So far so good for Texas power grid, ERCOT says — but more tests are lurking
If you view the recent bout of triple-digit temperatures and record statewide electricity demand as a test for the Texas power grid, it’s been more akin to a pop quiz than a full-fledged exam.
That’s because greater challenges are on the way, experts say.
“It’s not even officially summer yet,” until June 21, said Beth Garza, a former Austin Energy manager and independent market monitor for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the power grid.
“The forecasts that I have seen are for it to be very hot and very dry (throughout the summer), and that is going to put more stress on the grid” because of high consumer demand and continuous strain on power generators, Garza said. “That means the bigger risks are ahead of us.”
Garza, currently a senior fellow at the R Street Institute, a Washington-based think tank, said sustained hot temperatures have a cumulative negative impact on generation infrastructure, such as by heating up the surface water that some power plants use for cooling. She also said the late summer typically isn’t as windy as is June, meaning there might be less output available from wind turbines over the coming months.
Still, she pegged the chance of a systemic grid failure that triggers rotating blackouts at less than 50%. She stopped short of guaranteeing it won’t happen, however.
“That is certainly not a pledge I would be comfortable making,” Garza said. “The risks of having a major system issue will only increase the longer we have these extremely hot temperatures.”