Summer Status: ERCOT the grid and COVID-19
By NICHOLAS SAKELARIS | CoServ
The state’s electric grid expects to set a record for peak load this summer, even after adjusting for COVID-19’s economic impact.
In May, ERCOT predicted a peak load of 75,200 megawatts for this summer, nearly 1,500 MW less than the original pre-COVID-19 prediction. This would still surpass the previous peak load record of 74,820 MW set August 12, 2019.
Because of COVID-19, ERCOT also adjusted the reserve margin, increasing it from 10.6 to 12.6 percent, meaning that more generation capacity is expected to be available.
ERCOT also said there will be adequate electric generation to meet demand this summer. However, extremely hot weather, low wind output and higher-than normal generation outages may force the grid operator to declare Energy Emergency Alerts.
Gary Franzen, CoServ’s Director of Energy Services, said predicting peak demand for the entire state is more difficult because the weather can vary so much. For example, it could be 100 degrees in Dallas-Fort Worth but cooler air could be blowing through West Texas, generating more wind power than usual and providing electricity at peak times.
Temperature is the biggest factor affecting electricity usage and availability, wholesale electricity prices and whether energy conservation alerts need to be issued. The hotter it is outside, the more air conditioning people use inside. But when looking at the statewide grid, the availability of wind power and how many fossil fuel power generators are offline for maintenance must be constantly monitored as well, Gary said.
COVID-19 has also delayed several power generation projects that were expected to be available during peak demand hours this summer. ERCOT estimates more than 400 MW of generation, mostly wind, won’t be ready this summer.
Complicating matters, by August, when peak temperatures typically hit, the economy could look very different than it did in May, when ERCOT laid out its predictions. More businesses could be open at full capacity and schools could reopen for in-person classes.
- ERCOT The Electric Reliability Council of Texas manages the flow of electric power to more than 26 million Texas customers representing about 90 percent of the state’s electric load.
- Energy Emergency Alerts The supply of electricity must always match demand. If it doesn’t, and demand exceeds supply, uncontrolled outages could occur. To prevent this outcome, ERCOT is authorized by the Public Utility Commission of Texas to order statewide “rotating outages” – brief controlled outages designed to ease the strain on the grid. Visit CoServ.com/ERCOT for a detailed explanation of potential EEAs that ERCOT could issue this summer.
- Peak load The maximum of electrical power demand, which in North Texas usually occurs on the hottest day of summer, between 4 and 7 p.m.
- Reserve margin The planning reserve margin is the difference between the total generation available in the ERCOT system and the forecasted firm peak demand. In other words, it’s a measure of the cushion between expected supply and demand in the event of exceptionally hot weather, an unexpected spike in demand or unanticipated loss in generating capacity.
ONLINE: Click here for more details about CoServ’s connection to ERCOT and to download the ERCOT app.