ERCOT details road map to improve winter storm responses by itself, Texas utilities

AP file photo

Battered by criticisms over its handling of the February winter storm crisis, the operator of the Texas grid is promising to step up oversight of utility power generation assets statewide and avoid another system breakdown.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas sent a letter to state Gov. Greg Abbot outlining its intended “road map” to be better prepared for winter impacts on generation capacity. About 52 GW of power plant capacity was tripped offline this February due to Winter Storm Uri’s record-low temperatures and extended cold snap.

This totaled more than 2,000 generation outages, according to early reports. The forced load shedding due to high demand and reduced generation led to numerous deaths in the state.

Among the ERCOT road map’s directives include a requirement on greater communication between power generators and the system operator, on-site inspections for weatherization efforts at power plants and revised market processes to improve assessments during periods of tighter grid conditions, according to the report.

“The employees of ERCOT are committed to using this as a foundation — adding and adjusting as necessary to keep up with regulatory requirements and the needs of a fast-changing electric grid,” reads the letter to Gov. Abbott from interim ERCOT CEO Brad Jones. “On behalf of all the employees at ERCOT, we want you to know we are putting more emphasis on listening and engaging with you, ERCOT customers and market partners.”

The Texas Legislature and Abbott this winter signed off on new laws focused on oversight of ERCOT. Numerous leaders, including the former CEO and Texas public utility commissioners, resigned in the wake of the Winter Storm Uri debacle.

Among the ERCOT objectives include completing an extensive analysis of the generation outages which happened in February. The early tabulation found that all forms of generation–from gas-fired power plants to utility-scale wind, coal and nuclear–all suffered outages.

The ERCOT wants CEOs of all participating generation and transmission utilities to submit signed letters attesting to their companies’ weatherization preparations. The system operator also vowed to do on-site inspections of generation facilities to ensure compliance.

The price reactive nature of Texas’ competitive electricity market also hit numerous utilities with financial setbacks. Some reported depleted cashflow while one cooperative filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Author

  • Rod Walton is content director for Power Engineering, POWERGEN International and the online POWERGEN+ series. He is a 13-year veteran of covering the energy industry both as a newspaper journalist and trade publication editor. He can be reached at 918-831-9177 and rod.walton@clarionevents.com.

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