ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas has expressed confidence in the performance of the generation fleet during the current winter event in Texas. Speaking to WFAA, Vegas stated that both traditional thermal plants and windmills have been operating effectively, with minimal icing issues. However, ERCOT has projected a demand exceeding supply on Tuesday morning, prompting the issuance of a second conservation appeal. Despite this, experts believe that concerns should be tempered, as solar power is expected to ramp up during the day, providing additional supply and warmth.
Power grid expert Michael Webber, from the University of Texas at Austin, reassures that any potential supply-demand imbalances would be brief and likely last only for an hour or two. Furthermore, he emphasizes that the odds of rotating outages occurring are remote. While there may be isolated outages, these would be unrelated to grid failures and more likely the result of downed power lines or other localized issues. ERCOT’s difficulty in accurately predicting demand is attributed to the multitude of variables involved, including significant temperature fluctuations across the state.
Comparing the current winter weather to the 2021 storm that caused widespread power outages, meteorologist Jesse Hawila of WFAA notes that this year’s event is less extensive, intense, and prolonged. The 2021 storm saw temperatures as low as -2 degrees Fahrenheit at DFW and freezing conditions lasting nearly 48 hours longer than the current event. Additionally, the winter storm warning in 2021 covered the entire state, exacerbating the impact of wintry precipitation. The current event primarily affects northern and eastern Texas, with some impact in the southeast and central regions. Weather models suggest a return to above-freezing temperatures by late Wednesday morning.
Following the near-failure of the power grid in 2021, ERCOT has implemented improvements to enhance its resilience during similar situations. Reforms mandated power plant winterization and the identification and mapping of natural gas pipelines supplying the plants to prevent power cuts. The call for energy conservation issued by ERCOT has proven effective, with both residential and industrial customers reducing their demand during the specified period on Monday morning.
Battery storage has played a significant role in supporting the state during this winter storm. Vegas highlights the utilization of nearly 5,000 megawatts of batteries, which have been performing exceptionally well. The reliance on natural gas for many power plants raises concerns due to the potential for supply disruptions. While gas pipeline operators have cooperated with ERCOT and provided updates on operational issues, critics argue that there is a lack of transparency in the natural gas sector, making it difficult to assess the current supply situation.
The possibility of another conservation appeal on Wednesday morning remains uncertain, depending on the temperature rise and the availability of wind. ERCOT will closely monitor these factors to determine the necessity of further appeals. Despite the challenges posed by the winter event, ERCOT’s CEO and experts express cautious optimism regarding the grid’s performance and the likelihood of widespread outages.