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ERCOT CEO gives update on winter

STAFF REPORTS [email protected]
ERCOT CEO gives update on winter

ERCOT CEO gives update on winter

AUSTIN — The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is using new tools to prepare itself for the upcoming winter, CEO Pablo Vegas said.

Vegas presented updates to the Public Utility Commission of Texas and ERCOT’s Board of Directors during the board’s meeting Tuesday, Oct. 17. He talked about how the agency is planning to ensure the grid’s reliability for the next few months.

“Before the summer even ends, we do begin preparing for the next peak season,” Vegas said. “Which is going to be the winter season.”

ERCOT recently submitted a Request for Proposal to its stakeholders earlier this month to add an additional 3,000 MW in operating reserves to prepare for the 2023-2024 winter season.

Vegas said the request, made informally Oct. 2, stemmed from a resource adequacy analysis brought by one of ERCOT’s new methods. They now put together a Monthly Outlook for Resource Adequacy (MORA), which presents an overall assessment for an upcoming month.

The MORA report will be released two months prior to each reporting month. Previously, this report was produced seasonally.

“Now we look at the month and we look at each of our operating hours in that month,” Vegas said. “We run probabilistic models to assess what are the risks in each of those hours in those months under thousands of different weather scenarios.”

The request for an increase in operating reserves is to decrease the risk of the grid having to enter emergency operations. Vegas said the grid is at an elevated risk if it is above 10% risk profile.

Since winter weather can cause different levels of demand on the grid, forecasters used the conditions of last year’s winter storm as its mark. ERCOT is essentially wanting to add the operating reserves to stay under the 10% risk profile if Winter Storm Elliot were to repeat this winter.

“If you look back over time, there’s been around four storms in the last 14 years that have been similar or worse than Winter Storm Elliot, so it’s not something that’s highly improbable to occur,” Vegas said. “We thought it reasonable to try to make sure the risk profile of the system was low during an event like that.” Vegas said they do not yet know what a budget for adding the operating reserves will look like.

During his presentation, he also mentioned that the grid will not be able to rely on solar energy in the winter during peak hours of demand as much as it did during the summer.

Consumers tend to use power late at night or early in the morning, which leaves solar energy practically ineffective.

“We don’t get the benefit of what has been one of the fastest growing resources on Earth, which is solar energy resources, during the winter peaks,” Vegas said. “That’s why the profile looks a little different in the winter than it does in the summer.”

Another tool Vegas mentioned are the new weatherization standards that go into effect for ERCOT this week. Under the new standards, specific geographic parts of the state have temperature resiliency requirements in each of the regions.

Vegas said the standards cause the weather risks to be tuned more finely. “A unit that is a power plant that is up in the northern part of Texas will have to be able to withstand colder temperatures, because of geography, than a power plant down in Corpus Christi,” Vegas said.

The Public Utility Commission will hold a workshop Friday, Oct. 20 that dives into winter preparedness.

ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas speaks on how grid operators are preparing for the winter during the Board of Directors meeting Tuesday, Oct. 17. Photo by Hunter Dworaczyk


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