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Question

What confidence do you have in NERC’s 2021 Summer Reliability Assessment?

Tony Sleva's picture
President Prescient Transmission Systems

Tony Sleva is president and co-founder of Prescient Transmission Systems, where he provides risk assessments and innovative solutions for updating the electric power grid. Tony has more than 50...

  • Member since 2021
  • 31 items added with 3,807 views
  • Jun 11, 2021 10:21 am GMT
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ERCOT’s Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy indicated that there would be sufficient installed generating capacity available to serve system-wide forecasted peak demand during the winter season, December 2020 ‒ February 2021.  ERCOT’s assessment didn’t stand the test of time. Do you think NERC’s assessment for this summer will prove to be accurate?

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In the words of the late great Yogi Berra: "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." 

Let's be honest, it's getting harder to predict the future, especially with regard to electricity consumption, generation and resiliency. Increasing levels of weather dependent generating resources introduce an element of uncertainty. Behind the meter resources are especially concerning as they can switch from being supply to demand, very quickly. But in my mind the biggest concern and uncertainty that impacts electric generation this Summer is the extreme drought impacting large sections of the country. Water is vitally important to our ability to generate electricity, which has a direct impact  on reliability and resilience of the electric grid. The NERC report does address the drought situation, but I think more analysis could have been performed in this area.

Why is water so important to electric grid reliability?

  • The obvious use is in hydro generating facilities, like Hoover Dam on Lake Mead, currently at 37% capacity, an historical low. Some parts of the nation, within the drought area, are dependent on hydro power.
  • Steam turbine generators, however they're fueled, require water - no water - no power
  • Cooling - generating plants use water for cooling, especially nuclear plants
  • Contention for water: people or power first? If the drought condition continues at it's current pace, some areas of the Country may be forced to make this choice. This would be an extreme, black swan scenario the likes of which I've never witnessed in my lifetime. I hope it never comes to fruition, but this could be the year. IMO, Lake Mead is the canary in the coal mine.

Here's a more recent article from California providing more evidence to this very serious matter

I think the NERC report could have given more analysis, i.e. Monte Carlo simulations, based on parameters effected by drought conditions - this could reveal some very concerning scenarios. 

Just my .02

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jun 11, 2021

Thanks for the quote, Richard...Yogi always brings a smile.

Something tells me old Yogi wasn't toying with Monte Carlo simulations to choose the Yankee's best starting lineup.

Richard Brooks's picture
Richard Brooks on Jun 12, 2021

LOL Bob. I'll bet Yogi's head would be spinning with the changes that have taken place in baseball. Statisticians have moved up the ladder from providing batting averages to strategic analysis that results in such changes as "the shift". It's a new era in baseball, just as it is in energy with the transition.  Change is everywhere.

Forecasts are as good as the historical data that is put into the model. ERCOT's situation had no historical precedent. Yes a model has to take unusual circumstances but to what limit. ERCOT's situation was New York's Super Storm Sandy. That said, given that we are still in recovery mode and not likely to reach past historical peaks, unless we have  blizzard in July or a tectonic plate moves the Sahara to Seattle, NERC's assessment should be accurate.

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