Texas electric grid passes first winter test

Texas Electric Grid Passes First Winter Test

Apparently, the changes to the electric power grid in Texas following the massive winter storm in 2021 have been successful in avoiding any power failure during the recent five-day storm.

The Texas Legislature and Governor Abbott passed legislation mandating the weatherization of natural gas facilities and securing additional natural gas inventories for emergency use, if needed.

The storm reached the Panhandle and North Texas on Friday, Jan. 12, and temperatures plunged below freezing. The sub-freezing temperatures stayed for more than 80 hours in many locations until Wednesday afternoon. In North Texas, the low temperature of 7 degrees was a record.

The cold weather put the revisions to the electricity grid to its first major winter test.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) had predicted record-breaking demand of 79,000 megawatts (MW) during the storm. Demand peaked on Jan. 16 at 8 a.m. at 78,173 MW, and it came close to reaching its committed capacity of 85,088 MW.

Natural gas was the major source of energy to generate electricity, providing 58% (44,622 MW) at 8 a.m. Jan. 16, followed by coal at 15% (11,855 MW), wind at 11% (8,491MW), solar 9% (7,185 MW), and nuclear 7% (5,125 MW), according to ERCOT.

ERCOT issued requests to consumers to conserve as much as possible from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Jan. 15 and 16 when demand was at its highest. For example, on Jan. 16, early morning demand was 72,105 MW and peaked at 78,173 MW at 8 a.m., and fell to 71,121 MW by noon. By noon on Jan. 17, temperatures began to rise, and demand dropped to 68,572 MW, composed of 37% natural gas, 27% wind, 13% solar, 11% coal, and 7% nuclear.

Some snow and ice were reported from the Dallas/Fort Worth area down to Corpus Christi and in East Texas. Two refineries on the Gulf Coast reported temporary problems.

The price of natural gas did spike on spot trading. Realtime Hub averaged $64 during the morning of Jan. 17, according to ERCOT’s web page, and some locations reported prices exceeding $100. However, trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange for 30-day delivery closed at $2.90 on Jan. 16.

Natural gas prices have been around $3 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) during most of 2023.

Record production and mild weather have contributed to the largest inventories of natural gas since 2020.  As of the week ended Jan. 5, there were about 3.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in storage, 12% higher than the trailing five-year average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. Since November, the U.S. has been withdrawing natural gas from storage at a rate that is 28% lower than the trailing five-year average, according to the EIA.

Alex Mills is the former President of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.

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Alex Mills is the former President of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers. The Alliance is the largest state oil and gas associations in the nation with more than 3,000 members in 305 cities and 28 states.


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