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Texas could experience power outages this winter if the state suffers a cold snap that forces many power plants to shut down at the same time while electricity demand is high. according to an analysis by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. The failures could occur in cold weather despite better preparation of the power plants for operation.
At the beginning of winter, ERCOT examined five extreme scenarios in a risk assessment of the state power supply. The network operator estimates both the expected electricity demand of Texans and the expected electricity production of the power plants before each season.
After the widespread power outages in February, when millions of people were without power for several days, ERCOT changed these estimates to calculate what would happen if extreme conditions were to occur at the same time – like this year.
The calculations show the vulnerability of the power grid to the cumulative effects of multiple loads, which can cause the system to become scarce with a significant amount of power. Power grids must keep supply and demand in balance at all times. If the Texas grid falls below its safety margin of 2,300 megawatts of additional supply, the grid operator ERCOT begins to take additional precautions to avoid power outages, such as B. the request to the residents to save electricity.
The heavy risk calculations this winter show it doesn’t take a storm as bad as it did in February when hundreds of people died to take the grid off the grid.
The scenario that ERCOT regards as the most serious scenario for this winter – very high electricity demand, extensive outages of natural gas and other fossil fuels as well as insufficient electricity production from renewable sources – still does not capture the amount of electricity lost in February. For two days in February there was an average of 34,000 megawatts of outages in Texas, according to a current federal report on the crisis. ERCOT’s seasonal assessment for this winter estimates that in the worst case scenario, the state could only have around 10,000 to 19,000 megawatts of total outages at any one time if the power plants are better prepared for this winter than for the last.
“As part of our comprehensive planning, we also examined a number of low-probability, high-impact scenarios,” said Chris Schein, a spokesman for ERCOT, in a statement. “Generators across the state have improved the weathering of power plants.”
Regulators finalized a rule in October requiring power plants to “do their best” to ensure they can operate this winter and requiring them to address “acute” problems from the February 2021 winter storm remedy.
ERCOT also estimated that Texans would need about 73,000 megawatts of electricity at any given time, based on the weather a decade ago in 2011 and the economic projections for 2020. But during the February electricity crisis, experts estimate that Texans would need about 77,000. needed megawatts to keep the electricity running.
“We had bad planning from Peak for years [demand] from ERCOT, ”said Alison Silverstein, a Texas power system expert who previously worked for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Public Utility Commission of Texas. She spoke at a public event hosted by the Sierra Club environmental group on Saturday. “In the past, ERCOT’s electricity market was managed in such a way that costs were minimized and not the guarantee of outstanding reliability.”
Four of the five extreme risk scenarios considered by ERCOT would lead the network to a significant power failure, which would lead to outages for the residents.
The probability of occurrence of the extreme scenarios is low, emphasizes ERCOT in its report, and the network operator estimates that more electricity will be available than last winter.
Under typical winter network conditions, according to the ERCOT report, sufficient electricity will be available to supply the state.