ERCOT CEO concerned about older machines’ reliability in Texas summer heat, report says

This spring, ERCOT forecasters predicted just a 5% chance that this summer’s peak load demand would reach the levels it has

Brad Jones, interim CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, expressed confidence in the state's grid heading into summer. (Jordan Vonderhaar For The Texas Tribune, Jordan Vonderhaar For The Texas Tribune)

SAN ANTONIO – Officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas were not expecting this summer to be quite so brutal.

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, ERCOT Interim president and CEO Brad Jones said forecasters for the organization did not anticipate the extreme heat and projected that on the hottest day of summer, the grid demand could reach a max of 77,300 megawatts.

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However, due to the extreme heat this summer, it’s now estimated that the peak demand load could exceed 81,000 megawatts. It’s a scenario that ERCOT forecasters originally only gave a 5% chance of happening, Jones told the Houston Chronicle.

Despite the demand being higher than estimated, Jones is hopeful about getting through the remainder of the summer but he does have some concerns about older thermal generators that ERCOT has asked be up and running as much as possible.

“It puts a lot of wear and tear on some of these older machines. So I am concerned about their reliability all the way through the summer, but right now they are performing extraordinarily with low outage rates,” Jones told the paper.

Thanks to an updated method for conservation notices, ERCOT has also been able to cut demand beyond what officials expected.

Instead of waiting until the grid is already experiencing emergency conditions, ERCOT now releases conservation notices in advance of emergency conditions in an effort to avoid the scenario altogether. That also means avoiding rolling blackouts.

“When we call for it, I want Texans understand: That’s not because we’re going into rolling outages. That’s because we want to stay far enough away from a rolling outage scenario that we’re asking for it early,” Jones said to the Houston Chronicle. “We used to stand right at the edge of the cliff before calling one, now we’re 10 feet back when we start to it manage.”

Jones said after ERCOT released an energy conservation notice on Monday, the demand was 2,500 megawatts lower than officials projected.

Jones credited Texans for helping out and told the paper “this is where I get impressed by the Texas spirit, the spirit of people who wanted to help each other.”

The most recent conservation appeal from ERCOT to Texans and Texas businesses was sent Wednesday.

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