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Energy regulators warn Texas is at 'elevated risk' for summer power shortage

Three months after the worst grid failure in Texas history, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation says extreme heat could force summer outages.

SAN ANTONIO — North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) assessors say there is an "elevated risk" for a summer power shortage caused by severe weather in Texas. 

NERC oversees all North American power grid operators and regulators, including Texas's ERCOT. 

Researchers warned of an extreme low-wind, high-heat scenario. They say Texas's grid might come up short if wind energy production dropped 75% during peak demand. 

Texas energy regulators say there is a less-than-1% chance this scenario plays out.  

But ERCOT leaders still predict record-demand this summer, and would not rule out "tight grid conditions" which may include conservation efforts. 

The National Weather Service also predicts unusually hot summer temperatures, and much of western Texas remains in drought conditions that strain the electrical grid. 

The report comes just three months after a winter storm cut power to thousands of homes in Texas. Officials blame the event for more than 150 deaths. 

Researchers noted, however, that new batteries, solar panels and wind turbines coming online in 2021 will boost Texas's energy reserves from roughly 13% capacity to 15% capacity. 

The system will be more reliable during periods of normal demand, but still remains at risk during extreme weather events that prompt peak demand. 

Power shortages are most likely around 5 p.m. in Texas. 

But regulators also noted that Texas's energy grid is designed for summer weather, and said it is easier for grid operators to prepare for a heat wave than an ice storm. 

"The whole operation is centered around that summer peak," said John Moura, director for reliability assessment at NERC. "So (in) the past summers, where we've seen record temperatures or even record lows, we've seen the system perform very well."