No electricity glut in Texas, official says

Texas electric demand growth has slipped to about 2-2�%/year, down from 5% of a couple of years ago, says Kent Saathoff, director of technical operations for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). By this time in 2001, the area of Texas served by ERCOT will have about 66,000 Mw of total electric generating capacity and a peak load of about 57,000 Mw, he says. But Saathoff downplays the notion the state is about to experience a glut of electricity.


Kate Thomas
OGJ Online

Texas electric demand growth has slipped to about 2-2�%/year, down from 5% of a couple of years ago, says Kent Saathoff, director of technical operations for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

By this time in 2001, the area of Texas served by ERCOT will have about 66,000 Mw of total electric generating capacity, including 4,000-7,000 Mw of new generation, and a peak load of about 57,000 Mw, he says.

That's considerably in excess of the 2,500 Mw reserve requirement ERCOT likes to keep on hand for emergencies. Speaking in Houston Thursday, Saathoff downplayed the notion the state is about to experience a glut of electricity. He estimated more than 30% of the state's electric generating capacity is more than 30 years old and no longer economical to run.

"All I can say is keep building," Saathoff told his audience. "We don't want to get into the same situation at California."

This summer ERCOT has called generation and transmission alerts to deal with constraints on the system, said Saathoff. This year has been an improvement over 1999, thanks to new generation and a cool June.

May 2000 demand peaked at 50,347 Mw, up from 41,344 Mw in May 1999; June 2000 was flat compared to last year; July 2000 demand peaked at an estimated 55,796 Mw, up from 52,819 Mw last year; and August so far has peaked at an estimated 55,512 Mw, up from 54,849 Mw in August 1999.

"July got hot and stayed hot," he said.

As a result, ERCOT�which by next summer will be operating as an independent system operator (ISO) under Texas's new deregulation law�called for utilities to shed voluntary interruptible load for 4 days in May and 1 day in July.

Nearly 11,000 Mw was out of service for maintenance and other reasons during May, Saathoff said. Meanwhile, loads were in the upper 40,000 Mw, instead of the usual lower 40,000 Mw loads and many new units were not yet online.

ERCOT also curtailed unplanned electric power transfers this summer mainly from north to south, although at a mostly reduced rate from 1999, Saathoff says. In May 2000, 11,974 Mw were curtailed, down from 21,040 Mw in the year earlier period; 8,891 Mw were curtailed in June 2000, up from 5,274 Mw in June 1999; 28,486 Mw were curtailed in July 2000, down from 87,130 Mw last year; and about 52,000 Mw have been curtailed in August 2000, about the same as last year.

So far this summer, ERCOT has called about 27 Level 2 transmission alerts, signaling constraints between control areas. Saathoff said most were called due to constraints in the Rio Grande Valley and north to south. By summer 2001, the new Watermill 345 kv line should be in service, he said, helping relieve north to south load problems.

Next summer, under the new system, the ISO will not cut schedules, Saathoff said.

"All schedules will flow," he says. Scheduling will be done by qualified scheduling entities. If the ISO has to buy power on the open market to meet demand, initially the cost will be spread over all loads, he says. Eventually, the extra costs will be assigned to congested areas.

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