ERCOT Expects Tight Reserves at Start of Summer

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More than 2,100 MW of new generation expected on-line by August

MARCH 5, 2014, AUSTIN, TX – The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), grid operator for most of Texas, today released its final Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy (SARA) for this spring and a preliminary outlook for the coming summer.

Although tight conditions are likely on the electric grid during the early summer months, the outlook improves by late summer, when more than 2,100 megawatts (MW) from four new natural gas-fired generation resources are slated to begin commercial operations.

sun“While we anticipate sufficient generation for summer, conditions may become tight — potentially requiring conservation measures to protect the grid — if we see extremely high demand during the early summer, before these new units begin operating,” said Warren Lasher, ERCOT director of System Planning.

The new combined-cycle gas-fired power plants ¾ Ferguson, Panda Sherman, Panda Temple I and Deer Park Energy Center ¾ are scheduled to begin operating by Aug. 1, with one unit scheduled to bring new capacity on-line in early July.

Peak demand for this summer is expected to exceed 68,000 megawatts (MW). One MW is enough electricity to power about 200 homes when demand is highest. ERCOT’s all-time record peak of 68,305 MW occurred on Aug. 3, 2011, during the hottest summer on record.

“We typically experience highest demand later in the summer,” said Lasher. “If the new generating plants become commercially available as scheduled, we expect to have sufficient reserves to serve anticipated peak demand.”

The preliminary summer report indicates operating reserves would remain above 3,000 MW with normal generation outages and 2002-2013 average weather patterns. If more extreme weather occurs, especially during a period when a higher-than-average number of generation units are not available, there could be a need for conservation and other progressive steps to protect the grid.

“We also expect to have sufficient generation to serve consumers’ needs this spring,” Lasher said.

Generation companies typically bring plants off-line during the spring to perform maintenance and repairs prior to summer demand. If record heat or extreme cold occurs while a large portion of the fleet is unavailable during the spring, conservation could become necessary to help protect the grid. The Conservation Alert during record March demand earlier this week is an example of spring operating conditions that can necessitate the need for conservation.

The final summer SARA, to be released in early May, will reflect a more thorough look at the summer weather forecast. At that time, ERCOT will determine whether additional actions should be taken to help protect system reliability this summer. Those actions could include bringing “mothballed” units, resources that are not currently operating but could be returned to operational status, back on-line for the peak season.

Both assessments currently count wind power at 8.7 percent of its installed capacity, and ERCOT has been evaluating that capacity value based on performance in recent years.

Drought conditions that continue throughout Texas are not expected to create operational problems for generators this summer, but ERCOT continues to monitor these risks.