News Release

May 21, 2013

ERCOT Board of Directors receives updates on summer preparedness, West Texas congestion

MAY 21, 2013, AUSTIN, TX -- As the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) prepares for the demands of summer, its Board of Directors recently received updates on expected conditions and the grid operator’s efforts to maintain a reliable, efficient electric system amid growing demands for power. 

ERCOT’s summer outlook, released earlier this month, foresees tight operating reserves in the months ahead. Meanwhile, parts of the West Texas grid continue to experience congestion as oil and gas activities, and related economic activities, drive electric demand in the region to new levels.

Addressing transmission congestion

Warren Lasher, ERCOT’s director of System Planning, provided an overview of steps ERCOT and transmission providers, particularly Oncor, have been taking in the past year to address transmission congestion in and around the Permian Basin.

"We continue to see significant load growth in this area, and our expectation is that growth will continue on for several years," Lasher explained.

In recent years, fast-growing demand on the system has strained the transmission grid in West Texas, especially around Odessa. When the wires used to deliver electricity become congested, like a busy roadway during rush hour, ERCOT can have generators send power where it is needed through less congested circuits, and that power sometimes comes from more costly generation sources. While this process is sometimes necessary to keep up with power demand and protect the grid, it can affect the cost of power in that "load zone."

Lasher explained that recent and ongoing improvements will help the system manage these growing demands more effectively in coming years. However, because those improvements and other ongoing upgrades, including Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) projects on tap to be energized by the end of 2013, will require some circuits to be de-energized during construction, additional challenges are likely this summer. The intermittent nature of wind power in the region adds to the complexity of the situation.

"The market impact of planned outages can be exacerbated by increased load levels, increased availability of low-cost generation, and forced outages of resources or other transmission elements," Lasher said, noting a simple change in wind patterns can affect where congestion appears in real-time operations. Even without the impacts of wind fluctuation and outages, some affected circuits in and around the Odessa area could experience as many as 900 hours of congestion this year.

Mark Carpenter, an alternate ERCOT board member and senior vice president of Transmission and Distribution Operations for Oncor, elaborated on his company’s efforts to shore up the system in West Texas and prepare for additional increases in electric demand in the region. Those efforts include short- and long-term improvements to the 138- and 69-kilovolt (kV) systems where congestion has increased in recent years, as well as working with the industry to predict where the next load-growth pocket is expected, improving the capacity of existing lines under various conditions, and, in some cases, performing work on energized lines to prevent outages. Long-term fixes, which also will include more high-voltage 345 kV facilities around the region, remain a priority of ERCOT’s Regional Planning Group.

Carpenter thanked ERCOT Operations staff for working closely with Oncor to help streamline the ongoing work while protecting the transmission system.

Withstanding weather

Chris Coleman, ERCOT meteorologist, predicts summer weather will follow recent years’ hotter-than-normal trends, especially during June and July. He noted that this summer is likely to be similar to 2012, the 14th hottest on record for Texas.

Thanks to some spring rain, he said, temperatures are not likely to repeat sustained records set in 2011. Some areas of the state, including the Gulf Coast region, may even experience below-normal temperatures later in the summer. However, drought conditions are expected to continue, with less than 50 percent of normal precipitation expected in most of Central Texas and rainfall levels below normal in most of the state.

Coleman said he expects an average or below-average hurricane season nationally, with one to three named storms in the Gulf of Mexico, possibly including one hurricane.

Conservation key to summer reliability

When high temperatures result in tight conditions, ERCOT will use a variety of channels to let consumers know when additional conservation is needed to maintain a reliable grid.

Theresa Gage, ERCOT’s director of Corporate Communications, reported that ERCOT would rely on tools it has put to use in recent years, including the ERCOT Energy Saver mobile app, which is undergoing improvements for release later this summer; social media (@ERCOT_ISO on Twitter and Electric Reliability Council of Texas on Facebook); its website (www.ercot.com), with recent improvements to its Today’s Outlook grid conditions report and a new weather page; its EmergencyAlerts email list; and relationships with market participants, traditional media and the Public Utility Commission of Texas.

Other March board meeting updates

Chief Executive Officer Report

ERCOT CEO Trip Doggett provided several updates, which included:

  • The summer Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy indicates a significant chance that ERCOT will need to issue Energy Emergency Alerts this summer, but prolonged heat waves like those in 2011 are not expected.
  •  The long-term Capacity, Demand and Reserves (CDR) outlook has improved since release of the December CDR report.
  • Currently, 159 active generation interconnection requests total more than 48,000 MW of potential generation. The amount under study by ERCOT has grown by more than 10,000 megawatts in the past year, with growth occurring mainly in gas-fired generation and wind power projects.
  • Recent system upgrades enabled improvements to data transparency, market and energy management, generation seasonal testing, and the congestion revenue rights auction.
  • A recent ERCOT training seminar provided information about numerous operations topics for 675 participants representing transmission providers, generating companies, the Texas Reliability Entity and ERCOT employees

Independent Market Monitor report

Dan Jones from Potomac Economics provided the regular monthly update on electric prices, energy use, heat rate, congestion costs, ancillary services and wind production.

Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) recommendations

The board approved seven Nodal Protocol Revision Requests, one Planning Guide Revision Request, one System Change Request, and the methodology for setting shadow price caps and power balance penalties in the Security-Constrained Economic Dispatch.

The board did not approve an appeal of a previous TAC action related to supplemental reliability deployments.

The next meeting of the ERCOT Board of Directors will be July 16.

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The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the flow of electric power to more than 25 million Texas customers -- representing about 90 percent of the state’s electric load. As the independent system operator for the region, ERCOT schedules power on an electric grid that connects more than 46,500 miles of transmission lines and 600+ generation units. It also performs financial settlement for the competitive wholesale bulk-power market and administers retail switching for nearly 8 million premises in competitive choice areas.. ERCOT is a membership-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation, governed by a board of directors and subject to oversight by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Legislature. Its members include consumers, cooperatives, generators, power marketers, retail electric providers, investor-owned electric utilities, transmission and distribution providers and municipally owned electric utilities.

Contact
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media@ercot.com