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Soaring Temperatures Strain Texas Power Grid as Power Demand Spikes

Soaring temperatures the week of Sept. 4 placed significant pressure on the Texas power grid, with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas taking steps to address a drop in operating reserves as power demand soared.

On Sept. 6, ERCOT issued an Energy Emergency Alert Level 2 (EEA 2) to maintain reliability of the grid. Earlier in the day, ERCOT issued a conservation appeal, but operating reserves continued to decline.

When reserves on the system get low, ERCOT begins emergency operations using three levels of Energy Emergency Alerts. These levels provide access to additional power sources only available during emergency conditions to protect the reliability of the electric system.

Entering emergency operations does not mean that ERCOT is expecting to call for controlled power outages, which would affect all customer classes, including residential, commercial, and industrial. Entering emergency operations means that ERCOT has access to more power reserves that help prevent power outages.

An EEA 2 is issued when ERCOT’s operating reserves have dropped below 1,750 MW and are not expected to recover within 30 minutes. “Controlled outages have not been requested at this time, however, could become necessary if demand isn’t lowered or additional supply cannot be added from generators,” it said on the evening of Sept. 6.

ERCOT said it was bringing all available generation online, releasing any remaining reserves, using demand response to lower electric demand and was working with out-of-state Independent System Operators and market participants to obtain additional power generation capacity.

Additionally, ERCOT obtained Texas Commission on Environmental Quality enforcement discretion, which allows a generator to extend its service/run-time/operations to help meet demand, if needed, to help maintain grid reliability.

ERCOT exited emergency operations later on the evening of Sept. 6 and returned to normal conditions.

Secretary of Energy Takes Action in Response to ERCOT Request for Emergency Order

On Sept. 7, ERCOT filed a Request for an emergency order with the Department of Energy “to preserve the reliability of the bulk electric power system.”

ERCOT noted that on September 6, 2023, ERCOT established a September load record of 82,705 MW, which exceeded last year’s September peak load of 72,370 MW by 10,335 MW -- an increase of 14.3% year over year.

The grid operator sought authorization for the provision of additional energy from units identified in its application, as well as any other generating units subject to emissions or other permit limitations in the ERCOT region through 21:00 CDT on September 8, 2023.

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm on Sept. 7 issued an order granting ERCOT’s request.

She cited the emergency nature of the expected load stress, the responsibility of ERCOT to ensure maximum reliability on its system, and the ability of ERCOT to identify and dispatch generation necessary to meet the additional load.

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