A federal assessment indicates the Texas electricity grid remains almost as vulnerable to extreme winter weather as it was when it nearly collapsed during a prolonged deep freeze in February 2021 — although state utility regulators contend the analysis is flawed.
“The (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) report contained inaccuracies and ERCOT has called on the agency to correct the report,” said Rich Parsons, a spokesperson for the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
The Public Utility Commission oversees the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state’s power grid.
Mary O’Driscoll, a spokesperson for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, released an updated version of the agency’s assessment late Tuesday, but it drew the same conclusion as the original version dated Oct. 20 in terms of a potential shortfall during extreme winter conditions.
According to the document, the ability of the ERCOT grid to handle extreme winter weather along the lines of what hit the state in February 2021 appears to be only marginally better, despite more than 18 months of effort to make the grid more dependable — as well as assurances from state regulators, and from Gov. Greg Abbott, that it is significantly improved.
Consumer demand for electricity on the Texas grid could exceed available generation capacity by 18,100 megawatts under a winter scenario similar to what triggered the 2021 disaster, the report says.
The federal assessment indicates the ERCOT grid will have more than enough generating capacity this winter under typical weather conditions.
“Basically, what (the federal energy commission) is saying is if we get weather conditions like in February ’21, we would have close to a repeat of what happened,” said Doug Lewin, president of Austin-based energy consulting company Stoic Energy.
The federal agency “is sounding the alarm very clearly,” Lewin said. “The risk that existed (in February 2021), for all intents and purposes, is about the same heading into this winter.”
FERC had issued an initial report last November that criticized the lack of weatherization in the grid. I was unable to locate a copy of this report, but I’m sure it will turn up online. To be sure, we don’t expect weather conditions this winter to be like what we got in February 2021. But we didn’t really expect that either – at least, I’d say that while most of us knew it was going to be colder than usual, we were blithely unaware of the disaster potential – and we know from recent history that sooner or later another storm like that is going to pass through. As was the case following the 1989 and 2011 storms, it’s just a matter of whether we did anything about it. So far, not so much.