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Summer Heat to Test Utilities’ Ability to Manage Electricity Load

Paul Korzeniowski's picture
B2B Content producer Self-employed

Paul is a seasoned (basically old) freelance B2B content producer. Through the years, he has written more than 10,000 items (blogs, news stories, white papers, case studies, press releases and...

  • Member since 2011
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  • Jul 7, 2021
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When heat increases during the summertime, so does electricity usage. As air conditioners whirl to cool down hot homes and businesses, the domestic grid often strains to meet demand. This summer, a number of US locations, including California and Texas, could have difficulty servicing their customers, according to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).

The Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) includes the western half of the United States. The area’s generating capacity and projected electricity demand are at similar levels as they were in 2020, when an August wide-area heat wave caused rolling blackouts.

This summer, the highest risk of an electricity emergency looms in California, which relies heavily on energy imports during normal peak summer demand and when solar generation declines in the late afternoon. California remains at high risk of an electricity emergency because the amount of additional resources available from other areas may be limited.

A Small Reserve

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has one of the smallest anticipated reserve margins in the country, ERCOT’s increased its reserve margin from 12.9% last summer to 15.3% this summer by adding new wind, solar, and battery resources. Although ERCOT’s anticipated reserve margin is higher, extreme summer heat could result in supply shortages that lead to an electricity emergency, according to NERC.

The Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) and ISO-New England have sufficient resources to meet typical peak demand. However, above-normal levels of electricity demand will likely exceed capacity and electricity transfers from surrounding areas will be needed.

Summer is a challenging time for energy companies, and this year is no different from the past. Shortfalls could occur in California and Texas and have a cascading effect on how well utilities in other regions service their clients when temperatures rise.

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Dudley McFadden's picture
Dudley McFadden on Jul 14, 2021

Surely the primary area of concern is not California.  That state has a mild climate.  Thank you for including MISO and ERCOT in this post; this is an international problem as people expect more and more renewables. Why do other industry commentators so often dog California with its occasional load-serving challenges?  Sure, there are hot periods during the summer months (folks out East call them heat "waves") but they're followed by weeks of merely warm but always dry weather.  What will Atlanta do once their gas and coal plants are shut down?  There's no Pacific Northwest pool of hydro power nearby to buy.

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