ERCOT forecasts tight summer ahead, conservation calls likely

ERCOT expects tight summer demand conservation likely

By Editors of Electric Light & Power/POWERGRID International

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), grid operator for most of the state, is preparing for a hot summer as it continues to evaluate future resource adequacy.

With tight operating reserves expected this summer, especially during the late afternoon hours on the hottest days, it is likely that ERCOT will initiate conservation alerts or power watches on some days. These alerts ask the public to reduce electric use to help ERCOT maintain reliability of the grid.

Above-average temperatures are expected in the ERCOT region throughout the summer, according to the grid operator. High temperatures typically drive electric demand in the ERCOT region, especially among residential consumers, who use more than half the electricity being consumed during the peak hours of the hottest days when air conditioner use is at its maximum.

ERCOT expects power demands this summer to peak at 68,383 MW, slightly above the 68,305 MW all-time record set Aug. 3, 2011. One MW is enough electricity to power about 200 homes in the ERCOT region when electric use is highest, typically between 3 and 7 p.m. during the hottest days of the year.

The amount of generation available to serve peak electric needs is forecast at 74,438 MW, including 925 MW of new coal-fired generation from the Sandy Creek Energy Station in McLennan County and about 700 MW of new wind power resources.

More extreme scenarios could result in more generation outages than the forecast includes or an increase in demand of as much as 2,529 MW, if weather patterns similar to summer 2011 return.

Drought conditions are not expected to create problems for power plant operations over the summer months. However, if dry conditions persist, some plants may experience operational challenges later in the year.

The new capacity, reserves and reserves report shows a planning reserve margin of 13.8 percent for summer 2014, up from 10.9 percent when the last report was released in December. While the peak electric demand forecast for summer 2014 remains just under 67,600 MW, assuming historical average summer weather, the total amount of anticipated generation resources has increased to nearly 77,600 MW from slightly less than 75,000 MW in the previous report.

The new total includes 385 MW of gas-fired power and 40 MW of new storage capacity in Harris County, as well as 90 MW of gas-fired power in Fort Bend County, 50 MW of new solar power in Bexar County, and about 1,080 MW of new wind generation in various locations. Two projects currently under construction by Panda Power Funds also have adjusted target commercial operations dates to make more than 1,400 MW of new natural gas-fired generation available in time for 2014 summer needs.

Although reserve margins after 2014 remain below the 13.75 percent target, the future outlook has improved continually since 2011. Additional resources are in various stages of review and may be added to future reports.

This article was originally published on Electric Light & Power/POWERGRID International. It was republished with permission.

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