Report: ERCOT under budgeted expected power demand during February winter freeze

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) —A report by researchers at the University of Texas details multiple causes for the February blackouts, including that many power plants in Texas failed to receive critical supplies of natural gas to keep them online.

Researchers said weather forecasts failed to predict the severity of the storm and weather models were unreliable in providing an accurate time frame related to winter storm conditions. Additionally, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas failed to estimate the peak demand for electricity use during severe weather and therefore underbudgeted peak power demand.

Some power generators were reportedly inadequately weatherized and outages at several power plants occurred at temperatures above self-reported minimum temperature ratings.

The report states that all types of energy generation failed during the winter storm and grid conditions deteriorated quickly which led to blackouts with natural gas leading the pack at 13,000 MW lost followed by 3,700 MW from wind sources, 3,000 MW from coal sources, 1,300 from nuclear sources and 600 MW from solar sources.

The subsequent load shedding that took place was a necessity to avoid catastrophic failure, researchers said. For reference, ERCOT reported that 1 MW of electricity can power about 200 Texas homes during periods of peak demand.

The report states that 67 sites in Texas that contribute to the generator fuel supply chain were enrolled in ERCOT’s Emergency Response Service program that voluntarily cuts power to service in exchange for payment. Researchers said five of these locations were identified as critical natural gas infrastructure.

Researchers report that natural gas was “already being curtailed to
some natural gas consumers, including power plants” days before ERCOT called for blackouts, but reasons for the curtailment are not discussed.

The report states that had one or more of the identified issues not occurred, outages likely would have still taken place but duration and severity would have likely been lower.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott called on ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission of Texas last week to take immediate action to increase power generation capacity and ensure reliability on the power grid.

ERCOT responded this week to say the organization has increased the amount of electricity generation and worked to ensure generation supply will meet demands, implemented protocols to ensure price certainty during emergency weather conditions, purchased more reserves as well as released reserves to meet customer demand and procured additional reserves.

The council said they will be releasing a plan later this week that ensures grid reliability and improves communication.

In a note today, ERCOT and CPS Energy is asking San Antonians to conserve energy as temperatures begin to rise for the summer season.

You can read the full report here.

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