Reports assess Texas’ power-generating capacity for winter and beyond

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas today released two important reports assessing the state’s short- and long-term abilities to ensure there’s enough electricity to go around. If there isn’t, Texans might experience rotating outages similar to those of last  February and those we narrowly avoided this summer during record-setting temperatures and drought conditions.

ERCOT’s assessment for this winter  is that there will be enough electricity to serve the state if we have normal weather conditions. However, if there is severe winter weather and worst-case generation outages, like those in the winter of 2011, rotating outages could occur.

All of that is unlikely, ERCOT said.

“We believe there’s a very low risk of rotating outages during this winter,” said Trip Doggett, ERCOT’s chief executive officer.

The state’s prolonged drought is affecting the supply of electric generation, which ERCOT is closely monitoring. Cooling reservoirs at power plants that generate more than 11,000 megawatts of electricity are at historically low levels, the council said. Those low water levels could cause power plants to reduce the amount of electricity they generate.

ERCOT’s 10-year outlook shows that power reserves — the amount of extra electricity needed to avoid rotating outages — are expected to drop below the acceptable minimum of 13.75 percent of total electric generating capacity. The report predicts the reserve margin for 2012 and 2013 will be 12 percent of capacity.

Doggett said ERCOT is working on several initiatives with the state’s power generators and the Public Utility Council of Texas to ensure there are enough power reserves to avoid rotating outages, including incentives to build more generation of all types.  

You can read ERCOT’s winter 2011/2012 assessment. You can also read its updated report on capacity, demand and reserves. ERCOT manages the electric grid in 75 percent of the state, serving about 23 million people.

Keep reading this blog, too, for more information about the state’s electric market and how it affects you.

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About Will Holford

Have you ever wondered about the future of electric use? Perhaps you’re curious about how some global or national events might impact your power, the environment or your bill? Maybe you’re just interested in what’s going on at Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative. We want to share what we know, and that’s what the Bluebonnet Blog is about. Will Holford, Bluebonnet’s Manager of Public Affairs, is going to write most often for the blog. He’s been with the co-op since 2007, and has worked in communications for more than 14 years. Will enjoys learning about energy – and writing about it. He and other Bluebonnet employees (and occasional guest contributors) will get the conversation going -- about everything from where your power is generated to where it’s used, advances in technology, changes that will affect you, and interesting peeks behind the scenes at the co-op. We welcome your comments, questions and ideas. Email Will at will.holford@bluebonnet.coop.
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