The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has published its “Roadmap to Improving Grid Reliability”. Unveiled on 13 July, the document aims to provide a comprehensive plan that addresses operational and resilience improvements for the Texas power grid.
Among the 60 actions highlighted, ERCOT is seeking to firm up rules for generators to ensure it can bring more capacity online sooner if it is needed for balancing. Actions set out include more frequent operational updates and additional reporting on weatherization preparations from generators and unannounced testing of their assets and resources. Large industrial customers, who are paid to reduce their power during an emergency, may also be tested.
The grid operator said it would work to evaluate the adequacy and volumes of ancillary services products to be procured and would expand its tools to manage short-supply situations. This could be done by facilitating additional voluntary load reductions and procuring more ancillary or reliability services from resources with unique capabilities to operate during extreme weather conditions. ERCOT is also to revise market protocols, so that firm load shed is accounted for in market scarcity pricing signals.
ERCOT will work to eliminate barriers to distributed generation, energy storage, and demand response/flexibility to allow more resources to participate in the market. It will also conduct a study to understand the key future business drivers for these technologies and possible implications for the grid.
The publication of the roadmap follows the recent Texas Governor’s request for the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) to address the reliability issues of the Texas electric grid. In response, ERCOT issued a letter to the Governor detailing strategies the corporation is taking to meet those directives.
PUC Chairman and ERCOT Board Member Peter Lake said: “Texans deserve a more reliable grid, and we’re aggressively moving to make that a reality”. The roadmap “puts a clear focus on protecting customers while also ensuring that Texas maintains free market incentives to bring new generation to the state […].”
During a Texas Senate committee hearing, Lake raised concerns that the ERCOT market runs on “a crisis-based business model.” Under the current market design, financial rewards [for flexibility or additional generating capacity] are only available the closer you get to a crisis, “which is not good for consumers”. “We need to have a market design so that if you provide reliability, that’s where the financial incentive is presented”, Lake said.
Wayne Muncaster, VP for North America at GridBeyond, commented:
“ERCOT recently confirmed that around 70% of generators that had unplanned outages in June, had had also been forced offline during the February winter storm. This suggests that problems may go beyond insufficient weatherization.
“The energy crunch is not a fleeting issue that will go away in the near future. It’s crucial that we take action now to preserve our grid, the engine of the Texas economy, over the long-term as we face a growing population, and rising summer temperatures. The solutions are out there.
“The focus so far from the Governor and Legislature has been on ERCOT’s supply-side. While this is important, more action is needed to encourage investment in demand response, energy storage and energy efficiency as a cost-effective means to manage pressure on the supply-side.”