Demand for electricity in Texas sets new demand level

TEXAS (KTRE) – The agency that supervises the electric power distribution grid for most of Texas reported record winter peak demand on a day in which it ordered rolling electric outages.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) reached the peak of 56,334 megawatts after ordering an end to the rolling electrical outages.  The blackouts began Wednesday morning, a day after ice and snow blanketed parts of Texas.

ERCOT warns more rotating blackouts may come without notice Thursday.  Authorities are asking residents to conserve energy.

Michael Goggin, Manager of Transmission Policy, American Wind Energy Association, which advocates a diverse energy portfolio that is not overly dependent on one energy source, made these observations:

  • Wind energy played a major role in keeping the blackouts from becoming more severe. Between 5 and 7 A.M. this morning (the peak of the electricity shortage) wind was providing between 3,500 and 4,000 MW, roughly the amount it had been forecast and scheduled to provide. That is about 7% of the state's total electricity demand at that time, or enough for about 3 million average homes.
  • Cold and icy conditions caused unexpected equipment failures at power plants, taking up to 50 fossil-fired power plants totaling 7,000 MW of capacity offline.
  • The cold temperatures caused electric heating demand to exceed the demand expected for this time of year. Many fossil and nuclear power plants take planned outages during non-summer months for maintenance, since electric demand is usually lower during these periods than in the summer.
  • The cold temperatures led to very high demand for natural gas for heating purposes, which may have strained the ability of the natural gas pipeline and distribution system to meet both these heating needs and the need to supply natural gas power plants (Texas obtains about half of its electricity by burning natural gas, and gas power plants account for about 70% of the state's generating capacity).

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