Texas Power Grid Faces Crucial Moment Ahead Of Single Digit Temperatures

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Dec 20, 2022 - 01:40 AM

Forecasters are warning that a potent Arctic airmass could plunge temperatures across Texas to single digits later this week. Temperatures in Texas's Permian Basin could dip to 25 F by late Friday, risking the potential for freeze-offs that could curtail the flow of natural gas. The blast of cold air comes just 22 months after the early 2021 cold wave that collapsed Lone Star State's power grid. 

One weather model via PivitolWeather forecasts single digits in a large swath of Texas on Friday. 

The North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), a commission responsible for assessing power risks, warned that cold could stress the electrical grid in Texas. 

"The effect it can have on generators — and the way demand can rise sharply in cold weather — can lead to load risk," Mark Olson, a reliability manager at NERC, said, who was quoted by Bloomberg.  

According to Houston-based NatGas research firm Criterion Research, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) -- the state's grid operator -- expects power demand to rise to over 61 gigawatts on Friday, which would come close to summer loads and most prior winter showings. 

A massive cold stress test for ERCOT appears to be imminent. Here's more from Criterion: 

ERCOT formally issued an "Operating Condition Notice (OCN)" ahead of this week's winter weather that will run from December 22-26. The OCN goes into effect when temperatures fall below 25 degrees for the Austin/San Antonio and DFW areas. ERCOT President and CEO Pablo Vegas cited that "As we monitor weather conditions, we want to assure Texans that the grid is resilient and reliable."

 ERCOT's latest load forecast is extreme, with the ISO expecting demand to rise to >61 GW on December 23, which rivals summer loads and most prior winter showings.

Regional load will push above 50 GW as the front moves in on Thursday, and the demand will be most intense on Friday.

Currently, wind is projected to reach a 12/22 level of 22 GW before dropping the following day (12/23) to 12 GW and then to 4.5 GW on 12/24.

If this forecast holds for wind & total load, ERCOT will need its fossil fuel assets to ramp to 45 GW during the peak cold.

ERCOT's fossil fuel assets are certainly capable of 45-50 GW in demand, and the upcoming system is only bringing cold weather rather than the winter precipitation we saw during Winter Storm Uri.

Bitterly cold temperatures in the coming days will test ERCOT's winterization upgrades since the grid collapse in 2021.