Grid planners say Texas has enough power for winter demand

The Texas grid will carry enough power to meet consumer demand during the coming winter and spring, grid planners said Friday.

Electricity demand is expected to reach 50,000 megawatts at its peak during the winter, far below available capacity of 74,000 megawatts, according the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

One megawatt is enough power to serve about 500 homes during mild weather conditions and about 200 homes during high-demand summer months.

“We expect to be in good shape for the winter ahead,” said Warren Lasher, ERCOT’s director of System Planning. “Even if we see extreme weather conditions, we expect to have adequate resources,” said Warren Lasher.

While planning for peak power usage typically focuses on hot summer afternoons, the last time grid managers had to require some involuntary outages was Feb. 2, 2011 – a move required mostly by some generation plants going offline unexpectedly because of the unexpected cold weather.

Lasher said many plants have been much better weatherized in the two years since, and does not anticipate any drop in capacity due to weather issues.

The forecasts are part of seasonal assessments that ERCOT releases periodically. It said that while some generators have announced plans to temporarily retire units for the winter months, it anticipates the grid will have sufficient resources for unexpected demand spikes.

The forecast comes a week after the Public Utility Commission took a non-binding vote to begin require a certain level of excess electricity generation capacity, which some argue could force a redesign of Texas’ electricity market structure. ERCOT currently targets a reserve margin 13.75 percent above anticipated peak demand, but that is not mandated.

The PUC plans to establish a mandatory margin based on an upcoming Brattle Group study that will recommend the most beneficial level to ensure increased grid reliability, while containing the increased costs.

ERCOT also is reviewing its methods for forecasting to ensure that future demand is not overstated.