AUSTIN, Texas – In a recent statement, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has outlined its updated strategies and measures for enhancing grid reliability during the upcoming winter months. This announcement comes in the wake of the decision to cancel a key capacity procurement initiative, underscoring ERCOT’s adaptive approach to managing Texas’s complex electrical grid.
Initially, ERCOT issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to acquire additional electrical capacity to bolster winter energy reserves. However, the response from the market was considerably low, yielding only 11.1 MW of potentially suitable capacity. This response was assessed as insufficient for the intended purpose, leading ERCOT to cancel the procurement process.
Despite this setback, ERCOT remains confident in its winter preparedness. Pablo Vegas, ERCOT’s President and CEO, emphasized that the organization does not foresee any emergency conditions in the upcoming winter season. The request for additional capacity was largely a preventive measure to minimize risks during extreme weather conditions. ERCOT reassures that it expects to have sufficient resources to meet the winter demand.
Following the challenging winter storm of 2021, ERCOT has implemented a series of reforms and improvements. These include comprehensive weatherization inspections of electric generation units and transmission facilities, the implementation of additional ancillary services, and the establishment of firm fuel supply services. These steps represent ERCOT’s commitment to enhancing grid resilience and reliability.
A significant area of focus for ERCOT is the expansion of demand response capabilities across various customer sectors, including industrial, commercial, and residential segments. ERCOT plans to collaborate with the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) and other stakeholders to explore innovative incentives and product designs. This initiative is geared toward enhancing electric reliability by effectively managing and reducing peak demand during critical times.
The initial RFP intended to mitigate a 20% risk of ERCOT entering Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) conditions in the event of a severe winter storm. However, the decision to cancel the RFP was influenced by several factors, including the costs associated with the program, its administrative complexity, and the minimal impact of the limited capacity on overall reliability.
The RFP process provided ERCOT with valuable insights into market dynamics and responses to capacity requests. Vegas acknowledged the learnings from this process and expressed ERCOT’s commitment to exploring other demand response products and strategies. In the interim, ERCOT will continue to advance its winter preparedness through existing reliability programs and tools.
Overall, ERCOT’s recent announcement reflects a strategic and responsive approach to ensuring grid reliability during the winter season. By balancing the need for additional resources with the market’s capacity and considering the associated costs, ERCOT demonstrates its commitment to maintaining a stable and reliable electric grid for Texas.
Winter Preparedness and Grid Improvements Since 2021
- Weatherization and Inspections. ERCOT is entering the third season of winter weatherization inspections with enhanced requirements for generation and transmission facilities, compared to last winter season.
- Firm Fuel Supply Service (FFSS) Phase 2. An additional source of onsite fuel for generators benefits the grid by providing a redundant, or additional, fuel source should there be a natural gas scarcity. FFSS Phase 1 created the FFSS service (deployed for the first time during Winter Storm Elliott and then again for Winter Storm Mara). Phase 2 expanded Resources that can qualify. If a Resource’s fuel service is firm and isn’t under a lower curtailment priority if there’s a curtailment event, they can now qualify.
- Scheduled Maintenance Period. ERCOT has worked with generators and transmission operators to schedule their maintenance to prepare their equipment for winter after running hard this past summer.
- Forecasting Improvements. ERCOT has been working on reducing weather forecast error by procuring additional weather forecasts and developing load forecast models that are tuned for extreme cold weather. ERCOT has also improved the forecasting software testing process related to holidays and other outlier scenarios.
- ERCOT Contingency Reserve Service (ECRS). Added in June 2023, ECRS takes advantage of Resources that can start within 10 minutes to address unexpected or rapid changes in supply or demand.
- Fast Frequency Response Service. Added in 2022, this addition to our Ancillary Services takes advantage of the capability of faster-responding Resources to respond to events.
- Improved, Transparent Communications. The Texas Advisory and Notification System (TXANS) was launched May 2023. TXANS is a communications tool to keep Texans updated on grid conditions.
- Critical Supply Chain and Critical Infrastructure Map. This map was created in 2022 to share the locations and connectivity of all the critical parts of the Texas power infrastructure.
- Improved Inter-Agency Communications. Agencies are seeing improved, ongoing communications through both the Texas Department of Emergency Management and Texas Energy Reliability Council.