By Irina Slav
The Texas grid remains vulnerable to blackouts in case of a repeat of this year’s February Freeze, a report by the North American Electric Reliability Corp has warned.
According to the 2021-2022 Winter Reliability Assessment report, Texas risks a 37-percent reserve margin deficit in case of a harsh winter, NERC said.
A reserve margin is the reserve of power generation capacity comparative to demand. The expected reserve margin for Texas for this winter, according to NERC, is 41.9 percent. Yet if another cold spell hits the state, it would affect this spare capacity, pushing the margin deeply into negative territory.
This February, an Arctic cold wave washed over parts of the United States, freezing oil wells in the Permian and gas pipelines across Texas, causing a gas shortage at a time when wind capacity was at a low and leading to widespread blackouts and sky-high utility bills for some Texans.
Since then, regulators and utilities have been in a rush to make sure the crisis will not repeat even if cold weather descends on Texas again. Yet, according to NERC, this remains a possibility.
“Above-normal winter peak load and outage conditions could result in the need to employ operating mitigations (i.e., demand response, transfers, and short-term load interruption),” the regulator warned in its report.
“The electric grid will be able to perform significantly better this coming winter than in the past,” ERCOT, the Texas grid operator, said in its turn, as quoted by Reuters.
Texas is more vulnerable to adverse weather effects on its grid than other states because its grid is almost completely isolated, and imports in times of emergency are not really an option. But, as Reuters noted in a recent report on the issue, Texas also lacks a capacity market where utilities are paid to be at the ready to supply power when needed.