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LP&L confident in ERCOT’s prediction that power grid is ready for summer heat

Published: May. 18, 2022 at 7:10 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - State power officials say the grid is prepared for a record demand summer, despite asking Texans to conserve energy over the weekend after six generators tripped offline.

Matt Rose, with Lubbock Power & Light says he’s confident in that prediction, as the state focuses on improving reliability, the grid has a higher reserve margin, and after seeing it perform this past weekend.

In a joint press conference Tuesday, leaders of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, and the Public Utilities Commission worked to address concerns about the grid’s reliability and the results of its summer assessment.

After six generators tripped offline within hours of each other Friday afternoon, ERCOT asked Texans to “conserve power when they can by setting their thermostats to 78-degrees or above and avoiding the usage of large appliances (such as dishwashers, washers and dryers) during peak hours between 3pm and 8pm through the weekend.”

PUC Chairman Peter Lake says the combination of record-breaking heat, low wind generation, and the ‘unusual’ number of generators tripping offline within hours led to the conservation request.

ERCOT’s interim CEO, Brad Jones, says the request was only that, not an alert, appeal, or indicative of a dangerous situation. Lake says the request was also part of ERCOT’s transition from a crisis-based business model to a reliability-based business model.

“It’s important to know that in the past, before we transitioned to this reliability-based business model, in the past under similar circumstances, no conservation notice would have been issued. This was ERCOT being proactive about the tight grid conditions and informing Texans of their ability to help contribute to grid reliability by conserving electricity,” Lake said.

Rose says customers should expect to receive these conservation requests throughout the entire summer.

“ERCOT has been very clear that their directive from the legislature and these reform packages is get out there early and often and continually press this message,” Rose said.

Rose says the state now requires ERCOT to get ahead of the curve when something like this happens. So, when six of more than 700 generators went offline in a matter of hours Friday, ERCOT sent the conservation request.

“Don’t take it as a disaster scenario. Take it as this is the statewide grid operator saying we want you to be aware of the situation. We’re not in an emergency, but please do what you can for your sake and our sake,” Rose said.

Along with keeping Texans in the loop, Rose says ERCOT is also focusing on greater reliability.

Rose says when several coal plants went offline permanently about five years ago and natural gas plants hadn’t replaced them yet, reserve margins were only eight or nine percent. He says last summer, the first on the ERCOT grid for 70 percent of LP&L’s customers, that margin was 15 percent. This summer, a year out from joining the competitive market, it’s 23 percent. The reserve peak margin for the Southwest Power Pool this summer is 15 percent.

“We’re pleased with how what their outlook is, how they’re they’re running the grid at this point, because it definitely is a more conservative running of the grid that’s resulting in better reliability, and that’s what we’re really essentially focused on,” Rose said.

Rose says that conservative model means more plants are available to come online. That has driven up costs, but he says it’s a far cheaper alternative than an event like the winter storm we saw in February 2021.

He says conservation efforts by customers then kept us from seeing more controlled outages like the rest of the state.

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