by Mitchell Ferman, The Texas Tribune.
Leaders of the Texas power grid tried to assure the public Tuesday that the state’s grid is ready for summer, when they forecast record-breaking demand for electricity during the hottest stretches.
Texas Public Utility Commission Chair Peter Lake, appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott after last year’s deadly winter storm to regulate utilities and to oversee the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said there will be more reserve power available to the grid this summer than in previous summers, a necessary cushion that Lake said reflects a different approach than before last February’s disaster.
Lake spoke confidently about the grid’s summer readiness on Tuesday alongside ERCOT President Brad Jones, who also said he has no concerns about this summer. Jones expressed some caution about “times that are dark and still,” meaning when the sun isn’t shining to produce solar power and when wind isn’t blowing enough to produce wind energy.
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They said their agencies are better prepared for times when there is likely to be a smaller share of energy generated by renewable sources.
Lake and Jones said they didn’t have concerns about natural gas-fired power plants — the largest source of electricity generation on the power grid — despite having to ask Texans to reduce their power consumption on Friday after six power plants unexpectedly broke down.
Lake and Jones said asking Texans to conserve electricity is a tool they use to ensure reliability of the power supply and should not be viewed as a sign that the grid is unstable.
“Conservation is a good thing,” Jones said. “Conservation is what we should do every day in our lives, conservation is how we treat our use of water in the summers, and when it’s very hot, I hope that each of you will turn to conservation as a way to both lower your [electricity] bill as well as to help all of us in the market.”
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Lake and Jones didn’t reveal new information on Friday’s outages beyond Jones noting that the six plants went down between noon and 4 p.m. that day.
In the days and weeks before the plant failures, ERCOT had asked several energy companies to delay their scheduled maintenance in order to keep up with the hotter-than-expected May weather. At least one of the plants that delayed its repairs broke down Friday, and industry officials say others did, too.
Abbott, at a separate event on Tuesday in north Texas, was asked about the grid and saluted ERCOT for how it handled last week’s problems.
“What ERCOT did by making the announcement on Friday was a greater level of transparency that did not exist before [Winter Storm] Uri,” Abbott said.
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Patrick Svitek contributed to this story.