Texas - As southeast Texas is faced with freezing temperatures, many think back to the devastating 2021 Winter Storm that led to much of the state's power grid failing, and Texans fear it could happen again.
On Friday, ERCOT's President and CEO Pablo Vegas issued a request to the U.S. Department of Energy's Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. In this request, it states, "Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc. ("ERCOT") respectfully requests that the Secretary of Energy ("Secretary") find that an electric reliability emergency exists within the State of Texas that requires intervention by the Secretary, in the form of a Section 202(c) emergency order, to preserve the reliability of the bulk electric power system."
According to ERCOT, the demand for electricity rose to an all-time high on Friday morning as wind chill across the state was below 10 degrees with some areas hitting below zero degrees.
While the power grid is said to be operating without any problem, some units report having experienced operating difficulties due to cold weather or gas reduction.
In this request to the Secretary of Energy, ERCOT said, "Specifically, approximately 11,000 MW of thermal generating units, 4,000 MW of wind generating units, and 1,700 MW of solar units are currently outaged or derated due to these conditions. Most of these units are expected to return to service over the next 24 hours."
However, the company said it could be possible they need to reduce some amount of the firm's load in order to maintain the security of the system if the affected units don't return to service or if ERCOT experienced more generating unit outages.
ERCOT's overall request from the DOE, as they stated in their letter, is that:
"For any Generation Resource or Settlement Only Generator whose operator notifies ERCOT that the unit is unable, or expected to be unable, to produce at its maximum output due to an emissions or other limit in any federal environmental permit at any point after the issuance of this order but before 12:00 p.m. CST on Saturday, December 24, 2022, or after 6:00 p.m. CST on Saturday, December 24, 2022 but before 10:00 a.m. CST on Sunday, December 25, 2022, the unit will be allowed to exceed any such limit only during any period for which ERCOT has declared an Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) Level 2 or Level 3. This incremental amount of restricted capacity would be offered at a price no lower than $1,500/MWh. Once ERCOT declares that the EEA Level 2 event has ended, the unit would be required to immediately return to operation within its permitted limits. And at all other times, the unit would be required to operate within its permitted limits.
For any Generation Resource whose operator notifies ERCOT that the unit is offline or would need to go offline at any point after the issuance of this order but before 12:00 p.m. CST on Saturday, December 24, 2022, or after 6:00 p.m. CST on Saturday, December 24, 2022 but before 10:00 a.m. CST on Sunday, December 25, 2022, due to an emissions or other limit in any federal environmental permit, ERCOT may issue a Reliability Unit Commitment (RUC) instruction directing the unit operator to bring the unit online, or to keep the unit online, and to operate at the minimum level at which the Resource can be sustainably operated. In this circumstance, the operator would be allowed to make all of the unit’s capacity available to ERCOT for dispatch during any period for which ERCOT has declared an Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) Level 2 or Level 3. This incremental amount of restricted capacity would be offered at a price no lower than $1,500/MWh. Once ERCOT declares that such an EEA Level 2 event has ended, the unit would be required to immediately return to operating at a level below the higher of its minimum operating level or the maximum output allowable under the permitted limit."
Secretary Granholm approved the request for ERCOT to exceed emission limits if they need to. "On December 23, 2022, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued an emergency order, pursuant to section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act, to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), authorizing specific electric generating units (resource list) located within the ERCOT area to operate at their maximum generation output levels due to ongoing extreme weather conditions and to preserve the reliability of bulk electric power system. The order is in effect until December 25, 2022, at 10 a.m. CST."
ERCOT released this statement on the Order following the DOE's approval:
"ERCOT has taken precautionary measures by requesting from the Department of Energy that generating units within the ERCOT interconnection to operate up to their maximum generation output levels, if needed. The request, which was approved yesterday, 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 extremely cold weather event."
The company also clarified to FOX 26 that the order was a tool to have at the ready should they need it, which they have not so far. "ERCOT was never in emergency conditions and had tools to deploy ahead of even using the DOE Order. The Order could only be used if we were in emergency conditions, specifically EEA2 or 3."
To read the full request from ERCOT and the order given from the DOE, click here.