HOUSTON (AP) — A Central Texas coal-fired electric generating plant will be shut down this summer, cutting the state’s biggest electric power grid’s reserve capacity for meeting summer demand.
The Texas Municipal Power Agency has notified the Electric Reliability Council of Texas that it won’t operate its Gibbons Creek Generating Station this summer, the Houston Chronicle reported . That comes after three coal-fired plants owned by Irving-based Vistra Energy were shut down last year.
The loss of the Gibbons Creek plant would cut the projected margin of reserve power this summer to 7.4 percent, almost half of ERCOT’s goal of a 13.7 percent margin of reserve power to meet unexpected surges in demand. That increases the risk of power supply shortages, surging prices, and at worst, blackouts and brownouts.
The shrinking power supply cushion is “very scary,” said DeAnn Walker, chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
The Texas Municipal Power Agency is a consortium of the Bryan, Garland, Denton and Greenville municipal electric utilities that owns the Gibbons Creek plant. The loss of the plant’s 470 megawatts of generating capacity comes on top of the loss of more than 4,000 megawatts by the Vistra closings.
Once appealing during the years of high oil and natural gas prices, coal-fired plants have been shutting down across the nation as natural gas prices have undercut coal. The plant on the Gibbons Creek Reservoir, about 15 miles east of Bryan, has been operating for the past two years only when summer demand resulted in surging wattage demands and prices. The expanded use of wind-generated power has further undermined the economics of coal-fired plants.
A megawatt is about enough electricity to power roughly 200 homes running air conditioners during hot weather.
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com