AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Tuesday, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, alongside the Public Utility Commission of Texas, gave an overview of how the state’s power grid is projecting to fare this summer, in addition to updating the public on current grid conditions after asking Texans to conserve power over the weekend.
Both PUC Commissioner Peter Lake and ERCOT CEO Brad Jones stated they are confident with how our grid is faring heading into the summer, even with new record demand expected to be set.
Lake said that’s in part due to the reforms set in motion by lawmakers over the last year, in addition to added generation capacity to the grid.
“We’ll have 7,000 megawatts of solar, additionally, we’ll have another two to 3,000 megawatts of wind generation, and about 1,000 megawatts of natural gas generation. So you can see it’s coming from a broad spectrum, but much of that additional generation is from the renewable side,” Jones explained.
The power grid has also increased its reserve margins.
“Two years ago, we had 12%. Last year, we had 15-16%. And this year, we have 23% reserves. So you can see our reserves have grown over each of those years, we feel very confident about our position this summer,” Jones explained.
“I know the lights are gonna stay on because of all the reforms we’ve put in place. And because that when we do encounter challenges, like we saw last weekend, the multiple reforms are complementary and build off of each other to create even greater reliability,” Lake explained.
Last Friday, ERCOT issued a message on current grid conditions, explaining six power generators had tripped offline, and asked Texans to conserve power.
“We’re asking Texans to conserve power when they can by setting their thermostats to 78-degrees or above and avoiding the usage of large appliances (such as dishwashers, washers and dryers) during peak hours between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. through the weekend,” the release reads in part.
ERCOT clarified Tuesday this was not an official, emergency conservation alert, although the language that was used is very similar to previous conservation alerts that have been issued, like this one in September 2019:
“Consumers and businesses are urged to reduce their electricity use…Steps to help reduce electricity use: Turn off any unnecessary lights and equipment. Turn thermostat up 2 to 3 degrees during the peak hours of 2 to 7 p.m. Set programmable thermostats to higher temperatures when no one is home.”
On Tuesday, ERCOT committed to making sure the language of future requests is more clear.
“We’re looking back at that communication that we put out, and making sure that we refined that language. This wasn’t a conservation alert, it wasn’t a conservation appeal. It was just a request to Texans to help us out over this weekend. So it wasn’t that we’re in a dangerous situation at all, it was to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to keep the grid reliable. So we need to improve that language. And we’ll commit to that,” Jones said.
The request, though, Lake says, was a proactive effort.
“This time, we didn’t wait until the emergency to request for conservation. Two, three years ago, that would not have been the case. This is part of ERCOT and the PUC be more proactive, more communicative with Texans,” Lake added.
Jones also said the state agencies could also have been more communicative once grid conditions improved.
“I think it would be good for us to have a communication at the end of one of these cycles to make sure that we respond, let everyone know where we are, and kind of give some feedback to what the response was like. And as I mentioned earlier, we saw roughly three or 400 megawatts of response out of Texas. And that that is a great number for us to see,” Jones explained, thanking Texans who did try to conserve.
According to ERCOT’s website, regular operating grid conditions are considered ‘Normal Conditions.’ When there’s a reliability risk, that’s when the state will issue a Conservation Alert.
Energy emergencies can be declared, beginning with Energy Emergency Level 1, when the grid will attempt tapping into other power supplies, Energy Emergency Level 2, when conservation alerts would be issued, and Energy Emergency Level 3, which means rolling outages are underway.