EnergyIssuesERCOT Grid Maintained Substantial Reserves Amid Triple-Digit Temperatures and Record Demand

Despite setting a new all time record, the state's grid maintained more than enough electricity generation to power Texas through the heat wave.
June 13, 2022
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A new peak electricity demand record was set on Sunday in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) power grid. 

At around 5:00 pm, the state’s largest power grid nearly eclipsed 75,000 megawatts (MW), setting a record not for June, but for all-time.

Temperatures reached triple digits across Texas last week, and forecasts expect that to continue for much of this week.

At the record-setting moment, Texas had almost 10,000 MW in surplus generation available for peak demand. Back in May, ERCOT announced it projected the record high this summer to reach 77,317 MW. To respond to the projected demand spike, ERCOT also announced it’d have 91,392 MW in generation available — chiefly through elongated ancillary service generators, producers that usually only operate a few dozen hours per year when the cost of electricity is at its most premium.

Despite the heat, ERCOT and other state officials maintain that the grid is prepared to meet the demand — ramping up the available supply to 87 percent of the state’s total installed capacity.

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Some households in North Texas faced over 24-hour electricity outages over the weekend, but those were local problems caused by the heat and not an issue with the power grid. Oncor Electric Delivery said that, “The record-setting heat is putting additional stress on our equipment.” No more specific details were provided by the company.

Over the weekend, wind generation posted mixed results.

On Friday, it underperformed not only its own projections for the day, but also compared to actual solar generation, which has an installed capacity of less than a third of wind’s. The next day, wind generation dipped to nearly a third of its installed 31,000 MW capacity during the peak demand period of mid-afternoon through early evening.

Then when the state set the new record, it produced at about two-thirds of its installed capacity, roughly 20,000 MW. During this time, about 6,100 MW of thermal generation was unavailable due to yet undisclosed reasons.

In the coming years, Texas is set to add loads more renewable generation while thermal capacity has been mothballed with zero new additions coming online in years.

Throughout this past week of high temperatures, the state not only didn’t dip into its reserves, but it never triggered a conservation request — something it did a month ago when six generators unexpectedly fell offline due to mechanical problems. Conservation requests are used by ERCOT to avoid cutting into its reserve margin unnecessarily.

After the 2021 blackouts, the state put in motion a medley of reforms to the power grid and the bureaucratic bodies overseeing it. Those bodies are also hammering out reforms to the electricity market, hoping to resolve those issues that have led to an influx of renewable generation and dearth in updates to its aging thermal fleet. Those reforms are set to be finalized later this year, and their effects may take a couple years before being fully realized.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.