By Jennifer Runyon, POWERGRID International and DISTRIBUTECH International content material director

During an emergency board assembly of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) in the present day, Bill Magness, ERCOT CEO, outlined the occasions that came about between February 14 and 18 that finally led to the humanitarian disaster that many Texas residents are nonetheless within the midst of now.

An oversimplified view of the Texas electrical energy market

First of all, it’s needed to grasp how the electrical energy market works in Texas. It’s a free market. The gamers available in the market are the electrical energy turbines and the utilities who management the poles and wires and serve the shoppers. Then there’s the system operator that works between the 2. That system operator is ERCOT. (The prospects purchase their electrical energy from retail electrical energy suppliers who purchase it from the turbines themselves however that’s inappropriate for this text.)

Think of ERCOT as an orchestra conductor, directing devices to show up or flip down as wanted to maintain the grid in steadiness. (Remember that with electrical energy, you need to hold provide and demand completely balanced always.)

Because it’s a free market with little regulation, the conductor (ERCOT) doesn’t have the authority to impose charges or set guidelines for the turbines. For instance, ERCOT will not be allowed to inform a specific generator that they gained’t be capable of play within the orchestra in the event that they don’t do XYZ. Instead, ERCOT depends on market costs to function motivation to maintain these generator crops buzzing alongside as a lot as they’ll. That approach, if and when some turbines can’t present power (there’s much less provide), the worth for electrical energy goes up so people who CAN present, do and reap the rewards of being on-line on the proper time. In reality, it’s these “shortage occasions” that assist drive the event of recent technology, so on the whole, they aren’t a nasty factor.

Overall, the market works very effectively in regular circumstances. Most Texans will let you know they’ve very low electrical energy costs because of being deregulated.

Load Shed Ordered by Transmission Owner

At sure occasions, nevertheless, there simply isn’t sufficient provide, irrespective of how excessive the worth goes, and that’s when ERCOT’s solely software is to shed demand. To do this, it orders the utilities to show off energy to sure prospects primarily based on the variety of megawatts their prospects use (see chart). Utilities have plans for this and perceive how they’ll do this pretty and in probably the most equitable approach attainable. For instance, they don’t wish to shut down hospitals or different important care services. In a standard emergency, this load shed might be distributed throughout a service territory, so a sure subset of shoppers solely lose energy for a pair hours, then they’re turned again on and one other neighborhood goes darkish for a pair hours.

But what occurred in Texas on February 14-18, 2021 was an occasion that was not foreseen and couldn’t have been predicted principally due to the sheer numbers concerned. Because the temps have been so chilly and so many turbines couldn’t generate electrical energy (one other article for one more time) ERCOT turned to rolling blackouts. But, the rolling blackouts that ought to usually solely final a few hours changed into a number of days and that led to every kind of disastrous penalties.

February 2011 in comparison with February 2021

While many stakeholders are crying foul as a result of the occasion was precedented by the same chilly snap in February 2011 that led to rolling blackouts — and there are some similarities to the occasions of February 1-5, 2011 — the numbers are staggeringly completely different. Let’s look:

2011 2021
Maximum technology capability compelled out at any given time (MW) 14,702 52,277
Generation compelled out one hour earlier than the beginning of EEA3 (MW) 1,182 2,489
Cumulative technology capability compelled out by way of the…

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