Texas on the Brink
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- Aug 16, 2019 11:00 pm GMT
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Earlier this summer, I wrote about the troubles Texas was predicted to have keeping up with peak demands through July and August. Why wasn’t the Lone Star State projected to be up to the challenge? Well, there were a number of reasons. On top of high temperatures, there’s been significant load growth over the last year in various Texan cities. Nowhere has that growth been more pronounced than in the capital, Austin. Once a funky little college town, Austin has led the nation in population growth for the past eight years. Drawn in by good weather and a booming tech-sector, people just can’t seem to get enough of Texas’ 4th largest town. Compounding Texas’ situation, the 470-megawatt (MW) Gibbons Creek coal-fired plant shut down earlier this year. Although there are plans for new plants in the future, to this point that generation has not been replaced.
Well, although it took a while, it looks like the state’s grid might finally be at the brink. Weeks of three digit temperatures pushed ERCOT, Texas’ grid operator, to issue Energy Emergency Alert for the first time in five and-a-half years on Tuesday. Luckily, they haven’t yet been forced to use rolling black outs, but the warning means that wasn’t far off. The last time ERCOT issued the warning was way back in January, 2014, when Texas was hit with an extreme cold spell.
Although the warning has been lifted, Texans aren’t out of the woods just yet. We’re only half way through August and temperatures could continue to climb. I’m not sure how back to school could affect power demand. On one hand, schools will be up and consuming more electricity, but households may be able to cutback with kids away during the day.
It will be interesting to see how ERCOT and Texas utilities respond over the next year. Let’s hope a solution is in place by summer 2020.