Hottest Start to May in Austin’s History, Expert Discusses Chances of Power Grid Failing
May 11, 2022
Potential power outages are top of mind as Texas experiences the hottest start to May in Austin’s history.
“That means a whole lot of extra demand and yesterday we hit 71 gigawatts. To put that in perspective, the all-time record for ERCOT in June was broken yesterday, it was 70.2. We went above 71 on May the 9th,” said Doug Lewin, President of Stoic Energy.
Lewin said as May heats up, that means demand is higher and when demand is higher there needs to be enough supply to keep up.
“If the temperatures end up being as hot as it looks like they’re going to be, we’ll be pretty close to that edge,” Lewin said. “There’s two major factors here. One is thermal power plant and that’s just a way of saying coal, gas, and nuclear plants. There’s quite a bit of them off last week about 35% of them were offline. This week it’s down to 20-25%. If those numbers come down, more and more of those thermal plants come back, then that means we have a better chance of making it through the week without outages. Then the other factor would be wind and solar combined. So, wind and solar yesterday was when we reached our all-time peak for May or June, wind and solar combined were at 26 or 27 gigawatts which means they were providing 35-40% of the power at peak which is tremendous.”
Lewin said this means extra demand is needed next Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, when it’s expected to be even hotter.
“We’re talking 8 to 9 days from now when this heat wave looks like it’s going to hit its peak, at least you know, this particular heat wave,” Lewin said.
Reporter: Should Texans be prepared for the Texas grid to fail anytime soon?
Lewis: We’re all understandably scarred from what happened in Feb 2021. I think it’s very important to remind everyone that should there be outages, they would not be outages that lasted for days barring some really unimaginable catastrophe.
RELATED: Power generators, providers are making summer preps, but are hamstrung by ERCOT’s caution
Lewin said Texas is relatively low on energy efficiency and that’s one thing that needs to ramp up to lower demand on these peak days.
“This contributes to a lot. Everyone focuses on supply, power plants, but the demand side of the equation really matters, We’ve really got to make sure we ramp up our energy efficiency efforts in this state so that we’re lowering demand on these peak days. It gives us a better chance of getting through without outages,” Lewis said.
Solar panels and investing in backup power are two ways to help offset the demand on the power grid.
“It basically gets fed from the grid. So, you fill the battery and it gets fully charged and if there’s a point at which the grid goes down, you just deploy the battery over certain brakers that you have tied in. So, whatever’s tied to those brakers will be powered.”– Bret biggart, ceo of freedom solar
Lewin said this is the time to check on your friends, family, and neighbors, and come up with a plan just in case there are rolling power outages this summer.
We reached out to the Texas Division of Emergency Management to discuss the power grid but were referred to the Public Utility Commission and ERCOT.
The PUC responded with this statement:
“ERCOT reports there is sufficient power supply to meet demand at this time. Last week, in preparation for the unseasonable heat, ERCOT began working with electricity generators to postpone or reschedule planned maintenance or repairs by some of them so they would be available to generate power. Yesterday, ERCOT announced there is sufficient generation and no additional call for postponing maintenance is necessary at this time. Texans should visit the PUC’s Power to Save website at www.powertosavetexas.net for useful tips on how they can save money on power bills.”
ERCOT sent us this statement:
“ERCOT projects there will be sufficient supply of power to meet demand for this week. Last week, ERCOT asked power generators to postpone planned maintenance and to return from maintenance already in progress in order to serve Texans. Generators and transmission owners have worked with us to reschedule maintenance outages,” said ERCOT Vice President Woody Rickerson. “With unseasonably warm weather in the forecast, ERCOT will continue to deploy all available tools to manage the grid reliably and coordinate closely with the Public Utility Commission, generation resource owners, and transmission utilities to ensure they are also prepared.”