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ERCOT Acknowledges Grid At Risk Of “Cascading Outages”

ERCOT, the state grid operator, has admitted that the Texas grid has transmission problems that “could lead to cascading outages.”

This week, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas admitted to the Public Utility Commission that it underestimated the growth of the San Antonio region and that its analysis overlooked the need to increase transmission capacity between the southern and northern regions of the state.

According to a report by San Antonio Express-News, CPS Energy is working on a new transmission line that could help solve the problem, but it won’t be ready for another three years, a time when the Texas grid could be at risk.

While solar, wind, and battery storage systems offer faster and more cost-effective solutions compared to traditional gas-fired power plants, upgrading transmission lines remains a time-consuming process.

“We should have been able to see this in 2018,” ERCOT Chief Operating Officer Woody Rickerson said. “If we saw it in 2018, we’d have time for this line to have been built last year.”

To avoid overloading the lines during periods of high demand and uneven power supply between the south and north ends of the existing lines, ERCOT is considering curtailing power. This action is intended to prevent an emergency similar to the one that occurred on Sept. 6, 2021, when the grid came dangerously close to a blackout following a severe winter storm that killed 200 people.

The lack of transmission capacity is exacerbated by a shortage of generation north of the affected area, while there is sometimes an overabundance of power at the other end, including from CPS Energy and wind farms in Corpus Christi.

ERCOT failed to forecast the rapid growth in power demand, driven by factors such as population growth, hotter temperatures, and the rise of power-intensive facilities like data centers and crypto mines.

To mitigate the crisis, ERCOT is exploring various tactics such as demand-response programs and deploying battery systems strategically. They are also developing tools to improve load growth and transmission forecasts.

“I think load is just continuing to grow and grow in South Texas and it won’t stop at the CPS Energy project,” said Commissioner Lori Cobos. “We must remain vigilant and diligent in identifying future transmission projects down there.” She also floated the idea of forcing crypto miners off the grid during critical periods.

Looking ahead, ERCOT anticipates actively limiting power transmission until the completion of CPS Energy’s transmission system upgrade in the summer of 2027. This project, known as the CPS Energy-San Antonio South Reliability Regional Planning Group Project, aims to enhance the grid’s capacity to handle excess power from South Texas.

RA Staff
RA Staff
Written by RA News staff.


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