ERCOT Says There May Not Be Enough Juice in the Power Grid To Prevent Rolling Blackouts This Summer

Categories: Weather

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Just in case all this temperate whether has lulled you into the perception that the Texas power grid doesn't have the thinnest margin of safety between lights on and lights out anywhere in the country, here's a reminder: Summer is coming.

ERCOT, the grid operator for most of Texas, says the odds this summer are "significant" that it will have to declare an "energy emergency alert," in which it implores us all to dial up our thermostats because electricity demand is edging perilously close to supply. If the two get too close, ERCOT may have to institute rolling outages to prevent an uncontrolled blackout.

Dallas-based Luminant, the state's largest generator, will bring two mothballed units back online, injecting more than 1,000 megawatts into the grid, or enough to power roughly 500,000 homes. And belts of wind turbines across West Texas and the Gulf Coast could kick as much as 925 megawatts. But if we experience sustained high temperatures that even approach the unbelievable string of triple-digit days in 2011 -- or if a large number of power plants are out of service for some reason all at once -- it won't be enough.

See also:
- Texas' Biggest Power Supplier Wants to Blame the EPA for Future Blackouts

"In these scenarios, the ERCOT system would likely have insufficient resources available to serve customer demand," the grid operator warns in characteristically anodyne fashion (you can read the preliminary seasonal assessment it released Friday here).

It's made all the more likely because the odds for a hot Texas summer look good. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting above average temperatures. State climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said last month that this string of dry years is on track to become the drought of record. Water is as vital to power generation as it is to farmers and ranchers. ERCOT warns that "potential risks to generation capacity persist while Texas remains in widespread drought conditions."

There are two reasons the state finds itself in this predicament. For starters, the population keeps growing, placing an increasing burden on the grid. Secondly, the energy-only market created by the Legislature, which doesn't subsidize providers to build extra generating capacity, has failed to entice the kind of financing needed to build new power plants. Electricity rates are low due to a natural gas glut, and so are revenues for generators.

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23 comments
Billy MacLeod
Billy MacLeod

I think it's funny that you folks are riding Wilonsky even after his departure.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

"Secondly, the energy-only market created by the Legislature, which doesn't subsidize providers to build extra generating capacity, has failed to entice the kind of financing needed to build new power plants."

 Brantley, you have done a wonderful job reporting on this matter over the years.


Please do not buy into the "capacity charge".  There is more than sufficient return available to build new power plants.  The "capacity charge" is just a way the generators will continue to rig the market to their advantage.  The "capacity charge" will be nothing more than a very low cost source of capital for the generators.


Just as the smart meters have no real advantages to consumers, the capacity charge will also be anti consumer.


The propaganda on the smart meters are that you will be able to remotely control appliances remotely.  but, pray tell, who is currently marketing an interface with the "smart" meter for the homeowner or other customer.  The smart meters are nothing more than a way to be able to price electricity according to the time of day.


If there is a shortage of generator capacity, then not only is there a disconnect in the market, but also between the generators and the resellers.  Essentially, the generators are "overbooking" their capacity.


With the upcoming implosion of EFH, times are sure to be interesting and the consumers will end up dead last.


As for me, I am currently researching a standby generator for my home.


seat21d
seat21d

What the fuck is 'temperate whether'?  Does anyone bother to proofread anymore?

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

So when will someone confront our perpetually re-elected overlords to admit they were wrong about "deregulation";  basically selling off our public utilities for a short-term budget fix.  I'm thankful I'm in the Denton County Electric Co-Op.   

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

Brant, you;re still not being honest about wind generation in Summer.  You should have said that though we have 920 megawatts of potential wind generation power, the "Cap" and other phenomena will ensure that we'll be lucky to get 92 megawatts from wind.  That's the equivalent of the two dirty coal plants of pollution added, cause we're using unreliable technology.  


