 megawatt threshold that could trigger an Energy Emergency Level 1, which comes with a "risk of controlled outages."

“This is too close for comfort,” Lewin said.

The tight power supply sent electricity prices soaring to $5,000 per megawatt hour, the maximum allowed by the state.

"The money generators are making in ERCOT right now is obscene,” Lewin tweeted late Wednesday afternoon.

Lewin said the price spike is not something consumers will see in bills next month, “But it absolutely influences the overall market and drives prices higher,” he said.

It’s an outcome likely to worsen for consumers with nothing but triple-digit days in the forecast.

Contact Us