Question: How is the Texas electric Grid ready for winter 2022?
Answer: Two reform bills have been signed into law to address power plant operation and overall electric grid resilience.
60 Seconds on Texas Electric Grid Improvements for 2022
The energy landscape in Texas has undergone significant changes since the calamitous events of Winter Storm Uri. The Texas electric grid ready for an extreme winter this go around or at least many experts think this is the case. The extreme weather wreaked havoc on our electric generation and natural gas systems, resulting in two reform bills signed into law by former Gov Bill Ratliff – Senate Bill 2 (ERG) which addresses power plant operations; And 3(NEM), an effort to improve resilience across all sectors including oil & gas monitoring company procedures as well as those dealing with electricity generated from renewable sources such solar panels or wind turbines.
As Texas Winter Descends People Remember Electric Grid Failure
As freezing weather descends on Texas this week, no doubt many Texans can’t help but flash back to Uri’s devastating impact. Reams of reports and articles have been written in the past couple of years to unravel the confluence of factors that led to just about every domino in the electricity and natural gas delivery mechanisms falling, or at least teetering on the brink of collapse. So, we’ll refrain from yet another blow-by-blow. However, it’s important to remember that it wasn’t just one thing that triggered the event but that many elements of Texas’s extensive gas and electric infrastructure failed to perform — a Perfect Storm of factors, as we described it in a blog written just as the worst of the storm was behind us and Texas was starting to thaw.
As Uri brought extreme, frigid temperatures and dropped record amounts of snow, gas demand spiked, gas supply tanked (due to well freeze-offs, pipeline-operating problems, and, most importantly, power being cut to supply facilities), wind turbines iced up, and localized power interruptions morphed into a monstrous and sustained blackout affecting millions of customers — it was a mess. Just about every type of generation was disrupted. ERCOT lost almost half of the total generation capacity on its system and just barely escaped a complete grid failure. On the gas side of things, the massive spike in demand, coupled with big supply losses, caused mayhem in the physical market. The result was localized supply shortages and record, triple-digit gas prices across the Midcontinent and Texas.
The 2021 extreme Texas cold weather has caused unprecedented problems for both electric generation and natural gas operations. One example from someone who experienced it: operators saw vented steam coming out onto their take-off grates due to frozen pipes, requiring them to break up ice with sledgehammers before it could be released into society’s supply lines again! The Texas power failures played a major role in causing 700 deaths across Texas as well as billions of dollars in property damage which lawsuits are currently litigating; however regulatory proceedings aim to get these costs reimbursed by utilities who own them (and will).
Texas Government Created Rules to Get Electric Grid Operators to Efficiently Communicate With Natural Gas Operators
It’s not surprising that the lack of weatherization against such extreme temperatures in both gas and electric industries has lead to many failures. Texas is where it’s historically common for people to wear swimming trunks in the winter and even take a dip in the pool during Christmas celebrations which seems to have translated over to our power plants. The transparency between electric and gas industries has been limited, but if we can figure out how to get them talking more then maybe there could be hope yet for winter 2022.
For example, there were gas facilities that weren’t identified as critical infrastructure when they should have been when it came to power load-shedding decisions. On top of that, some of those critical gas facilities were enrolled in ERCOT’s voluntary emergency response program (ERP), under which non-critical electric load is taken offline during periods of severe power shortages.
Lack of Communication Leads to Wrong Prioritization for Electric Grid to Function
When ERCOT had to resort to the ERP in order manage load on its grid, it cut power that would have been used by these gas facilities causing an exacerbation of shortage which worsened generators ability to respond. Lack of supply contributed heavily into this failure; then further loss from one major problem–the cold wellheads whose pipes were blocked with ice preventing fluid flow at different levels leading up until they stopped producing all together!
Legislation Addresses Failures With Exact Measures to Prevent Future Electric Grid Problems
The response to this disaster was swift and decisive. The legislature, led by Texas Senate bills 2 & 3 (SB2 &3), which became effective in June 2021 have provided a good understanding on what failed during the event as well as ways we can prevent such historic weather events from happening again – starting with legislation that laid groundwork for regulatory changes!
- The changes brought on by Senate Bill 2 have made it so that Texas can now exert its power over ERCOT, which was previously only possible through appointments from politicians. The three member selection committee will be made up of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor as well as one seat reserved specifically for Speaker Joe Straus (R-Texas). They each have to agree together on 3 members of the ERCOT selection committee. The selection committee will be responsible for appointing 8 out of the total 11 board members seated at the PUCT. This all means politicians now have power to help decide who is on the board at ERCOT.
