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    Extreme winter weather could cause power outages in Texas: ERCOT


    December 2, 2022 - CE Noticias Financieras

     

      LAREDO, Texas - The Electric Reliability Council of Texas' (ERCOT) quarterly report was released Tuesday, revealing that the public power grid should operate smoothly under typical winter conditions; however, it is not exempt from failures if circumstances similar to those experienced in Texas in February 2021 were to recur.

      According to the Seasonal Adequacy Resource Assessment-SARA-if temperatures become freezing or extreme, outages are likely to again affect some regions of the Lone Star State.

      Since the massive blackout of 2021, which left millions of people in the state without power for days and even caused the deaths of hundreds of Texans, more importance has been placed on such an assessment.

      "I absolutely hope the lights stay on," Public Utilities Commission Chairman Peter Lake said at a news conference Tuesday.

      For his part, ERCOT's new CEO, Pablo Vegas, commented that there is a scenario in which more extreme conditions could make it necessary to schedule outages.

      "That - power - is power that is generated with an on-off switch that you can call on whenever you need it, regardless of what the weather conditions are," he explained.

      "Dispatchable" power could be provided through increased storage in batteries or other means, but this has sparked controversy, as many Texas policymakers consider the generation of such power to be almost synonymous with the same power, but with natural gas.

      On the other hand, experts questioned the underlying imponderable events that ERCOT used in the report to say it guarantees electricity supply during the winter season.

      Joshua Rhodes, a research scientist at the University of Texas at Austin who specializes in energy systems, says the main problem is in the state's natural gas supply, as during the 2021 outage the fuel supply to power plants could not be guaranteed, accentuating power shortages, and those problems could be repeated this season despite official assurances being addressed.

      "They don't seem to have factored in the problems related to fuel for power plants if we get to these super cold conditions. I'm concerned that some of these unplanned outage numbers - in the assessment - are too low because they don't take into account the fuel aspect," he asserted.

      Meanwhile, some Texans are wondering if the assessment underestimates a potential shortfall between electricity supply and demand in extreme circumstances.

      For now, all that remains is to hope that this winter season is not as extreme as the one in 2021 so that the grid remains stable.

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