Texas Again Creates a Reminder of the Value of Microgrids

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Four months after Texas endured five days of blackouts, the state is again at the brink of not having enough power to meet its needs, bringing another reminder of the value microgrids can bring to customers and to the wider grid.

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By John A Davis/Shutterstock.com

Instead of the effects of unusually cold weather that blanketed Texas and parts of the mid-continent in February, the current threat is caused by scorching temperatures coupled with a wave of unexpected power plant outages.

ERCOT calls for conservation

On June 14, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) urged people in its footprint, which covers most of Texas, to reduce their electric use until June 18.

When the grid operator issued the warning, about 11,000 MW of generation was on forced outage for repairs, including about 8,000 MW of thermal generation. On the typical summer day, about 3,600 MW are offline, according to ERCOT.

Real-time prices June 14 came close to hitting ERCOT’s $2,000/MWh price cap.

After avoiding blackouts, ERCOT on June 15 said, “The grid is operating exactly as it was designed and intended. The issuance of conservation notices is a common practice and prevents ERCOT from entering emergency conditions.”

Power plant owners were repairing their facilities, and ERCOT said it was “using all the tools in its toolbox” to keep power flowing in the face of especially high electricity demand.

ERCOT’s operating reserve at 3 p.m. June 17 stood at 3,550 MW.

New laws aim to bolster ERCOT’s grid

After the February blackouts, the Texas Legislature passed bills (SB 2, SB 3) to bolster ERCOT’s system. The bills, signed earlier this month by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, change the grid operator’s governance structure and require generators to weatherize their power plants.

One of the bills requires ERCOT to buy enough ancillary or reliability services needed to ensure grid reliability during extremely hot and cold weather or when renewable energy facilities aren’t producing much electricity.

Abbott signed a bill (SB 415) June 14 that lets utilities own battery storage facilities without violating state laws barring utilities from owning generation assets.

There are concerns the legislation doesn’t fully address Texas’ grid reliability needs.

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After most of Lubbock Power & Light joined ERCOT May 30, the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce warned that more work needed to be done to bolster the Texas system, which has limited interconnections with neighboring grid systems.

“Monday’s warnings from ERCOT for customers to conserve energy reinforced that there is still work to be done before our state’s grid reaches an acceptable level of reliability,” said Eddie McBride, Lubbock Chamber of Commerce CEO, in a June 14 letter to Abbott.

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