TEXAS, USA — On Monday afternoon, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said more than 12,000 MW of generation was offline, and unavailable for the power grid. All but around 500 MW were called "forced outages," meaning something was in need of repair and forced a power plant offline. ERCOT did not know exactly how many plants were offline on Monday.
ERCOT called for conservation due to "tight grid conditions." But what condition is the grid in right now, and is this currently an emergency situation?
The short answer: No.
The much longer answer is that ERCOT has three levels of emergency operations before blackouts become a possibility and the grid isn't even on the first level as of yet.
For the grid to enter Energy Emergency Alert level one, the reserve power available on the grid must be under 2,300 MW. As of Tuesday afternoon at seven available reserves were just under 4,000 MW, and the current total can be seen here.
Back on May 6, ERCOT’s Senior Director of System Planning Warren Lasher said the grid would ideally have around 15,000 MW of Operating Reserves while discussing ERCOT's Summer Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy.
To put all these number in perspective, the Texas power grid had a peak demand of around 70,000 MW Monday and Tuesday. The Summer Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy in May said that ERCOT had planned to have more than 86,000 MW available during the summer. Losing 12,000 MW out of 86,000 MW did not put them at risk of failing to meet the recent peak demand of 70,000 MW.
Perhaps the more concerning issue confronting the grid, however, is that ERCOT does not specifically know why so many power generators went offline at once.
"We are currently seeing three to four times the number of forced generation outages in our system than we would typically see this time or year," ERCOT spokeswoman Leslie Sopko said Monday.
Of the more than 12,000 MW of power outages, around 9,000 MW were from thermal power generation and all of those thermal generation providers were offline because they needed repairs. ERCOT was still reaching out to those generators to find out what went wrong.
Multiple reporters on a media call asked if the outages were due to damage caused by February's winter storm. Lasher said ERCOT didn't know at this time.
"There may be conditions on some of those plants stemming from the extreme weather that we had earlier in the year, but we can't say at this time," Lasher said. "There is a lot of equipment in a power plant..."
Furthermore, ERCOT has inspected around 20 power plants since May 2021, and four of those plants still had an issue that took them offline.
In a Tuesday press release ERCOT said "approximately 1,200 MW of power was regained overnight Monday when some repairs were completed." There was no further information on what caused the outages Tuesday afternoon.