Texas power grid already feeling strains, will it be able to handle the summer season?
AUSTIN, Texas - With Texas power plants going offline - and ERCOT urging us to conserve energy - the hot weather is already putting a strain on our state's power grid.
So what's going on here - and will the grid be able to handle even hotter weather this summer?
Doug Lewin, President of Stoic Energy, joins FOX 7's John Krinjak to discuss.
John: Well, the hot weather this past week has been driving record energy demand, and it's already causing issues with the power grid. Joining us to talk about this is Austin-based energy expert Doug Lewin, President of Stoic Energy. Doug, thanks for being with us.
Doug: Thanks for having me.
John: All right. So ERCOT is already asking customers to conserve power after six generation facilities, I understand, were tripped offline Friday. This is the kind of thing that makes a lot of us gun shy, obviously, after what happened with those outages during last year's winter storm. So what's your understanding of what happened here?
Doug: Yeah, like you said, six generation plants adding up to about three gigawatts. And to put that into context, that's about in Austin where the power went out on Friday afternoon. And so that's a lot of power all at one time going out. And that pushed us into a situation where we were very close to the edge and ERCOT had to call for conservation.
John: You tweeted that you were not surprised by this. What concerns do you have about how ERCOT is handling this?
Doug: For a long time now, John, they've been pushing thermal plants very hard. They've been having a lot of thermal plants sitting on the sidelines ready to go instead of in maintenance. In normal years, during March and April and even into May, thermal plants would be able to be offline for a long period of time. But ERCOT in the PUC often tell the public they're running the grid conservatively. And really what that means is they're keeping a lot more reserves available, pushing those plants much harder than they normally would be. And that's going to cause them to break when we really need them potentially. And we saw that, I think, last Friday. Hopefully, we don't see that more of that this summer.
John: Yeah. And to that point, the fact that we're seeing issues with the grid this early in the season, I mean, it's unseasonably hot, but certainly not as hot as we get. Are you concerned about what's on the way for this summer, especially if we see hotter than normal temperatures?
Doug: Yeah, absolutely. Look, so much depends on the weather. If we end up with 100, 110 degrees in multiple large cities in Texas, we could have serious problems. One, because the thermal power plants are not in tip-top shape as we've just seen last week. And also because we really don't have a lot of tools available to us that we should. Those would include energy storage and residential demand response. We need the state to really ramp those things up quickly.
John: Yeah. And you tweeted that ERCOT in Texas you feel needs to be kind of looking at this differently when it comes to demand, and you feel there needs to be more of a focus on energy efficiency. What does that shift look like as far as what you think needs to change long term?
Doug: So Texas right now has an energy efficiency goal. We were the first state in the country to establish a goal. Now there's 30 states with those. Of those 30, we are dead last in the size of our goal, 80% lower than the average state. So what we would do to increase that is our utilities provide incentives, for instance, for HVAC systems. So if somebody's HVAC breaks this week when it's really hot, and they go to buy a new one, they could have an incentive to get a very energy efficient model, add some insulation into their homes, which help keep them safer inside and reduce the demand which increases reliability on the grid. You also get an added benefit that it lowers people's energy bills.
John: All right, Doug Lewin, President of Stoic Energy. Doug, we always appreciate you joining us and sharing your expertize. We appreciate it.
Doug: Anytime. Thank you.