A day after ERCOT asked the U.S. Department of Energy for an emergency order allowing its generators to bypass emissions standards to stave off potential outages, Texas’ electric grid met demand with ease on Saturday.
The grid operator’s worst-case-scenario did not come to pass, and with weather continuing to warm over the weekend, it seems unlikely the system will experience issues.
Temperatures rose to 39 degrees in Houston on Saturday, nearly 10 degrees higher than Friday. Demand reached a high of about 65,753 megawatts at 7:50 a.m., and at the same time, about 74,252 megawatts of power were available. One megawatt is enough to power about 200 homes during severe temperature events.
By 4 p.m. ERCOT officials said there was 27,876 more megawatts committed by generators than the forecasted demand.
The forecasted demand was much more accurate Saturday than it was Thursday night and Friday, when ERCOT’s demand forecast was at times more than 10,000 megawatts — or 2 million homes’ worth of power — less than what actual demand came onto the grid. Friday morning, demand reached 74,000 megawatts, a new winter record.
That unexpected and record-seasonal-high demand, along with a series of generation failures, led ERCOT officials to ask the U.S. Department of Energy on Friday to issue an emergency order that would allow natural-gas and coal-powered generators to bypass federal emissions standards in order to generate as much power as possible.
ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas wrote to the agency that there were about 11,000 megawatts of outages among thermal generators that use coal and natural gas as fuel, 4,000 megawatts among wind generators and 1,700 megawatts of solar units that were “outaged or derated” due to the freezing weather. One megawatt is
“Most of these units are expected to return to service over the next 24 hours. However, if these units do not return to service, or if ERCOT experiences additional generating unit outages, it is possible that ERCOT may need to curtail some amount of firm load this evening, tomorrow morning, or possibly tomorrow evening or Sunday morning, in order to maintain the security of the ERCOT system,” Vegas wrote.
In plainer language, that meant if those units stay offline, and if other units trip offline, ERCOT might have ordered local utility providers to rotate power outages Friday evening, Saturday morning, Saturday evening or Sunday morning.
In a statement, ERCOT officials said the request for emergency powers was taken as a precautionary measure and “would allow generators to promptly respond if conditions warranted.”
“ERCOT has sufficient generation to meet demand. Every available on-demand generation resource is contributing electricity to the grid during this extreme cold weather event,” ERCOT officials wrote.
However, thanks to warming weather and seemingly stable generation, those emergency measures will likely be avoided this weekend.
The issue was not of insufficient power being generated or power suppliers being knocked offline because of the cold, but that the electricity retailers underestimated the demand for power, and would have had to buy more at much higher prices. Reporter Shelby Webb explained that in this Twitter thread from December 23. It’s great that we made it through without widespread power outages, and it’s even better that we made it through without having to pollute more to do it, but this was not a success of the current setup. It was luck. Anyone who points at this freeze and claims a victory for “fixing the grid” is at best misinformed.