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Heat Waves May Crash Texas Power Grid This Summer

June 14, 2023- The Electric Reliability Council of Texas anticipates record-breaking peak electricity demand of 82,739 megawatts this summer, according to the summer 2023 seasonal assessment that ERCOT published in May.

With record temperatures right around the corner, several people are worried that the grid can’t handle the heat.

Texans were asked to conserve energy after six power plants went offline amid a heat wave. In May and June 2021, Texas experienced solar farm shutdowns, which disrupted power plants, interfered with grid recovery operations and caused outages of power units.

ERCOT issued a weather watch earlier this week, warning that an unexpected heat wave could strain the power grid. The watch begins Thursday and runs through June 21st, when temperatures are expected to reach 106, according to the Natural Weather Service.

In its seasonal assessment, ERCOT concluded that the grid has enough generation capacity to avoid rolling blackouts between June and September under typical summer weather conditions. Over 97,000 megawatts are expected to be available for the summer peak load, ERCOT says. There’s a reserve margin of 23%, an improvement from the last two years.

NERC estimates that ERCOT has a 4% risk of Energy Emergency Alert Level 1 in Summer 2023, meaning the operating margin has dropped below 2,300 megawatts. That risk increases up to 19% in the evening due to reduction in solar generation.

ERCOT added over four gigawatts of solar-generated power to the ERCOT grid since 2022. Also, load reductions from dispatchable demand response programs have grown by over 18%, totaling 3,380 megawatts. Meanwhile, this is offset by the fact that ERCOT’s peak demand forecast has risen by 6% as a result of economic growth. There is a risk that dispatchable generation can be insufficient for high demand levels when wind output is unusually low, states the report.

The Climate Prediction Center projects a 50-60% chance that most of Texas will have a warmer than normal summer, while West Texas has a 60-70% chance of above normal temperatures and North Texas has a 33-50% chance.

Ed Hirs, an energy economist at the University of Houston, says the main reason for the record demand is that the Texas economy continues to grow.

With the growing population and economic growth the need for more electricity in Texas. Peak electricity demand last summer hit 80 gigawatts. This week, with 100 degree temperatures, ERCOT forecasts that we may see a peak demand of 83 gigawatts.

Be prepared for outages, Hirs said, not just because of a shortage of generation capacity, but because of storms disrupting local service. Have plenty of bottled water handy in case the electricity to the local water utility is disrupted, he suggests.

Author: Ethan Klein

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