TEXAS, USA — With an expected record-breaking electric demand this summer, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas anticipates that there’s enough power supply to keep the lights on -- that is, as long as mother nature cooperates, and power plants operate as expected.
According to ERCOT’s Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy (SARA) for the summer season, the peak demand will reach 77,144 megawatts.
Based on its forecast, the ERCOT region will have a 15.7% reserve margin. One MW typically powers about 200 homes on a hot summer day.
But those reserves could be depleted in three “extreme risk scenarios” involving extreme load, poor generation performance and low wind and solar output.
Those scenarios, updated Thursday, would leave the Texas grid capacity from 3,947 MW to 14,584 MW short. For perspective, that could potentially leave anywhere from 789,000 to 2.9 million Texas homes in the dark.
“The new scenarios reflect ERCOT’s commitment to improve transparency and visibility into the market and the factors that affect reliability, even when there is a very remote possibility of these events happening,” said Woody Rickerson, vice president of grid planning and operations.
The grid operator calculated the odds of an extreme scenario actually occurring at less than one percent.
“One in a hundred isn’t very good if that’s the piano falling from the building on top of your head walking down the street,” said KHOU energy analyst Ed Hirs.
“That one in a hundred just got you dead.”
To help prepare for the remote possibility, ERCOT announced plans to visit selected power plants across the state to review summer weatherization plans.
While plant visits have occurred in the past for winter weatherization, this is the first time officials will visit plans for the summer. Additionally, ERCOT said it’s monitoring new risks relating to the grid’s increased wind and solar generation.
Officials said there is a potential for tight conditions during early evening hours when solar resources come offline, or when winds are low for an extended time.
“There’s enough power supply to get us through a normal summer if everything operates as planned,” said Daniel Cohan, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University.
Cohan said heatwaves can stress everything at once—driving up our air conditioner use, drying up power plants’ water supply, and slowing the winds.
“ERCOT’s report shows that we’re ready for any one of those to happen, but not all of them at once,” Cohan said. “I wouldn’t expect to see blackouts anywhere near as severe as February, and we’ve got a good shot at making through this summer just fine.”