One Year After Epic Fail, Texas Grid to be Stress Tested

February 1, 2022

Following last year’s Texas debacle, I spoke to Chris Tomlinson at the Houston Chronicle about “lessons learned”.
Guess what he told me?

Utility Dive:

It was a year ago this month that Winter Storm Uri hit Texas, freezing a variety of energy infrastructure and leading to more than 50,000 MW of lost generation. ERCOT, utility regulators and state lawmakers have all tried to ensure the situation does not repeat, and this week’s cold front may present the first real test.

ERCOT is now expecting peak demand of almost 75 GW for Friday morning, Doug Lewin, an energy analyst and president of Stoic Energy, said in a Sunday tweet, and outages at thermal plants are higher than the grid operator had expected. Last winter’s peak was about 77 GW, he said.

“That’s a lot of power,” Lewin wrote. “This is still nothing like last February and I’m not worried.”

Former Democratic Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, now a candidate to replace Gov. Greg Abbott, R, has launched a statewide “Keeping the Lights On” tour to highlight what he sees as Abbott’s failure on grid resilience.

Since that disaster in February the state has “still failed to fix problems within the grid,” O’Rourke told news station KFOX14 on Monday.

“All of us hope and pray the grid stays together, and power continues to be produced and transmitted,” he said.

ERCOT issued a statement acknowledging the weather forecast, but said it is taking early steps to ensure the lights stay on.

“ERCOT will deploy all the tools available to us to manage the grid effectively during this winter weather,” ERCOT CEO Brad Jones said.  The grid operator is coordinating with the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Public Utility Commission and elected officials, he added, along with electric generators and transmission and distribution utilities.

“We have ordered power plants across the region to postpone planned outages and to return from outages already in progress,” Jones said.

Texas Tribune:

“No one can guarantee there won’t be [power outages],” Abbott said Tuesday, just over two months after he promised the lights would stay on this winter.

Abbott and other officials at the press conference warned that the winter storm could cause “treacherous” driving conditions due to snow and ice.

Two hours before Abbott’s Tuesday news conference, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state’s main power grid, held a conference call with dozens of entities in the Texas power system and told them that gas suppliers have already begun notifying electricity generation companies that some of their expected gas supply will not arrive this week during the freezing weather, according to people on the call who requested anonymity because they were not allowed to discuss the call publicly.

The Texas natural gas system’s ability to perform in the cold has been in question since last February, when the winter storm caused power outages and equipment failures that choked off much of the fuel supply to many electricity generators when they needed it most to produce electricity.

After last year’s storm, state lawmakers did not require natural gas companies — which fuel a majority of electricity generation in Texas — to prepare their equipment for the extreme cold before this winter. Meanwhile, lawmakers required most power generation companies to be prepared by this winter.

During the year’s first cold snap over New Year’s weekend, natural gas production in the state’s top energy-producing region dropped by about 20% as parts of Texas briefly experienced freezing weather. A couple weeks later as another cold front approached Texas, subsidiaries for a major pipeline company threatened to cut off natural gas supply to the state’s largest power generator over an ongoing financial dispute stemming from the February 2021 winter storm.

When asked about the natural gas supply Tuesday, Abbott said “there might be some reduction in the generation of natural gas. We can still maintain power grid integrity even if there is a loss of some level of production of natural gas.”

Abbott said gas producers have “taken steps to ensure that we’re going to have the natural gas that we need.

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