ERCOT Information Session Key Points
The following information is gathered from a public interview with the CEO of ERCOT. ERCOT does not have a role in load shedding. They fulfill the role of load forecaster. However, they are not cognizant of high priority facilities such as water treatment plants. The Governor and the public look to ERCOT to provide that leadership which is implied based on their mandate.
The winter of 2011 was used as the baseline for the load forecast for this season. Contributing factors for the shortfall was increased demand and power generation failures. In both cases, the State of Texas exceeded the “extreme” forecast. NERC controls weatherization requirements. Including fines of up to a million dollars per occurrence for non-compliance. At the time of the disaster, no enforceable standards were in place.
The Public Utility Commission is the point of contact for ERCOT regarding changes and status of power availability. Transmission owners determine critical infrastructure, such as water treatment plants. Therefore such responsibilities are outside of the authority of ERCOT.
Rotating outages were hindered; the amount of outage needed to provide for the health of the system left no power available to provide rolling blackouts. Therefore, extended shutdown was the only option.
The public utilities commission supervises and regulates ERCOT and the Transmission owners. The railroad commission regulates and supervises the natural gas
Sunday at midnight they lost a significant amount of power generation. Monday morning natural gas wellheads were frozen and could not supply power for generation. The wind power generation that was working provided more power than expected at the beginning of the event, though the forecast planned for half of the capacity to be available.
A grasp of the concept of power generation and blackouts is required to understand what ERCOT is explaining.
The public wants to know why they are freezing. They keep hearing the word “blackout” and become further incensed because they associate that term with no electricity, which is what they have. Think of a blackout as “frying” the system. If that happens no one is getting any power in the near future. The public wants someone to blame for their misery, but blame doesn’t belong on a person. The irony is the public is ignorant of these things but the problem is mainly caused by ignorance, just in another segment of society.
In short, to fix this, or rather reduce the likelihood of it happening again, could require increasing the “elasticity” of power generation. For example, building in the ability to increase generation by up to 4x as needed on the whole. Building in a “buffer” of maybe 20 percent of the most extreme recorded need. Requiring weatherization for extremes on both sides of the temperature and condition spectrum.
But as before, The Texas Public Utilities Commission has and has always had oversight over ERCOT and the transmission owners. In 2012, they and the Lt. Governor received a weatherization report which was the result of legislation born out of the winter crisis of 2011. Comptroller Glen Hegar authored the bill which requires providers to document the steps they’ve taken to weatherize their operations. What are the results of that legislation? Evidently, there has been no follow-up. Creating more legislation won’t fix the problem if no enforcement is taking place.
According to WFAA, 26 power generators went offline in 89 and near the same in 2011. Were these offline again in this crisis?
Because there is a market for power throughout the US, it’s possible that even in this, “emergency”, power may have been sold to other states, even up to the point where we had a critical situation. I wonder what the transaction record looks like for that week.