AUSTIN (KXAN) — A November report released by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation found several electric reliability regions within North America are at an elevated risk during extreme weather conditions this winter, including the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).
The report evaluated six regional entities and assessed possible concerns ahead of this winter season, specifically honing in on the December to February timeframe. Key findings detailed several of those areas qualified as having an elevated risk this winter, meaning there’s a potential for “insufficient operating reserves in above-normal conditions,” the report said.
ERCOT joined several other southern pockets as facing the risk of possible load shortages this year compared to last winter “due primarily to robust load growth that is not being met by corresponding growth in dispatchable resources,” per the report.
“Like other assessment areas in the Southern United States, the risk of a significant number of generator forced outages in extreme and prolonged cold temperatures continues to threaten reliability where generators and fuel supply infrastructure are not designed or retrofitted for such conditions,” the report read in part.
The report did not that ERCOT is working to add additional capacity ahead of the colder winter months to minimize any possible energy emergencies. It also added Texas’ electric reliability council incorporated a new firm fuel supply service to help offset any lost generation capacity levels when natural gas supplies are strained.
When looking at natural gas supplies, the report noted ERCOT’s natural gas-fired generation saw peak winter capacity levels at 54.2 gigawatts. Comparatively, natural gas production comprised 62% of ERCOT’s total winter resource mix, per the report.
The report’s North American assessment said improvements to the U.S.’s natural gas infrastructure are critical in ensuring its reliability amid possible future winter events. It noted nationwide, dependency on natural gas and electricity is intertwined, with the natural gas industry dependent on electricity delivery and the electric industry reliant on the delivery of natural gas to function as needed.
“What has become clear is that the natural-gas-electric system has now become fully interconnected, each requiring the other to remain reliable (i.e., impacts on one system can impact the other),” the report read. “These considerations should drive higher levels of coordination to ensure sustained reliable operation of this interconnected system.”
When it comes to risk scenarios, the report said ERCOT is presumed to be able to meet all operating reserve requirements this winter under normal peak-demand scenarios. However, in instances with above-normal winter peak load, the report determined “load shedding is unlikely but may be needed under wide-area cold weather events.”
ERCOT isn’t the only region in North America facing similar risk assessments. The Northeast Power Coordinating Council — which covers areas like New England as well as the Maritime region and Quebec in Canada — also is ranked as facing elevated seasonal risks.
Elsewhere in the U.S., portions of the Midwest and southeastern regions are also under elevated risk levels. The only regions flagged at low-risk levels — meaning sufficient reserves are expected — include the west coast, western and central portions of Canada, New York and areas near where Florida, Alabama and Georgia reside.
The Midwest Reliability Organization, which covers portions of Canada, is the sole North American region ranked at a high seasonal risk where “potential for insufficient operating reserves” is possible under normal peak conditions.
The complete report and its findings are available online.