On Sunday evening, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) issued a conservation alert asking Texans to raise their thermostats a few degrees and to avoid using large appliances from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. The main two reasons ERCOT provided for the request were high electricity demand and low wind generation.
The request saved 500 megawatts (MW), according to ERCOT.
Around 5:00 p.m., the grid set a new all-time demand record, 78,264 MW, but had just over 81,000 MW online in available capacity. One megawatt can power about 200 homes at a time of peak demand.
At one point in the early afternoon, the operating reserves — the margin of excess capacity that determines whether emergency conditions are employed — briefly dipped below 3,000 MW. But at no point did the grid’s conditions move beyond the conservation alert and into an emergency alert, a mechanism that triggers protocols to protect the grid’s integrity.
The first emergency alert category is triggered when operating reserves drop below 2,300 MW without an expectation of recovery within 30 minutes, and allows ERCOT to call upon all available power supplies and pull in generation from surrounding grids.
But that first stage was not reached on Monday.
While thermal and solar generation produced well, each above 80 percent of their installed capacities during the hot afternoon, wind generation dipped very low.
At 1 p.m., wind was generating at 2.1 percent of its installed capacity of 35,162 MW. By the end of the 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. window, that had increased to about 13 percent and by peak demand around 5 p.m. had risen to 19 percent of installed capacity.
About one-third of the ERCOT grid’s total installed capacity is wind generation. According to ERCOT’s numbers from their Sunday release, 10 percent of dispatchable generation — thermal sources along with batteries — was unavailable above what the operator expected, amounting to about 8,000 MW of generation.
Even with these combining factors, the grid still maintained enough capacity to meet the record demand, but all eyes were fixed on the power grid as they’ve been since the 2021 blackouts.
On Tuesday, conditions are expected to be tight again as the summer heat is not abating. But ERCOT does not project a deficit like it did on Monday. It expects to set another demand record around 5 p.m. and projects wind to produce better than it did the day before — pegging its lowest point to come around midday producing at about 15 percent of installed capacity.
Throughout the day, the winds of political rhetoric swirled around the grid’s status.
Beto O’Rourke, Democratic candidate for governor, tweeted on Monday morning, “We can’t rely on the grid when it’s hot. We can’t rely on the grid when it’s cold. We can’t rely on Greg Abbott. It’s time to vote him out and fix the grid.”
Around 5 p.m. after it became clear the grid would have no issues, an Abbott campaign spokesman retorted, “In the last 24 hours delusional Beto O’Rourke has been scare-mongering about the Texas grid failing, yet the grid remains strong.”
“Beto should stop cheering for the failure of Texas and admit the reforms pushed by Governor Abbott have strengthened the state grid.”
Texas Democrats have made the power grid one of their top campaign issues, seeing it as one with independent and crossover appeal.
ERCOT has not issued a conservation alert for Tuesday, indicating it expects to have sufficient capacity to meet another demand record. ERCOT’s estimated peak demand record from its 2022 summer report has already been surpassed multiple times. The operator also pegged peak summer capacity to reach 91,392 MW — 72 percent of the total installed capacity.
Heading into last winter, the state increased its ancillary service capacity — a backstop of extra generation typically deployed only in the times of highest summer grid stress — by 15 percent. That has remained as the state operates with extra caution after the 2021 grid collapse, a change that is driving electricity price increases.
That directive is a response to demands to never let February 2021 happen again, a promise from state leaders that has so far come to fruition. But the summer heat is not relenting and as long as temperatures in Texas hit the triple digits, eyes will be fixed on the state’s power grid.
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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.