Reliability Issues Within ERCOT

By Power Market Services Specialist Mike Moyer

Earlier this month, there were several requests from Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) for Texans to reduce their electric usage due to potential record demand and because of the high number of generators offline. After all of the issues experienced by ERCOT during Winter Storm Uri that affected the state in February 2021, ERCOT is again being tested in this early summer season.  

South-Central Texas experienced an unprecedented and historical eight-day period of winter weather between February 10 and February 18 this year. This record-breaking arctic air moved south over the state and snow began to fall with temperatures in the single digits and teens. Many areas around the state saw 5 to 6 consecutive days of record low temperatures as well as record-breaking snowfall. ERCOT experienced a 48.6% loss of peak generation during the time when demand mirrored the profile of a hot summer day. An Energy Emergency Alert Level 3 alert was issued, and the Transmission Owners began rotating outages across the state. 

According to a Survey by the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston, 69% of Texans lost electrical power at some point during those eight days. The average outage lasted for 42 hours, trapping many residents in their homes without heat and lights during this cold weather event. The Survey results also showed, 74% of Texans disapproved of ERCOT’s performance during this storm.  

To ensure the state does not encounter another situation like the one in February, the Texas legislature passed policy reforms to bolster the state’s electric infrastructure and was signed into law on June 8 by Governor Greg Abbott. Electricity Generators would now be required to increase their reserve capacity, require weatherization of their plants and follow weather emergency preparedness standards being developed by the Public Utility Commission (PUC). The gas providers who supply the Plants would also have to weatherize their lines and facilities and follow new standards being determined by the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC). Both the PUC and the TRC have six months to prepare their new weatherization rules. Fines could be assessed of up to $1 million per day for each violation for failure to winterize the Generators infrastructure and operations. All Plants will have onsite inspections to enforce rules and will be given time to fix the violations found. This new legislation will also create a state-wide emergency alert system that will inform Texans of potential power outages in their area. 

On June 14, just 6 days after the Texas Governor had signed the new bill into law, ERCOT again sent out notification of tight grid conditions. This time due to the high temperatures across the state, potential record demand and the significant number of Units offline due to forced outages. ERCOT was reporting nearly 11,000 MW of generation offline when the normal range of generation outages during the summer is around 3,600 MW. A new June peak load record was hit at 69,943 MW which surpassed the 2018 record of 69,123 MW. Texans were once again asked to conserve their use of electricity by raising their thermostats and to avoid using large appliances to prevent another round of outages as seen during the winter event. ERCOT intends to continue sending out conservation notifications to prevent the need for any rotating outages throughout the summer months as temperatures continue to heat up.  

Going forward, all Power Plant owners in Texas will need to stay informed of the upcoming new Standards being implemented by the Public Utility Commission, any new protocols developed by ERCOT and prepare for onsite weatherization audits. ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission both agree that these new rules and procedures will help provide more reliable electric service to all Texans.