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Texas Electricity Grid to See Challenges in 2012

ERCOT, the group in charge of keeping the Texas electricity grid running smoothly is predicting that Texas will run short of capacity next summer just when it needs it most. This is a result of the increasing demand for electricity in the Lone Star State coupled with the loss of several plants that are scheduled to go off-line in the coming year. Partially as a result of Texas electricity rates being so low in recent years there has not been a great deal of new capacity brought on line to offset this effect.

This is following a year where the electricity grid in Texas saw rolling blackouts in February as Texans demanded record amounts of electricity during heavy winter weather.

So concerned is ERCOT about capacity that they are leaving little to chance. They have requested of electricity operators a complete rundown of all open final stage projects. They need to have assurances that the assumed completion dates for projects that will begin feeding the grid are accurate. ERCOT’s chief executive cited new EPA rules among other factors as reasons why there is no margin of error when it comes to planning out the available capacity of the grid over the coming year.

ERCOT is being squeezed from all directions right now. The Texas electricity grid has been impacted by unusual weather conditions, new EPA rules, and a tough economic background. Texas, like many other parts of the country, experienced a string of wild weather in 2011. Northeastern style snow storms in February led to a double hit of record electricity demand and equipment failure at a number of plants. The state’s grid operators were forced to implement rolling blackouts.

The pressure on the gird didn’t let up as summer months brought a near record string of 100 degree days. Once more, the Texas electric system skirted on the edge of capacity. Putting yet more pressure on the Texas electric grid is a severe drought which is limiting water that is available for cooling power plants and has affected the opening of some plants.

The timing of the harsh barrage of natural disasters is somewhat ironic when you consider that while dealing with these the Texas electricity system is also beginning to realize the impact of recent new EPA rules. There are several ways operators are being impacted by these new rules. Hundreds of plants throughout the country are being brought down for some period of time while they are updated with new systems required to meet the EPA’s new rules.

The bigger problem for Texas, however, is that operators of many plants will find it too costly to update their systems and will simply close the plant down further decreasing electricity output in Texas.

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About the Author

BJ Newman,
San Antonio, TX 78216
(214) 455 8419

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