The electric grid operator for most of Texas expects to have sufficient resources in place to meet what it expects to be record power demand this summer.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said summer loads would likely reach 77,317 MW, which would be a new system-wide peak demand record for the region. The summer projection, part of the Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy (SARA) issued this week, accounts for load reductions based on an incremental rooftop solar capacity forecast.
ERCOT, which serves about 90% of the state, said there would be 91,392 MW of resource capacity available during summer peak demand hours. This includes 473 MW of planned natural gas-fired, utility-scale solar and wind capacity. Additionally, the grid operator expects to have 2,035 MW of operational battery storage resources, which includes 283 MW of planned additions.
“We feel very confident about our position this summer,” interim CEO Brad Jones said during a press conference on Tuesday.
Jones touted the increasing reserve margin over the past few years, which is up to 23% this summer from around 8-9% in 2019. That said, he noted that ERCOT would need to “be careful about those times when it’s dark and still. We have to make sure we have the dispatchable generation to balance our fleet when wind and solar aren’t available to us.
“But we’re very happy to have that wind and solar development we’ve had over these past few years, and it is making our grid stronger.”
ERCOT’s planning reserve margin forecast takes into account customer demand, emergency demand reduction programs, typical unplanned outages and typical renewable output. The SARA assumes normal system conditions with seven risk scenarios reflecting alternative assumptions for peak demand, unplanned thermal outages and renewable generation output.
A noteworthy development, according to ERCOT, is that several operational generation resources are now classified as Private Use Network (PUN) generators. These PUNs are connected to the grid but not directly metered by ERCOT. The aggregate installed capacity for these units is almost 1,700 MW.
Bitcoin data centers are the most common type of PUN, according to Chris Reeder, a partner at law firm Husch Blackwell, in the Energy and Natural Resources business unit. However, PUN agreements also have been made for liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities, oil and gas production fields, commercial or institutional facilities and other large commercial and industrial loads.
Reeder said these resources are gaining momentum because they provide the grid enhanced reliability by serving a larger load with a dedicated resource without burdening the system and possibly creating transmission or capacity issues. “In many cases, both can act as a grid resource where conditions and pricing warrant.”
Temperatures already are soaring in the 90s across most of Texas. The three-month forecast from the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for more above-average heat. Drought conditions also have spread across the Lone Star State.
ERCOT last Friday (May 13) asked consumers to conserve power through the weekend as six power plants tripped offline during an unusual spring heat wave. The power plants took 2,900 MW of electricity off the grid.
Jones said last weekend served as “an example of ERCOT doing what it needs to do to prepare for these types of events.” With May trending toward the all-time hottest on record, the record heat and unplanned outages prompted the grid operator to bring some generators that had been shut for scheduled maintenance back online in order to serve load.
ERCOT is forecasting that power demand will continue growing every year through the next decade. In the 10-year Capacity, Demand and Reserves report, also issued this week, the grid operator said peak loads would likely hit 88,645 MW by 2032. The reserve margin, meanwhile, is pegged at 36.8%.
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