Grid operator delays decision on boosting capacity requirements

Texas Grid planners deferred a decision on whether to raise the proportion of reserve power generating capacity the state should maintain to meet peak demand.

Board members of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas decided to delay until September a vote on a staff proposal to raise the reserve margin from 13.75 percent to 16.1 percent, awaiting further research by the Public Utility Commission, the  state’ s utility regulator.

“I am concerned that action today would only complicate the work,” said Craven Crowell, chair of the council.

The proposal would have the effect of raising the need for power plants, which  some argue could push Texas toward a capacity market system with generators receiving payments in exchange for keeping plants available.

Under the existing market structure, called energy only, plants only receive revenue for power they actually sell to consumers–a situation capacity market advocates say doesn’t provide incentive for construction of peak-demand plants that seldom operate.

In addition to increasing the reserve requirement, the proposal by the  council’s technical staff would change the method for calculating wind resources, effectively raising the wind power considered available to meet peak needs.

The council calculates total wind resources as contributing 8.7 percent of the capacity it estimates it would need at peak demand. The proposed change would increase that amount to 32.9 percent for coastal wind power resources and 14.2 percent for other wind resources. The staff cited improved wind technology and differences between coastal and inland wind patterns in recommending the change.

The council has estimated that the new wind calculations would recognize  about 1,000 megawatts more in the grid by 2014, raising the projected reserve margin for next summer  from 13.8 percent to 15.3 percent.

“While we may all support the model used by the staff, prudence would call that we should take a second look, so we can guarantee that we are getting it right,” Crowell said in support of the delay in adopting the proposal.

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