© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Environment

ERCOT Ends Energy Appeal Hours After Warning Of Emergency Grid Conditions

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas issued a conservation alert Tuesday as demand for electricity on the grid edged close to surpassing supply. It also warned it could declare other energy emergency alerts, though it did not expect it would need to institute blackouts. The grid covers 90% of the state.

Four hours later, ERCOT ended its energy appeal.

Lately, the grid operator's daily “outlooks” have forecast demand getting close to or exceeding the maximum supply of electricity it thinks will be available. But this is the first time since February’s catastrophic blackouts that ERCOT issued an alert.

Conservation and emergency alerts are ways ERCOT reduces demand on the grid or brings extra supply online. If demand ends up exceeding supply, planned blackouts are the last resort to keep the grid from breaking down.

Why has the grid been riding so close to the edge lately? Some if it goes back to the storm and blackouts.

Caitlin Smith, VP at the consulting firm AB Power Advisors, said it’s normal for a lot of power plants to be down for maintenance in the spring. This is the time of year when plants tune up to run at full blast during the heat of summer.

But more facilities are offline right now than usual because they require repairs and upkeep stemming from the storm.

“It’s just more of those transmission and resources trying to get outages done in the same amount of time because you don’t want to take those planned maintenance outages in the summer,” she said.

Smith pointed to a graph shared at Tuesday’s ERCOT board meeting that showed “increase in outages due to system growth and maintenance from February Winter storm.”

/ ERCOT
/

Joshua Rhodes, a research fellow at UT’s Webber Energy Group, said a lot of the power generators that have been offline are part of the state’s “thermal fleet,” that is, natural gas, coal and nuclear plants.

“About half of that fleet is offline for maintenance,” he said. Some of those power plants were down because of “fallout from the February event where a lot of things broke."

In an email to KUT before the alert was issued, ERCOT spokesperson Leslie Sopko said, ERCOT had "committed additional generation to meet the expected needs of the system.”


Copyright 2021 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.