By Tom Kleckner
ERCOT is “much more likely” to deal with “emergency-alert type conditions” this summer given the system’s 7.4% reserve margin, CEO Bill Magness told his Board of Directors and the Texas Public Utility Commission last week.
“With the lower reserve margin, you’re just increasing your risk that any kind of circumstances — low wind, generation outages, extreme weather — could cause challenges on the system this summer,” Magness said during the board’s Feb. 12 bimonthly meeting. “That means bringing on resources we have available and the tools for dealing with that.”
Magness said the city of Garland’s December decision to indefinitely mothball the 470-MW coal-fired Gibbons Creek Generating Station has “effectively reduced” ERCOT’s reserve margin from 8.1%. The grid operator, which has a target planning reserve margin of 13.75%, avoided taking emergency measures last summer despite extreme heat and an 11% reserve margin.
The board took the news calmly as Magness detailed preparations being made for the summer months. Chief among those is the creation of a Gas-Electric Working Group, designed to facilitate reliability coordination between the natural gas and electric industries and ensure clear communication.
GEWG Chair Chad Thompson, ERCOT’s senior manager of operations engineering and support, stressed during the group’s first meeting Feb. 15 that the grid operator doesn’t want to interfere with existing relationships.
“[We] don’t want to get in the middle of your business. ERCOT wants to be a facilitator,” Thompson said.
The GEWG stems from a November gathering that PUC Chair DeAnn Walker held with several trade associations, municipalities, and other members of the electric and gas sectors. The PUC encouraged owners of gas-fired generation facilities, gas pipelines and electric utilities that serve the pipelines to participate in the working group.
“If we do get into a load-shed event, we want a clear understanding of where the critical facilities are,” Thompson said.
Walker has also convened meetings with ERCOT market participants and other stakeholders, similar to what she did before last summer. During the commission’s Feb. 7 open meeting, she said she has received significant input, “Some of it the same as last year.”
ERCOT has gathered transmission owners to ask that any planned outages be limited to off-peak periods and that restoration times be shortened. It will release its final seasonal assessment of resource adequacy on March 5, providing a scenario-based analysis of its summer expectations.
Texas Competitive Power Advocates, a trade organization representing about 60% of Texas generation, has said its member companies are planning to invest $100 million in existing facilities in ERCOT to prepare their fleets for summer demand.