ERCOT to pay fines for 2008 errors

Texas’ main electric grid operator will pay $384,000 in fines for violations of power reliability standards in 2008.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, ERCOT, will pay the fines under a settlement with Texas Reliability Entity, which oversees federal rules related to power grid reliability in Texas.

The fines were assesed for 15 violations that occurred in 2008. Nine of the 15 were related to declaration and implementation of a level-two grid emergency on Feb. 26, 2008. On that day power generation from wind power dipped more quickly than expected as a cold front that came in across North Texas and cut into wind power. Over the course of three hours that afternoon 1,700 megawatts of wind power dropped down to 300 megawatts.

At the same time a number of conventional power plant operators failed to have all of their scheduled power generation capacity online. Demand into the late afternoon and evening was also higher than expected, according to a  “lessons learned” study about the event.

That led ERCOT to call on pre-arranged industrial customers to suddenly turn off equipment using about 1,100 megawatts worth of power.

Five other violations were found during a compliance audit run from Sept. 9 to 12, 2008, and one violation was a self-reported instances from 2008 when reliability-related directives were not repeated back by the recipients, ERCOT said. 

More details of the violations can be found in this hefty report.

The findings back in 2008 prompted ERCOT to make a number of changes, including hiring a chief compliance officer, centralizing its compliance program, and aligning corporate policies and protocols with North American Electric Reliability Corp. standards, said ERCOT CEO Trip Doggett.

State power plant operators have also improved their ability to accurately predict the impact of weather on Texas wind power production since those incidents.

Upon approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the fine will be paid out of the surplus savings in ERCOT’s current year’s budget, Doggett said.