Another power crisis looms over Texas as grid faces Crunch again
Texas is again facing a possible power-grid emergency, less than 60 days after widespread blackouts left millions without light and heat for days during a deep winter freeze.
The grid operator is asking for conservation and warned it could declare an emergency to bring more power plants online after a mild cold front failed to reduce demand as expected at the same time that 25% of generators are offline for repairs. Wholesale electricity prices jumped as high as 10,000% in some parts of the state.
“We don’t anticipate having any outages,” said Bill Magness, Chief Executive Officer of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. “But it is a day we are seeing tight conditions on the grid.”
The warning comes just two months after Texas suffered from catastrophic blackouts during a winter storm that knocked out nearly half of the state’s generation capacity. State lawmakers are now scrambling to put in place a series of market reforms designed to avoid a repeat of the calamity that left more than 100 people dead.
Officials at the grid operator, known as Ercot, stressed that Tuesday’s conditions are not a repeat of the February crisis.
“This is not an extended winter storm that is going to last five days,” Ercot Vice President of Grid Planning and Operations Woody Rickerson told reporters. “This is a shorter event.”
Blackouts would only occur if reserve power supplies fell below 1,000 megawatts from more than 3,0000 now. That’s unlikely, Rickerson said. He acknowledged that Ercot didn’t correctly forecast solar and wind production Tuesday, resulting in the supply tightness. At the same time, the grid operator expected milder weather to reduce demand across Texas but when cooler air stalled in one part of the state, temperatures -- and consumption -- remained higher than expected in large cities including San Antonio and Houston.
Many power plants schedule annual maintenance for this time of year, when demand is expected to be lower due to lower temperatures. A few plants were also offline to make repairs related to the February storm, Rickerson said.
The average spot on-peak electricity at Ercot’s North Hub jumped more than 10,000% to $1,975.96 a megawatt-hour as of 4 p.m, according to grid data compiled by Genscape. Prices are capped at $2,000 a megawatt hour, after regulators suspended the previous $9,000 cap following the energy crisis.