AUSTIN (KXAN) — Last week, ERCOT asked Texans to conserve energy voluntarily twice, with tight grid conditions projected both Monday and Wednesday.
On Monday, ERCOT pointed to low wind power and record high demand as the reasons for tight conditions. That led oil and gas advocates, and many Republicans, to call wind power unreliable.
Energy experts say that’s not accurate.
“The key thing to understand about both wind and solar is they are intermittent energy sources. So they don’t always produce energy,” Andrew Dessler with Texas A&M University explained, pointing to the fact that the grid does not plan for either of these sources to be producing power 24/7.
ERCOT is able to forecast wind and solar days ahead of time. When one power source dips, the grid has other energy sources to tap into.
“We do need to make sure that we have the capacity whether that’s, you know, solar is doing really well, right now we have a lot of energy storage that has also come online. And then we have our thermal fleet,” Joshua Rhodes with the University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Institute explained.
More problems arise when multiple power sources face issues like the state saw Wednesday.
ERCOT said that day, the tight conditions were due to low wind and solar, and thermal outages, or power plants offline due to maintenance or other mechanical issues.
“If any of those things weren’t happening, we’d have plenty of power,” Dessler explained.
Energy experts said ERCOT needs to start including climate change into their seasonal outlooks, so they can be better prepared for extreme heat scenarios that historical data doesn’t include.
That could have better-prepared grid operators for the record demand we saw last week, as Texans cranked up their air conditioning as nearly the entire state dealt with triple-digit heat.
Looking year-round, beyond the summer: the benefits of renewables aren’t just for the environment—they’re also keeping prices down for consumers.
“When the wind blows, it produces a lot of energy at a low cost. And if you look at that over a year or so, it does keep prices down, and it has kept prices down so far this summer, you know, when it has been blowing,” Rhodes explained.