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- Oct 9, 2019 4:41 pm GMT
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“Another blazing hot summer is another vindication of Texas’ cutting-edge electricity system,” wrote Chris Thomlinson, a business columnist for the Houston Chronicle, in a recent opinion piece.
Thomlinson, and a host of other energy industry commentators, have been aggressive in their praise for Texas’ grid system, and maybe they’re right. Moving into the summer, articles littered the net about the Lonestar State’s inadequate grid. The tone of the articles, even if it wasn’t always explicitly stated, seemed to accuse ERCOT, the grid operator, of incompetence. By only paying generators for what is consumed, and not for back-up generation, and for an over reliance on wind, ERCOT had doomed Texans to a season of blackouts.
Of course, that isn’t exactly what ended up happening. There were no rolling blackouts in the summer of 2019, just as there hadn’t been in the summer of 2018 that too had been heralded as a grid wrecker. Yes, there were some close calls. August was hot as heck and pushed the grid close to its limit, forcing ERCOT to issue Energy Emergency Alerts on two separate occasions. At one point, the energy reserve margin dipped to just 8.6 percent, far below the desired 13 percent mark. But we survived.
Now, ERCOT and the Texas grid system may be out of the woods. The hottest months are behind us, and by the time the roll around again, we’ll be prepared. That’s right, ERCOT will add at 4,000 megawatts of solar capacity by next summer, which are almost to be most effective on scorching days when the sun is out. What’s more, private utilities in Texas have proposed another 3,000 megawatts by 2021 in total. Such developments are predicted to raise ERCOT’s reserve margin to 15.1% in 2021.
Man I love it when the free market works.