I'm greener than you, as I'm an organic gardener by trade.  But, wasting our resources for worthless solutions is only another form of waste.  We should be pursuing solar, as the sun shines when TX's peak demand is highest.  You, stupidly boasted that wind covered 1/2 our power needs, one day in Nov.  Gee, that's literally the lowest demand day we have, where peak demand may well be 1/4 what it is in Summer.  And, the wind indeed blows in Nov.  

Again, the problem with wind is that we can't retire old polluting plants.  And, the problem with deregulation is that we've separated the producers from the distributors, and the customer service branches of this utility.  Only the customer service is deregulated/competitive, while all the real generation and distribution is still essentially monopoly/utility.  We'll bear the brunt of ETP's bankruptcy, we'll have to catch up on maintenance, and build new generation after private parties borrowed money to buy the company, borrowed more, paid themselves and left a gutted shell for us to take up later. 

Perhaps the worst part of this article is where you state, "odds for a hot Texas Summer look good"  That's like triple redundant.  Duh, it gets hot in Summer in Texas.  I guess we forgot.  Thank God you got "experts" to guess, despite the fact that they've been wrong lately--it's pretty safe to bet on hot Texas Summers. 

CheeryBitch
CheeryBitch

Imagine the 'power generation' possibilities if people would finally accept wind turbines. And if only people would conserve electricity. Will we EVER learn?

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Sigh.

2013 (this article) THE SKY IS FALLING!  ERCOT IS PROMISING ROLLING BLACKOUTS THIS SUMMER!

2012 THE SKY IS FALLING!  ERCOT IS PROMSING ROLLING BLACKOUTS THIS SUMMER!

http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2012/05/get_ready_to_conserve_electric.php

2011 THE SKY IS FALLING!  ERCOT IS PROMISING ROLLING BLACKOUTS THIS SUMMER!

http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2011/12/ercot_starting_next_summer_tex.php

Get a new tune, guys.  At least you didn't use the same stock photo three years in a row.

rubbercow
rubbercow

I am not sure that Mr. Griggs is cut out for politics in Dallas. The council will probably do anything and everything necessary to drum him out and sully him because he is actually competent - something the council, sadly, doesn't even aspire to.

I have a had a few up-close encounters with my CM (Delia Jasso) and she is so obviously self-obsessed that it is disturbing.

Wouldn't it be crazy to have a representative who was intelligent, thoughtful, diligent and competent instead of the total clowns who make up the bulk of the council?

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@roadsidecouch  http://freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2770677/posts

exas ratepayers are being forced to pay billions for wind-generation and transmission capacity that is proving to be ultra-expensive and redundant at a time when the state’s thirst for electricity is breaking records.

A final point: Keep in mind that the Lone Star wind boondoggle is not the result of Democratic rule. Environmentalists have never gained much purchase at the Texas capitol. In fact, the state hasn’t had a Democrat in statewide office since Bob Bullock retired as lieutenant governor, and Garry Mauro retired from the General Land Office, back in 1999. That same year, Gov. George W. Bush signed legislation that created a renewable-energy mandate in the state.

What about Rick Perry, a politico who frequently invokes his support for the free market? In 2005, he signed a mandate requiring the state to have at least 6,000 megawatts of renewable capacity by 2015. Perry’s support has been so strong that a wind-energy lobbyist recently told the New York Times that the governor, who’s now a leading contender for the White House, has “been a stalwart in defense of wind energy in this state, no question about it.”

And during his last election campaign, Sen. John Cornyn, one of the Senate’s most conservative members, ran TV ads showing pretty pictures of — what else? — wind turbines.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@CheeryBitch umm, you should put ignorant bitch or for your name.  Wind turbines work 8-10% of the time, and the electricity they generate cannot be stored.  So, the possibilities are rather limited.  I wish it weren't so, but those are the facts.  Remember the "cap," the high pressure center that parks over Texas from Mid July through August?  That's the same cap that keeps fronts from making it through TX, the same one that keeps the air still and allows the Ozone to park over our cities.  That means that wind works least, when our demand it the highest.  It's a total failure here.  or 91% failure

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@everlastingphelps Uhh, that's not alarmism, it's reality.  Usually, you'll find alarmists do so to increase demand, and spike rates.  But, that's not how our system works.  Sometimes warnings are warnings, and are made to encourage us to use a bit less energy when demand is the highest.  Not everything is a conspiracy.

rubbercow
rubbercow

Let me just say that I don't know why this comment showed up on this thread. Apologies.

