AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, is expecting tight grid conditions again Wednesday afternoon, April 14, but is not asking for energy conservation at this time.
“We may see tight grid conditions due to the large number of generators out of service for planned and forced maintenance combined with low wind and solar output forecasted for today,” said ERCOT Vice President of Grid Planning and Operations Woody Rickerson. “Additionally, we’re seeing some risk in the Rio Grande Valley due to the forced outage of a generating unit in the area.”
Approximately 33,000 MW of generation is currently out of service for maintenance.
Tight conditions are not always a direct result of high demand on the electric system, ERCOT explained in a news release.
The agency went on to say:
During the spring and fall seasons, electric demand (load) may be relatively low, but there are typically a large number of generators that are out of service for scheduled maintenance. As a result, there is less overall generation capacity available to serve electricity demand.
Additionally, the weather tends to fluctuate more during the spring and fall, resulting in a significant amount of variability on the electric system due to changing demand and renewable output.
Generating units are large machines that require periodic maintenance in order to sustain their performance during the summer. Typically, these outages occur during the spring months when demand tends to be lower, in order to ensure units are available during the summer months when demand is expected to be higher. The ERCOT market is also designed to financially incentivize generators to be available during summer peak demand periods.
“Just like maintaining your car, generators must be maintained to keep them running smoothly,” said Rickerson. “ERCOT must balance these necessary outages with serving load during the spring and fall months, especially given increased weather volatility.”
Beyond the exercise in mincing words, many Texans are downright mad.
“No snowstorm, no 105-degree day in August and ERCOT can’t manage the power grid,” fumed Jim Joynt of Wylie.
The mid-April call to conserve has been for many a flashback to the cold, dark days of February and it’s a situation that the prepared don’t intend to repeat.
“Enough is enough!” said Joynt. “Half the people in our neighborhood have bought standby generators, because we don’t trust ERCOT to run the power grid.”
Ercot has explained that 25% of grid capacity is offline for maintenance. But Joynt says what he sees, is more of the same.
“After our big winter storm, we really thought ‘okay, they’re going to get control of this, they’re going to take action to correct the mistakes that happened in February,” said Joynt. “And it seems like a lot of it was knee jerk reaction, and just whitewashing as usual from politicians. They didn’t do anything and we are still not seeing any changes.”
He said the fact that his standby generator arrived on the same day as the conservation warning is confirmation that it is a worthwhile investment in energy peace of mind. But good luck getting your hands on one!
“We’ve probably got 50-60 people on the list right now waiting for generators,” said Robert Martin at Plano Power Equipment.
Martin said generators were already hard to get because of Covid-19 related manufacturing delays. Then the storms hit, and their stock was cleared out within a couple of days. Even now, they’re struggling to keep up with the demand.
“They just want to be sure they’re on the list to get one sometime here in the next few months,” said Martin. “I ask if it is something they’re going to be using daily or for emergency use only, and most of them are saying it’s for emergency use only. They want it just in case.”
As for Joynt, he said it’s better to have the energy back up plan and not need it than to be left in the dark.
“This is just exciting to know that we are going to have this installed, up and running in a few days. And we will be taken care of, we will be protected,” says Joynt. “I have no regrets. Worth every penny!”
ERCOT manages the flow of electric power to more than 26 million Texas customers, representing about 90% of the state’s electric load.