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ERCOT projects Texas energy demand to hit all-time winter peak this week

ERCOT projects Texas energy demand to hit all-time winter peak

Austin snow storm February 2022
Demand for power this week could rival the all-time peak demand set in the summer of 2019. KVUE/Facebook

KVUE — The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is projecting an all-time winter peak demand for energy this week — more than last year’s February storm — but the state power grid also has more energy reserves on hand and is expected to remain online, officials say.

ERCOT’s latest forecast on Thursday, February 3 projected a peak demand of 74,700 megawatts on Friday. 

Last year’s peak demand in February was 69,692 megawatts, which pushed the Texas grid to near failure and led to millions of Texans losing power.

The demand this week, if ERCOT’s projections hold, would easily surpass last year’s winter peak and also rival the all-time peak demand of 74,820 megawatts that was set in August 2019.

But this time around, ERCOT officials say the state power grid should have enough energy reserves to handle all the demand.

Gov. Greg Abbott, in a news conference on Thursday, February 3 said Texas should have about 10,000 megawatts in reserves at peak demand this week.

As of Thursday, the state had about 20,000 megawatts in reserves — an “extraordinary supply of extra power,” Abbott said.

A single megawatt is enough to power up to 200 homes.

“The power grid is performing very well at this time,” Abbott said.

About 70,000 people, including 25,000 in North Texas, were without power on Thursday due to local outages unrelated to the state power grid.

ERCOT CEO Brad Jones said the level of icing in the state has been “significant,” but not as severe as expected, allowing wind operators and other generators to remain online.

Jones attributes the state’s winterization requirements for power generators with helping keep operators online this week.

In November, ERCOT projected a peak winter demand of about 62,000 megawatts “based on the average weather conditions at the time of the winter peak demand.”

Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association, says there have not been any “significant events” during the storm.

He said Texas, the nation’s largest natural gas producer, remains “very fortunate” because its natural gas supply far exceeds demand.

Staples also added that, even if production diminished, there is ample supply in the marketplace. He said Texas has a massive-by-any-account amount of natural gas in storage — about 125 times the normal daily usage needed for electric power generation.

“We’ve experienced temporary loss of power, high winds, and icing conditions” that may get worse, but he said the problems were anticipated, with oil and natural gas providers spending hundreds of millions of dollars to prepare for bad weather.

Still, some are concerned.

“It just requires more energy to heat homes when it’s very cold than to cool them when it’s hot,” said Beth Garza, a senior energy fellow at the R Street Institute. “In the summer, I’m trying to cool my house from 100 degrees outside to 75 to 80 inside, a change of 20 to 25 degrees. Right now in Austin, it is 28 degrees and I’m trying to keep my home at 67 degrees — a nearly 40 degree increase. As it gets colder outside, the gap will increase and the amount of energy required — either natural gas or electricity — will increase.”

Garza said it’s critical to have proper insulation in the walls, windows, and roofs of homes in order to reduce the amount of electricity it takes to heat them.

Doug Lewin, executive director of Texas Energy Summit, agreed with Garza’s assessment. He added that Texas could also be seeing a form of PTSD among consumers who are preheating their homes or turning their heat up really high because of what happened with last February’s winter storm.

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