Texas utility commission head warns of summer power shortages and urges gas-powered electricity 2023

Wednesday, the chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission, Peter Lake, issued a warning that the state’s primary power grid could experience outages this summer if wind turbines fail to generate enough electricity when required. To make the grid more reliable, he argued once more that more on-demand power sources, such as natural gas-fueled power facilities or batteries, must be constructed.

Performance credits, a new economic instrument approved by Lake’s agency, are being evaluated by legislators. The credits would increase electricity customer bills by an estimated 2% and direct the funds to companies that operate on-demand power sources in an effort to incentivize them to construct more power plants or keep existing plants in service for longer.

Lake repeated his legislative session remarks after a summer grid inspection.

“The Texas electric grid faces a new reality,” said Lake on Wednesday. “For the first time, data indicates that the peak demand for electricity this summer will exceed the amount we can generate from dispatchable, on-demand power, so we will rely on renewables to keep the lights on.”

Lake’s statements were based on the grid operator’s seasonal report, which examines how much electricity the system is anticipated to be able to produce in various low-probability scenarios relative to demand.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas determined that the grid may not be able to meet a very high demand for electricity at the conclusion of a typical workday if it coincides with extremely low wind and an unusually high number of unplanned outages at other facilities. ERCOT discovered that moderate winds and extremely high demand after sunset may also contribute to power outages.

Pablo Vegas, president and CEO of ERCOT, stated at a news conference that the state’s growing population and economy have increased the demand for energy, and wind and solar energy production has increased much more than coal- and gas-powered production to satisfy the demand.

“We anticipate having to rely more on renewables than ever before during peak conditions,”

Renewable energy advocates refuted the assertion that renewables are the sole source of grid reliability.

Environment Texas Executive Director Luke Metzger stated in a statement that the expansion of renewable energy in Texas “should be heralded and welcomed – not blamed, contrary to the evidence, for grid problems.”

Metzger stated that renewable energy is essential to improve air quality, delay climate change, and reduce electricity costs. Rather than increasing reliance on fossil fuels for power — which is the direction that a number of pending legislation in the Legislature are advancing — environmental advocates want to see efforts to reduce electricity demand, such as by improving home insulation.

Judd Messer, vice president of the Texas chapter of the Advanced Power Alliance, a proponent of renewable energy, described Lake’s warning as another instance of anti-renewables politics entering a discussion that should be limited to facts.

“The reality is that the grid will require all of its resources to keep the lights on this summer,” said Messer.

After the grid nearly collapsed during a winter storm in February 2021, leaving millions without power or heat and causing more than 200 deaths, Governor Greg Abbott and other Texas leaders swiftly blamed renewable energy for the power failures; however, subsequent analysis revealed that all types of power generation failed during the storm.

Katie Coleman, who has advocated for companies that consume a great deal of electricity and is opposed to the performance credits, stated that this is not the first year that the system has relied on renewables to meet high demand.

She stated, “We do not believe this new release significantly alters the situation or justifies [the performance credits] without strong cost protections for customers.”

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