Feds: Greatest Risk for Summer Power Grid Problems Is in Texas

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Peter Ryan
It's that time of year again, when the feds single out Texas' precariously thin power reserves. Even California -- a state not known for electrical reliability -- is projected to experience fewer problems with its power grid as the summer heat drives residents to their thermostats.

A reserve margin is the buffer between the available supply of electricity and peak demand. Certain targets are established to account for things like heat waves and unexpected power plant outages. Texas' margin is slightly anemic. "The reserve margin estimates exceed the target in every region, except in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas region (ERCOT), which is most of Texas," the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its assessment Thursday.

This map shows just what an outlier Texas is when it comes to having surplus juice.

This appraisal of the Texas is much less optimistic than ERCOT's own. The grid operator isn't predicting blazing summer temperatures, though it has said it may ask Texans to turn their thermostats up a few degrees during the dog days.

Texas' once robust reserve margins have been eroded over the years by persistently low natural gas prices, which most often sets the price of electricity. And because power generation in Texas is deregulated, producers earn their profits solely through electricity sales. Of course, lagging sales haven't inspired them to build power plants to keep pace with the state's growing population.

ERCOT says natural gas plants are being constructed as we speak and should be added to the grid's expected generation for 2014. Until then, conservation and demand response -- paying industrial customers not to use electricity -- will have to get us by.

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9 comments
Barack
Barack

I know how to break wind.

roo_ster
roo_ster

Wow, those coal fired power plants opposed by Laura Miller & Co a few years back sure would be handy right about now.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

Judged in terms of increases in average electricity prices, the deregulated market in Texas has been one of the nation’s poorest performing, according to the report. It also cites evidence that Texans in deregulated areas consistently pay more for electricity than Texans in areas exempted from deregulation

http://tcaptx.com/electric-deregulation/report-15-5-billion-in-excess-electric-costs-under-texas-electric-deregulation

And the political monkeys who put this in play get re-elected over and over and over - And the lobbyists have already cashed their checks

SUCKERS

kduble
kduble

@roo_ster  So would the extra wind and solar capacity nixed by the Republican majority.

All we really need do is allow the utility companies to charge rates that vary during the time of day based on demand. The problem would resolve itself relatively quickly.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

@kduble  If it were only that simple - 

"A decade of electricity deregulation in Texas has driven up the pay of investor-owned utilities' chief executives, but it has not fulfilled promises to produce the nation's most reliable and cheapest power. In fact, deregulation has had the unintended consequence of discouraging the building of new power plants, leaving the state's power supplies vulnerable as Texas continues to grow.

Over the same period, municipally owned utilities such as Austin Energy and San Antonio's CPS Energy have shown they can outperform the for-profit companies on reliability while paying their CEOs far less."

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/energy/article/Deregulation-in-Texas-fails-to-make-power-more-4191062.php

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

@kduble    If things were just that simple it would already work now for the deregulated electric utilities? .     

kduble
kduble

@Sotiredofitall @kduble  I happen to believe it is that simple. Variable rates would resolve the problem. Supply and demand is an economic law, not a suggestion.

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