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Could Texas see rolling power blackouts this summer?

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This Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021 file photo shows power lines in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — As Texans start to experience the beginning of another hot summer, the state’s power grid operators are raising concerns about the heat, grid reliability and the prospect of rolling blackouts.

In a Texas House State Affairs Committee hearing Monday, energy leaders testified to give updates about growth forecasts, the summer outlook and market design initiatives.

It comes after a Friday report in which the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said that by August, energy demand in Texas could reach as high as 78,000 megawatts. The state has a projected supply of 83,000 megawatts for August, which is typically the hottest month of the year.

ERCOT says the Texas grid is expected to keep up with the expected increased demand for power this summer, but it could get close. Following the second-hottest summer on record in Texas last year, the upcoming months are also expected to be a scorcher. In 2023, ERCOT repeatedly asked customers to voluntarily conserve their electricity as operators aimed to keep demand from exceeding supply.

William Baule — a research professor and representative of the state climatologist — said forecasting for extreme weather in the coming months will likely affect the power grid.

“Unfortunately, the risk of extreme heat will remain elevated throughout the summer,” Baule told the House committee on Monday. “The next threat to the power grid to consider is hurricanes. For all seasonal forecasts this year calling for an active hurricane season, because all [factors] are favorable.”

ERCOT’s Friday report also predicts a 12% chance that energy reserves could fall below 1,500 megawatts. In that instance, it would likely trigger rolling blackouts in order to prevent the grid from collapsing completely. ERCOT has a finite amount of power in the reserves so it can fall back on that energy in case of an emergency or sudden changes in conditions.

The rolling blackouts estimate is higher around the end of sundown hours when the grid is most stressed, from 8 to 9 p.m. ERCOT expects a 16% chance of emergency during that time period in August. That’s because around sunset, additional power from solar energy drops off.

Summer months leading up to August are expected to not have issues, with ERCOT predicting a 1% chance of emergency operations in June and a 4.8% in July.

Ed Hirs — an energy fellow with the University of Houston — does not think there are enough modernized power plants with readily available energy in Texas at the moment, considering many plants are currently offline for maintenance.

“The coal-fired power plants on the ERCOT grid average 50 years of age. Some of them are breaking down just because they’re old. The natural gas-fired power plants average 30 years in age. They kind of break down also just because they’re old,” he said.

Last session, the Texas Legislature created the Texas Energy Fund to offer financial incentives for power plants to maintain, build and modernize electric facilities throughout the state. Despite the nearly $40 billion investment, Hirs is skeptical that the TEF provides enough money to build enough new plants — which he sees as a critical issue.

“We’re looking at three to five years, maybe six years before any of these plants can be built. So we were a long ways off from having a stable, reliable grid,” he said.

Last summer, Texans broke 10 records in terms of demand for power during extreme heat.

Read More: Could Texas see rolling power blackouts this summer?

2024-06-10 22:15:34

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