Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

ERCOT: Another Hot Summer May Bring Blackouts

Photo by Mose Buchele for StateImpact Texas

Kent Saathoff works on grid planning and operations for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Remember last year’s threats of rolling blackouts? This year might not be any better.

In a new report the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, predicts another summer of above-average heat. That will put strain on an electrical grid that hasn’t added much more power generation. And that means Texans can expect another summer of close calls.

Kent Saathoff’s manages the grid for ERCOT. He says Texas could squeak by without blackouts if conservation efforts are effective. But the state should expect energy emergency declarations in order to spur conservation, and that might be a best case scenario.

“If we have another summer like last summer, which was an all-time hottest summer we had, or if we have a significant number of generator outages, which are higher than normal, then we could be into a situation of rolling outages,” Saathoff said in a telephone press conference today.

The report increased the estimated peak power demand for the summer, but it also showed a drop of about 355 megawatts in the expected amount of megawatt power to be available on the grid, both indicators going in the wrong direction as far as grid stability is concerned.

Regulators blamed the high peak demand estimate on the weather forecast. And the drop in power was partly due to some power plants that were initially thought capable of producing more power than they are now.

ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission are looking into how to encourage investment in more electric generation. In the near term, conservation efforts will be the only way Texas will be able to avoid blackouts in extremely hot weather.


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