ERCOT discuss grid reliability, readiness for upcoming winter months

Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) Chairman Peter Lake and ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas held a news conference to update Texans on grid reliability and readiness for the upcoming winter months.

They discussed the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas’ (ERCOT) Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy (SARA) and Capacity, Demand and Reserves (CDR) reports.

The news conference comes following a summer of record heat that saw many people concerned about energy demand as ERCOT had asked Texans to conserve energy during the hottest part of the day at one point.

Texans continue to have concerns about the grid following the events of the winter storm in February 2021.

State officials say that the Texas grid is "more reliable than ever" and lawmakers are working to redesign the marketplace for the grid.

"Out of the gates I want to remind folks of all the reforms we have put in place," said Peter Lake, PUCT Chairman.

Recent reforms include: 

  • Weatherizing generators, plus continual inspections
  • Improved communication among all agencies involved
  • Mapping out a supply chain and critical infrastructure network to make sure the flow of natural gas to power plants is not disrupted

Though UT Austin researcher Joshua Rhodes is still concerned about potential issues there. 

"We really haven’t addressed the fuel side, and you know it’s great if a power plant can operate but if it can’t get fuel it just means that it’s just not going to make electricity which doesn’t help anyone," said Rhodes.

"Because of the changes that have been initiated by the legislation and the administration and because of the actions taken by the PUCT and ERCOT over the last year and a half we are in a position where the elements that are within our control related to the reliability and operation of the grid are as strong as they’ve ever been," said Pablo Vegas, President and CEO of ERCOT.

Factors out of their control are weather, and demand. Also out of their control is how quickly new sources of generation come online and what kind.

Vegas said a lot of the newest are renewables like solar, which aren't reliable in the winter. He noted more "dispatchable" generation is something they are working on as phase two improvements are still in the works. 

"Generation with an on-off switch, generation you can call on whenever you need it whatever the weather conditions are," said Vegas.

Ahead of the briefing, an ERCOT report was released that looked at a number of possible scenarios. One scenario, the most extreme, shows a potential need for load shedding. However, confidence remains high.

"We've kept the lights on in the summer immediately following Uri, we kept the lights on last winter in the face of several winter blasts, most importantly this summer we kept on in a record setting summer," said Lake.