HOUSTON — The winter forecast from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas finds that under most weather conditions, there will be enough supply to meet the demand this winter.
But there is one scenario where the grid falls short.
ERCOT’s Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy, or SARA report, forecasts a peak demand of 67,398 megawatts -- an increase of about 5,000 MW from last year’s winter outlook.
“Going into this winter, we’ve even better prepared,” Public Utility Commission of Texas Chairman Peter Lake said.
Lake said a flurry of energy reform measures -- including weatherization and inspection of power plants, mapping critical natural gas lines and storing backup fuel on site -- have hardened the Texas power grid like never before.
“Absolutely I expect to see the lights stay on,” Lake said.
That’s what the SARA report anticipates under normal and even most extreme winter weather conditions. But one “extreme capacity risk scenario” with high demand, extreme unplanned power generator outages and low wind energy output would leave the state’s power grid more than 9,000 MW in the red.
“That’s probably going to push the system to a point where we have substantial amounts of blackouts,” Daniel Cohan said.
Cohan is an associate professor for the Rice University Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Cohan said that given the improvements made over the past year, the outages would not be as severe or as long as the historic Texas winter storm of February 2021.
“But perhaps a third to half as many blackouts as we had before,” Cohan said.
The new CEO of ERCOT conceded it’s not an ideal scenario.
“That is not acceptable. We don’t find that to be an acceptable circumstance,” Pablo Vegas said.
Vegas maintained that the risk is low and context is important for Texans to understand.
“It does reflect a low-probability scenario, so we want to be clear on what it is,” he said.
Both Vegas and Lake said ongoing efforts to redesign the state’s electricity market are critical to encouraging new construction of power plants in Texas, especially at a time when power demand is not slowing down.
“Texas is adding a city the size of Corpus Christi every single year,” Vegas said.
When asked if Texans should expect any public alerts and appeals to conserve energy, Lake did not rule them out.
“We’ll continue to use every tool available to keep the lights on,” Lake said.