ERCOT sees adequate power supplies for this winter, next spring

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which covers most of Texas, said Nov. 1 that it anticipates sufficient power to serve consumer needs during the upcoming winter and spring.

ERCOT released its final Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy (SARA) for the upcoming winter and a preliminary outlook for spring 2014. Forecasters expect peak demand this winter to remain below 50,000 MW. Although some generators have announced plans to retire or temporarily shut down units that were included in the preliminary forecast, about 74,000 MW of resources are slated to be available during the winter months.

“Although we expect fewer resources and slightly higher demand than our preliminary forecast indicated, we expect to be in good shape for the winter ahead,” said Warren Lasher, ERCOT director of System Planning.

ERCOT experienced winter recorded demand of 57,265 MW on Feb. 10, 2011. Assuming typical generation outages, ERCOT expects to be able to handle that level of demand or higher this winter. If extremely high electric use and power plant outages were to occur simultaneously, there is a slight possibility that ERCOT would need to take steps to reduce demand on the grid.

“We are likely to see our coldest temperatures during the early part of the season, and our peak forecast is based on conditions similar to what occurred in December 2008,” said ERCOT Meteorologist Chris Coleman. “Overall, we expect the weather this winter to be relatively warm, much like the temperatures we have experienced in the past couple of years.”

In preparation for winter, in case there are some extreme temperatures, ERCOT also has conducted a number of surveys and site visits to discuss and assess the status of winter preparedness efforts with power plant owners.

The preliminary outlook for spring 2014 also anticipates enough resources, particularly if weather conditions are similar to spring 2013 as expected. ERCOT expects electric demand next spring will not exceed 57,000 MW, and nearly 73,000 MW of capacity is expected to be available.

Spring is an important time for generators to prepare for summer peak demand, so many plants go off-line early in the season for maintenance and repairs. Most units typically return to service in May. However, if summer-like conditions were to occur while a large portion of the generation fleet is off-line in March or April, there could be a need to reduce system demand to maintain reliability, ERCOT noted.

Beginning with the spring 2014 SARA, ERCOT is adjusting how it measures expected power plant outages, basing its forecast on performance during the past three years rather than the current method that relies on a six-year average.

The final spring 2014 SARA and preliminary outlook for summer 2014 will be released on March 1. The next long-term Capacity, Demand and Reserves report is scheduled for release on Dec. 3.

ERCOT manages the flow of electric power to 23 million Texas customers – representing 85% of the state’s electric load. As the independent system operator for the region, ERCOT schedules power on an electric grid that connects 40,500 miles of transmission lines and more than 550 generation units.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.