ERCOT: What went right this time compared to 2021?
January 19, 2024
Originally Posted By: CBS Austin
AUSTIN, Texas — The arctic blast we’ve experienced over the past few days has brought back some difficult memories from 2021 for some Central Texans. During that severe winter storm, the Texas power grid failed, leaving many people without power and in the cold. State officials and local experts said ERCOT was more prepared this time around and are now asking, what went right?
According to Austin Energy, their quick and thorough communication with Texans was a win, “when ERCOT needed to get the word out about conservation and the need for conservation to keep us out of an emergency energy alert, that worked out really well,” said Matt Mitchell with Austin Energy. “We were able to mobilize as a community, and communities across the state did what they could to dial back their energy usage and kept us out of that danger zone, where we’re getting into an energy emergency alert. We don’t ever want to be there.”
But some local leaders said, that isn’t enough, “we heard lots of promises before the cold weather hit, ‘the grid’s fine, we’re in great shape, there won’t be any problems,’ and then for several days we got notices from ERCOT saying, ‘don’t use unnecessary energy in the mornings,'” said Travis County Commissioner, Brigid Shea.
Commissioner Shea has worked on climate-related issues in Texas for almost 40 years. She said, now, she’s looking towards the sky for some solutions to keep your power on.
“ERCOT is strained and they haven’t taken the actions necessary to make ERCOT more reliable. I think it’s prudent for us to look at how we can, frankly, be better prepared when there are future power outages, and I want us to explore the potential for using solar panels,” said Shea.
But would solar energy be a viable solution? Tim Harvey from Austin Energy thinks so, “You can definitely handle the needs of a building with solar power. It just depends on how well you size that system to meet the needs and what your needs are. But I do think it’s a viable approach, one that’s definitely worth exploring and with the federal dollars that could help to assist with that effort, I think now is a good time to do that,” said Harvey.
At best, solar power would be a preventative measure, according to the CEO of Freedom Solar Power, Bret Biggart. He explained how: “ERCOT is a jurisdiction that manages the grid in Texas, and so they’re constantly managing a supply and demand piece of the equation. Solar absolutely helps out because, at the end of the day, it drives demand down so that ERCOT doesn’t have to provide so many resources in terms of power capacity. So we’re lowering that demand curve, which would otherwise be much higher.”
Travis County Commissioners want to note that right now, they’re just in the exploratory stages of solar energy but they say the next steps are looking at how much it would cost the county. Commissioner Shea said this is one of her top priorities for 2024.