Report: No market manipulation tied to Texas’ rolling blackouts

Rolling blackouts that left thousands of Texans without power during an early February cold blast weren’t caused by power market manipulation, the state’s independent electric market monitor concluded.

The report by Dan Jones, a consultant hired by the Texas Public Utility Commission to monitor the state’s power markets, finds no evidence that the outage of more than 100 power generation units statewide was caused by power companies trying to create price spikes.

“Based on our review of the cause of each generating unit outage and/or capacity de-ration, as well as the financial positions of market participants, we do not find any evidence of market manipulation or market power abuse,” the report concludes.

It also said the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ wholesale power markets operated as designed.

One area of improvement, however, might be in the timing of power plant maintenance schedules. Operators need to schedule maintenance work with the grid operator months in advance, and typically aim for so-called “shoulder months” between the extremes of summer and winter, when power demand is expected to be low.

Two very large units with a combined 1,500 megawatts of capacity where scheduled to go down at the time of the outages, but it does not appear ERCOT approaches those operators about putting off their plans. A 500 megawatt planned that was scheduled for maintenance was asked to defer the work, and it did, the report notes.

The power plants started to go down overnight on Feb. 2 as prolonged cold and high winds led to freezing gauges and other equipment on many power plants throughout the state.

In order to avoid long-term power outages, ERCOT called for rolling blackouts that lasted several hours for some customers.

See the full report below:

2011 April Report on Feb Blackout Manipulation