Hot and tired

[Important updates below] Many are tired of the heat. Electrical generation and distribution equipment can also get “tired” of trying to keep up with high temperatures. The CEO of the Electric Reliability Corporation of Texas (ERCOT) explains, “Coming off a long stretch of very high demand and high utilization, it’s not surprising to see some mechanical breakages happening on some of the dispatchable generation fleet.” Earlier this week an unusually high proportion of thermal generation was offline just about when it was needed most.

S&P Global has published an important, helpful review of ERCOT performance over the month of August. The report includes the following:

ERCOT President and CEO Pablo Vegas said Texas power consumers’ response to requests to conserve energy enabled the grid to avoid declaring Energy Emergency Alerts so far this summer, despite setting 10 peakload records, most recently 85.4 GW on Aug. 10. In comparison with summer 2022’s all-time peak of 80.1 GW, the increase has been more than 5 GW, Vegas said, about 7% growth year on year, compared with nationwide annual load growth averaging about 1% since the early 2000s. Texas’ energy demand reflects the growing Texas population and economy, which bring with them “demands on infrastructure in highways, schools and energy,” Vegas said. “I don’t think anybody expects the growth to slow down meaningfully…”

An August 31 report in the Texas Tribune mostly agrees with Vargas and raises the threat of conservation fatigue. “Repetitive power conservation appeals by the state’s grid operator face a challenge: Texans becoming less responsive to calls. Past conservation requests have helped reduce 100,000 homes worth of power demand on the grid.”

Regular readers know this issue has received ongoing attention here. A recent post — with several updates — may provide helpful context and a lot more links. This is not just a Texas problem. It is certainly not just a summer problem. For me it was the Christmas Eve problems at PJM, TVA and Duke Power that set off the loudest alarms. There is no short-term solution. I expect these challenges, close-calls, and occasional failures to persist for most of the next decade. Supply chains able to continue high volume, high velocity flows into wide-area, time-extended power failures is a key goal of Supply Chain Resilience.


September 8 Update: Earlier this week the Texas grid may have gotten the closest yet this summer to a load-shedding event (more and more). High temperatures and high demand were, once again, the strategic prompt. But then tight conditions were aggravated by constrained transmission capacity. Bloomberg quotes Brad Jones, a former interim CEO of ERCOT, “The grid was facing the potential of congestion overload on the line coming from south Texas toward Dallas,” Jones said during an interview. “All the wind that was on in the south was struggling to get to Dallas to help meet demand. So right in the middle of this, Ercot had to reduce generation in the south to prevent that line from being overloaded.” (More and more)

September 15 Update: This blog has given extended and recurring attention to issues of North American grid capacity (especially Texas grid capacity) this whole long, hot summer, beginning with several posts from June 17 to 21. Yesterday Bloomberg published an in-depth look at these same crucial days and explained implications for grid capacity then and since. I was seeing much of the same behavior in real-time, but was not sure of its cause or implications… and did not make the time (and probably do not have the solo-competence) to unravel what I was seeing. Bloomberg has done a great job leading us through some very sticky wickets, melting in the white-hot heat.