SAN ANTONIO — This summer, for the first time in recent history, the Texas grid does not have enough "dispatchable" energy to meet projected power demands. This means if every natural gas plant, coal plant, nuclear plant and reserve power battery power turns on at the same time, the state still couldn't cover peak demands.
The good news: Texas also has solar power arrays and more wind power plants than any other state. As long as the wind blows or the sun shines, the grid should be fine.
It also means that cloudy skies and windless days could be a problem, and predicting the weather is a lot more important. ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas described the situation at a Texas Public Utility Commission meeting in early May.
"We are expecting to rely more on renewables during peak conditions than we every have before. As a result of this dynamic, this summer could have tighter hours than last summer with a higher risk of emergency operations. ERCOT may experience these tighter conditions after the 5pm peak (demand) as generation from solar units decrease as the sun sets," Vegas said.
On Wednesday, ERCOT released a new grid notification website that would include weather warnings as part of the new notification system. ERCOT named the notification system the "Texas Advisory and Notification System" or "TXANS" for short.
The new system has four grid condition levels: Normal Grid Conditions, ERCOT Weather Watch, Voluntary Conservation Notice, and Energy Emergency Alert.
The "ERCOT Weather Watch" alert would be issued three to five days ahead of an event that could affect the grid and would come out before ERCOT asks for power conservation from Texans.
"This earlier three to five day look ahead gives the public notification due of possible higher demand with an ask to keep an ear out should conditions change," Vegas said.
He said the updates would be released on social media but Texans could also sign up for updates on the site.
Vegas announced the notification system in a web press conference Wednesday morning. He also downplayed concerns about available dispatchable generation afterwards.
"There is not an active concern or a high probability concern of not having enough dispatchable generation, what we talked about when we discussed the SARA report for the summer was there were some very low probably scenarios...that there could be a shortage of dispatchable generation.
Still, Vegas said earlier in the month that the grid did face risks this summer.
"One of the differences between this summer and last summer is we are seeing the demand for electricity grow faster than the supply of dispatchable generation, so that is a growing risk that we are talking about," Vegas said at a PUC meeting in the first week of May.
Public Utility Commission Chairman Peter Lake also had concerns earlier in the month.
"On the hottest days of summer there is no longer enough on-demand dispatchable power generation to meet demand in the ERCOT system," Lake said.