Texas Grid Operator Adds Backup Power Supplies to Avoid Outages

The Texas grid operator said it’s buying more reserve power supplies as part of a broader plan to avoid a repeat of catastrophic blackouts that crippled the state in a February freeze.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is purchasing additional reserves, “especially on days when the weather forecast is uncertain,” according a statement released Tuesday. The plan is part of a 60-item roadmap for improving operations that was submitted to Governor Greg Abbott, state lawmakers and utility regulators.

“Ercot’s roadmap puts a clear focus on protecting customers while also ensuring that Texas maintains free-market incentives to bring new generation to the state,” said Public Utility Commission Chairman Peter Lake, who also sits on the grid manager’s board. “Texans deserve a more reliable grid and we’re aggressively working to make that a reality.”

Abbott told utility regulators last week that they must redesign part of the state’s power market to offer better incentives to natural-gas, coal and nuclear plant operators. Abbott, a Republican, said doing so is needed to shore up the grid, in addition to new legislation that included an overhaul of agencies that oversee power markets and required that plants winterize.

Texas is revamping its power market as its grid becomes increasingly strained by extreme weather events that scientists say are becoming more common because of climate change. February’s Arctic freeze crippled the state for nearly a week and left more than 150 dead amid the catastrophic blackouts that left millions in the dark. This summer, the region faces the threat of more power shortages as scorching heat drives up the use of air conditioners.

As part of its plan, Ercot said it will also bring additional power supplies online sooner, require more frequent operational updates from generation owners, and make unannounced inspections at plants. The grid operator will also require industry chief executives to certify that their companies have weatherized their equipment.

Meanwhile, a new report said that the February freeze caused parts of the state’s natural gas delivery system to fail ahead of the blackouts. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found no single cause, though contributing factors included poor weather forecasting, a lack of plant winterization and gas supply problems that exacerbated electricity shortages.

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