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Texas’ electricity grid manager is planning to visit several power plants to evaluate their summer weatherization plans for the first time after forecasting record-breaking power demand this summer. 

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas on Wednesday released its final forecast for electricity demand this summer, predicting record power demand of 77,144 megawatts. The current summer peak demand was set on August 12, 2019, when demand hit 74,820 megawatts. 

ERCOT said it anticipates there will be enough power generation to meet this record demand, forecasting total power generation capacity of 86,862 megawatts. However, ERCOT didn’t rule out the possibility for “tight grid conditions” as hot and dry weather conditions and continued population growth throughout the state continue to add pressure on the grid. 

“While the risk for emergency conditions remains low this summer based on many of the scenarios studied, a combination of factors in real time, including record demand, high thermal generation outages and low wind/solar output could result in tight grid conditions,” said Woody Rickerson, ERCOT’s vice president of planning and operations. “We cannot control the weather or forced generation outages, but we are prepared to deploy the tools that are available to us to maintain a reliable electric system.” 

ERCOT’s summer forecast comes less than three months after a February winter storm knocked out much of the state’s power grid, leading to nearly 200 deaths and billions of dollars in property damage. The state grid manager in November had forecast it will have enough power generation to meet demand during the winter. 

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“This was a failure of imagination on the part of ERCOT,” Rob Allerman, Enverus’ senior director of power analytics said in a conference call with reporters last week. “They weren’t ever thinking that it could get that cold and just always focused on the summer.” 

ERCOT said it introduced new, more extreme weather scenarios to create its summer electricity forecast, considering weather conditions has less than a 1 percent chance of occurring. For comparison, the February winter storm, ERCOT said, was a 1 in 100 event.  

The grid manager said it will visit a select group of power plants to review their summer weatherization plans for the first time this year. ERCOT also said it will coordinate with power distributors to limit planned outages during the summer months and request power plants to contact natural gas suppliers to ensure availability of gas through pipelines. 

ERCOT expects a significant amount of solar farms and battery storage projects to come online this summer, which can help the grid meet record demand. Enverus, an Austin energy research firm, said it expects 10 gigawatts of solar power and 35.9 gigawatts of wind power to come online by August.  
Allerman said ERCOT’s historic emphasis on summer preparedness and the addition of new solar and wind power will likely prevent a massive grid collapse seen this past winter. However, he, too, didn’t rule out the possibility for power outages. 

“If we do have power outages, it’ll be short in duration,” Allerman said. “We’re not going to have such a massive disconnect between what we saw this winter and the load and have so many units come offline because of some kind of catastrophic failure. Could we have outages? Sure, it’s possible. But nothing like we saw this winter.”  

 

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