CheeryBitch
CheeryBitch

@Sotiredofitall I read plenty. And how dare I dream of supplemental and alternative energy sources and conservation! For shame.

CheeryBitch
CheeryBitch

@scottindallas Why so testy? As a supplemental enegry source - not a replacement - it makes sense. And if it didn't make sense, you wouldn't see them around the country.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

@scottindallas Cite your source on 8-10%% of the time. Modern turbines require very little wind speed to generate. Let's not act as if solar cells look amazing in comparison.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@CheeryBitch You really haven't read nearly enough.  Wind power is a total novelty.  If someone wanted to plug in their generator to the grid, whenever it suited them, the state couldn't build policy around that.  The only figure that really matters is peak demand, which in TX is in July and August, afternoons from 2:00-5:30 pm.  The problem is, in Texas, when that time of year rolls around, when it's hot, we have the "cap" over us.  That is a high pressure zone that is created by the heat rising off the frying pan that is the dessicated Texas plains in late July and August.  (you will notice, if you notice such things, that the soil/grass will dry out sometime in mid/late July.  This is when the sprinklers just can't keep up aggregate soil moisture and it really dries out.  That, no coincidentally is when the humidity drops and we go from 95 to 100--the THI is usually about the same.)  During that time, we have no wind, no fronts move through our region.  So, wind doesn't blow the 30 mph+ that's needed to generate power.  So, we have to keep coal plants, that are too polluted and costly to run, running in the Summer, when our Ozone and pollution problems are the greatest concern, and again due to the cap, the air sits and pollution adds to itself.  


See, there's no way to effectively store electricity, so the windmills are like the least reliable friend Texas could ever have.  As I've stated, Solar makes much better sense for Texas.

You say we wouldn't see windmills if it didn't make sense.  Well, it makes cents, as the gov't offers many tax credits and gives offsets for wind power of greater value than what they contribute.  We shouldn't have ethanol, but for the same reason we do, gov't subsidies.  What I'm telling you is that for the same investment, we could have installed new, clean natural gas plants, destroyed forever the coal plants; we'd have a surfeit of electricity, lower rates and a cleaner environment than we have today?  So, what are you defending?  Do you work at GE?  Do those tax credits benefit you directly?  Otherwise, windmills have meant more pollution, more waste, and more blackouts.  None of those were on the brochure.  I suspect you've only read the brochures and not the reports by ERCOT, who runs our electricity grid.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

http://freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2770677/posts

As I wrote in these pages earlier this month, Texas has 10,135 megawatts of installed wind-generation capacity, which is nearly three times as much as any other state. And yet, on Wednesday, all of the state’s wind turbines mustered just 880 megawatts of power when electricity was needed the most. Put another way, even though wind turbines account for about 10 percent of Texas’s 103,000 megawatts of summer electricity-generation capacity, wind energy was able to provide just 1.3 percent of the juice the state needed on Wednesday afternoon to keep the lights on and the air conditioners humming.

None of this should be surprising. For years, ERCOT has counted just 8.7 percent of the state’s installed wind-generation capacity as “dependable capacity at peak.” What happened on Wednesday? Just 880 megawatts out of 10,135 megawatts of wind capacity — 8.68 percent — was actually moving electrons when consumers needed those electrons the most.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@Scruffygeist the figure comes from ERCOT itself.  That's what those windmills put into the grid.  They're not as efficient as you think, they need 30mph winds to produce.  

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