- Despite lower demand due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the grid operator for most of Texas expects record electricity usage this summer as temperatures rise — which may require a mothballed coal plant coming back into service.
- The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) on Wednesday released its final Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy (SARA) for the upcoming summer season, predicting peak load of 75,200 MW. The new forecast is 1,496 MW lower than the previous, pre-coronavirus estimate, but will still top the all-time peak demand record of 74,820 MW set last summer.
- In response, it appears new owners of the 470-MW coal-fired Gibbons Creek Generating Station will restart the plant. Previously operated by the Texas Municipal Power Agency (TMPA), the plant was shuttered in 2018 because it could not compete with cheaper renewable energy.
The Texas grid operator expects to have sufficient generation resources this summer, but warned this week that "extreme weather, low wind output and higher-than-normal generation outages may result in the need to declare Energy Emergency Alerts."
ERCOT's final SARA, after taking into account the impacts of COVID-19, increases the summer 2020 reserve margin to 12.6%, up from 10.6%. But officials warn they still expect to set new demand records.
"There is a lot of uncertainty in today's world, but we are confident that Texas will still be hot this summer," ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said in a statement.
The state has seen a boost in renewable generation since the preliminary summer SARA was released in March. Since then, ERCOT officials say seven wind, solar, and storage projects totaling 979 MW and contributing 276 MW to summer peak began commercial operations.
At the same time, the grid operator says more than 400 MW of planned resource capacity that had been expected online during peak demand hours has been delayed beyond summer 2020. A small battery project has been delayed due to COVID-19, also.
Grid operators around the country have seen load declines due to novel coronavirus and economic shutdown. Last month, ERCOT officials said morning loads had declined 6% to 10%, and weekly energy use was down by approximately 2%.
Based on the pre-COVID load forecast of 78,299 MW, the planning reserve margin for summer 2021 is forecasted to be 17.3%. The grid operator expects the planning reserve margin to increase to 19.7% in 2022 and then decrease to 18% in 2023.
While ERCOT has been rapidly adding renewable energy, a previously-retired coal plant could return in order to meet demand this summer.
TMPA, made up of the Texas cities of Bryan, Garland, Denton, and Greenville, retired the Gibbons Creek plant in 2018 following previous economic decisions to run it only during the summer months. But the plant reportedly has new owners, and could return to the grid this summer.
According to Power Magazine, TEERP Power Station LLC signed an interconnection agreement with the Texas grid operator in April to operate the plant. "Obviously, the owners think that it’s an economic project," ERCOT Manager of Resource Adequacy Pete Warnken told the news outlet.
Based on preliminary data, ERCOT says planned capacity additions for summer 2021 total 17,993 MW.
"The majority of these planned projects are renewables and some small, flexible gas-fired resources," according to the grid operator.