During the recent cold snap in Texas, demand for electricity in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) peaked at 68,862 megawatthours (MWh), slightly below the peak demand of 69,215 MWh during a February 2021 winter storm that caused widespread power outages in the state, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported.
“However, this winter’s peak was still below the demand ERCOT forecast for February 2021 before widespread outages began, which resulted in lower actual demand than forecast,” EIA said.
This winter, demand on the peak day of February 4 was much lower than ERCOT’s day-ahead forecast, largely because temperatures were warmer than predicted.
“Unlike in February 2021, this winter's storm didn’t cause major declines of natural gas production in Texas, and natural gas-fired power plants in Texas maintained their fuel supply during the cold weather,” EIA said.
In February 2021, weather-related production issues reduced peak natural gas production by 16 billion cubic feet (Bcf), according to data from IHS Markit, compared with a 3 Bcf decline in peak dry natural gas production this winter.
In addition, renewable generators, largely wind, maintained a high level of output during the coldest periods this winter, when demand for space heating was the highest, according to EIA.
Coal-fired and nuclear units did not experience outages, which occurred in February 2021.
In response to the ample supply, the ERCOT prices for wholesale electricity in the real-time market were below $100 per MWh during the recent storm, in comparison to prices that were as high as $9,000 per MWh during the February 2021 storm.
ERCOT in early February noted that it has implemented many reforms to increase the reliability of the Texas grid, including:
- Inspected generating units and transmission and distribution facilities for weatherization to comply with new PUC requirements. ERCOT has inspected hundreds of electric generation units and transmission facilities and found only three with any deficiencies;
- Requiring CEO attestations of weather readiness. A rule change implemented last year requires all market participants who own or operate generation resources and/or transmission/distribution power lines to submit a letter signed by their CEO twice a year certifying their companies have completed their weatherization preparations to protect the electric grid for the summer and winter seasons;
- Taking a more conservative approach to operating the grid. ERCOT said it is increasing operational reserves to ensure adequate generation is available to Texas homes and businesses and is bringing more generation online sooner if it is needed to balance supply and demand. The grid operator is also purchasing more reserve power, especially on days when the weather forecast is uncertain;
- Assessing on-site fuel supplies. ERCOT has assessed the on-site fuel supply for some gas-fired generators; and
- Performing unannounced testing of generation resources. This testing helps verify that generators have provided accurate information about their availability.