Texans may experience power shortages and potential brownouts this summer due to a combination of factors. If there’s record demand, extreme heat, and low generation, could be power brownouts.
According to The Dallas Morning News, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said the Texas grid broke records 11 times in the past summer. In the extreme heat of that summer, the grid experienced several close calls, prompting ERCOT officials to urge energy conservation.
Last year, on July 20, the all-time record topping 80,000 megawatts was broken for the first time. That summer the seasonal report had estimated a peak demand of 77,317 megawatts. This year, the projection is for 82,739 megawatts.
The report also projects that there will be energy supply as long as the grid doesn’t experience extreme factors. The ERCOT CEO, Pablo Vegas said, “It’s ready to run,” comparing the grid to a car “It’s going to be reliable. However, we’re asking it to go further without adding more reliable fuel.”
Renewable energy has become a need for Texans to keep the lights on while dispatchable energy has stagnated in the past 15 years. The population in Texas has grown and so have the state’s energy needs.
In the past, the typical time of peak demand was in the evening when Texans returned home from their work and used their air conditioners. Now, the highest risk for the grid is after sunset when solar panels cannot produce energy.
Peter Lake, the chairman of the grid’s regulatory committee said that at 9 p.m. it’s still hot in the summer months, meaning that most people will have their air conditioners on at those hours. Vegas said that Texas should encourage more investment into natural gas fired power plants.
Fossil fuels has become an important topic in the Texas Senate as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is pushing the Senate to subsidize natural gas power plants. Also, last Tuesday Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, issued a proposal for a program that would use taxpayer dollars to finance and subsidize new natural gas power.
This is the second proposal issued by the senator. The Senate passed another bill he authored that would use taxpayer money to build natural gas plants as a “backup generator” for the power grid.
Despite the push of dispatchable energy, during last summer and during Winter Storm Uri, failures at fossil fuel power plants were the largest.
In response to the Senate’s push for fossil fuels, Environment Texas Executive Director, Luke Metzager said: “We do need to make more fixes to the grid. Solutions include further weatherization of power plants and the fuel supply, more energy efficiency, more batteries, and interconnecting our grid with the rest of the country’s. These solutions will also protect the environment and consumers. Prolonging our dependency on pollution-spewing, fossil-fuel power plants is not the answer.”