ERCOT Report Warns That Starting Next Summer, Texas Won't Have Enough Power
On Tuesday we told you about a report from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation -- an entity tasked by the feds with ensuring the lights stay on -- that singled out Texas as a state that may not have the electrical reserves to meet peak demand by 2013.
Officials at ERCOT were initially mum as they prepared for the release of a biannual 10-year outlook, though they did assert that new environmental regs will result in the mothballing of generating units, and that the ongoing drought will make the near future tricky. According to a release today, teasing the highlights of a report that should be available this afternoon, NERC's findings aren't at all off-base. In fact, power reserves will probably fall short of ERCOT's minimum target by next summer.
Texas's electric reliability council sets minimum reserve margins so that, in the event of severe winter or summer weather, there's enough juice to prevent blackouts. Dip below that target, and rolling blackouts are possible. Even ERCOT's projections for this winter are razor-thin in some extreme-weather scenarios.
Further out into the future, the target reserve margins -- calculated as the difference between capacity and anticipated peak load, pegged at about 14 percent to maintain reliability -- dip to as low as 4 percent in 2017, leaving little breathing room as demand placed on the grid by a growing state swells.
If we get into trouble, Texas can't borrow capacity from a neighbor like a cup of sugar. While the rest of the country is organized into huge, interdependent regions, Texas's grid is isolated.