ERCOT avoids entering ’emergency conditions,’ customers no longer need to conserve power

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which controls the flow of electricity in the state, avoided entering “emergency conditions” Tuesday, after about a quarter of its generating capacity went offline for expected maintenance.

ERCOT had asked customers and businesses to conserve energy during that time.

“Our energy conservation appeal has ended without the need for an energy emergency. Thank you for conserving energy when it was needed,” ERCOT said Tuesday night.

The council said it didn’t expect customer outages, but that declaring an emergency would have allowed it time to access additional resources.

Earlier in the day, ERCOT announced high generator outages that are typical for the month of April coupled with “higher-than-forecasted” demand caused by a stalled cold front led to asking the public to cut back on energy use.

About 25% of the total generating capacity, 32,000 megawatts, went offline Tuesday.

Woody Rickerson, ERCOT vice president of Grid Planning and Operations, said a majority of the 32,000 megawatts that went offline were for expected maintenance in preparation for the summer months.

“That’s not abnormal for this time of year. This is the time of year when a lot of units are offline to get ready for higher temperatures,” he said.

Rickerson added, “without this maintenance the summer period would have more issues.”

Most of the repairs were scheduled and weren’t due to the February winter storm, according to ERCOT.

The state saw a round of rolling blackouts in mid-April of 2006. With temperatures spiking close to 100 degrees, 15% of the state’s power generation was offline for maintenance. Then, four plants shut down, according to KXAN archival information. Close to 80% of the state experienced power outages, then.

On Tuesday, however, Rickerson said they look at typical weather patterns for this time of year to make projections.

“Typically, a day like today would be a good day for a lot of maintenance outages,” he said.

Just a few weeks ago, they released their preliminary outlook for the summer months of 2021. Based on information provided by generator owners, the grid operator anticipates having sufficient generation to meet the peak demand during the hottest months without a high risk for controlled outages.

When pressed on whether Tuesday’s scare was an indication that summer outlook needed to be revised, Rickerson said he still had confidence in the assessment.

“If you look at the amount of reserves we have in the system, I do think we are in a better position than we have been in the past.”

Back in February, millions of Texans spent days without heat or electricity under single-digit temperatures, and ERCOT’s management — or mismanagement — of the crisis came to be near-universally acknowledged as a failure. With this judgment came increasing attention on its leadership.

This meant a wide-reaching shuffle in the coming weeks, including resignations from several board members and the termination of President and CEO Bill Magness. Even more trouble for the council: hearings in both the Texas House and Senate to determine the extent of the council’s preparation for the storms.

At the end of March, Texas House lawmakers initially approved a slate of different bills aimed at reforming the state’s electric grid, including a requirement for power providers to prepare equipment for summer and winter weather and mandated Texas residency for key leadership on the Public Utility Commission and ERCOT. A third bill would set up a Texas Energy Disaster Reliability Council to oversee electric grid crises.

Some lawmakers even called on the Travis County District Attorney to open a criminal investigation into the handling of the outages.

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