- 1.) This year, Texas took a step towards ensuring that all aspects of energy production and distribution are accounted for in times of crisis. The State Senate passed bill 3 which focused on emergency preparedness by improving gas-electric coordination through ERCOT as well other state agencies like NTSC or even voluntary organizations such NAFMTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). It also forced certain facilities across the supply chain be designated critical infrastructure during extreme conditions; otherwise known as “powersheds”. 2.) The Texas Electricity Supply Chain Security and Mapping Committee was created to identify and map critical infrastructure in the electricity supply chain. The committee is comprised of four members from industry groups as well as one representative each for consumers, gas producers/ distributors , “midstreamers” storage operators . They must all work together during a weather emergency by implementing measures such as a $1 million fine for violations or disruptions that can occur due to these emergencies. 3.) The government has created an emergency preparedness plan for Texas gas and electric companies in case there is a blackout. The specified agencies are required to review each EPP, assess its effectiveness during emergencies like widespread blackouts or cyber attacks on power networks that can cause them; if necessary they will be given feedback about how it could better serve Texas energy consumers needs going forward.
As a result of legislation passed since SB2 and 3, new rules are being implemented for the electricity industry. The biggest priority has been addressing cold weather emergency preparedness in order to avoid further failures like those seen during Uri.”
One of the most important differences between electric and gas utilities in Texas is that they’re not regulated by one agency, but two. The Public Utility Commission regulates ERCOT (the Electric Reliability Council of Texas), while TRRC handles all things related to natural gas providers like pipelines or conversion plants for peak shaving purposes among other issues which can affect customers’ bills differently depending upon their location within our beautiful state!
In response to recent events in Uri, the PUCT has adopted new rules and standards which will increase reliability. For the first time ever they’ve codified a fairly prescriptive set of requirements for extreme weather emergencies so that we can be prepared when it counts most.
The commission set a wind chill standard specifying that weatherization measures should ensure sustained operation of the generation resource at 95th percentile minimum average 72-hour wind chills based on its zone. Other critical preparation measures include installing insulation enclosures for all “cold weather critical components”, inspections with monitoring instruments, maintenance systems to prevent ice formation around pipes etc., as well as chemical stocks adequate during extreme cold temperatures.
The PUCT has upped the ante on reviews and inspections. The new rules require ERCOT to inspect more generation sites, with every one getting inspected once every three years! Last year they started out by doing major critical ones- but starting this month it will be all transmission facilities as well.”
The new rules will require generators to maintain operations for 12 hours during a weather emergency. Generators should be able start up quickly and stay running without interruption, which is why it’s important that they’re equipped with the right technology!
This means that if your generator has a seasonal net maximum sustainable rating of 40% and it loses 50%, then you will be contacted by one of those third-party review agencies.
The information about this doesn’t really go into detail on how they’ll determine when someone’s power is at risk so we added more information about what exactly happens during these reviews while also stressing their importance in case anyone doubts whether they should do something or not based off this tip alone!
The PUCT is taking steps to ensure that the electricity supply chain remains stable in case of emergency. They have created a map highlighting key locations and contact information for Texas natural gas facilities, which can be used by utilities during emergencies like hurricanes or other disasters. The new regulation prioritizes the natural gas power plants and other generation sources most critical in priority level for causing an electric grid failure.
TRRC, which is responsible for Texas natural gas production and transportation in the state has adopted rules 3.65 3.66 that are meant to correspond with PUC’s weatherization regulations on trades but arguably much less prescriptive than before-a far cry from how TRRC used its regulatory authority when it first came into being many years ago!
The third rule, 65 was adopted last December and defines criteria for “critical designation.” It requires operators of gas facilities to either acknowledge their critical status or apply for an exception. Those that are established as such are then required by Weatherization standards (which were spelled out in the second section 3.66) if they exceed certain energy emergency responses with ERCOT Alert Level 1-2 when operating generation reserves fall below 2,300 MW. The new wording is more specific about these emergencies being identified at level 1 or 2 instead of just saying any time there’s extreme weather.
The TRRC’s made changes to the critical designation cut-off for gas and oil wells. They have raised that threshold, now allowing more of these resources per day. Increasing natural gas wells to 250 Mcf/d, from 15 Mcf/d previously, and for oil wells to 500 Mcf/d, from 50 Mcf/d previously.
The TRRC has removed the designation requirement for non-critical facilities to apply for critical status, which means that 24.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of gas production will continue supply electricity in ERCOT’s electric supply chain map without applying further certification or verification measures by the TRCC – enough energy according to them!
The updated Rule 3.66, which was adopted in August and goes into effect on December 1st of this year requires critical gas facilities to winterize their operations before then so they can sustain themselves during weather emergencies like people freezing to death and power outages.
The electricity supply chain is a crucial part of our society and these facilities help keep it running smoothly. Natural gas wells, saltwater disposal wells, gas plants that process the fuel into energy for homes across America; intrastate underground storage tanks which are used by power companies to store their natural gas until peak times when demand exceeds supply–these Critical Infrastructure rules address all aspects from production through distribution!
The TRRC has established a new rule that will require weatherization measures in order for facilities to remain open. The enforcement and penalty structure is $1 million per violation, but the commission didn’t tell operators exactly what they need instead implementing an individualized approach by each operator/facility.
Uri has not only helped Texas prepare for energy emergencies but also created new regulations which provide guardrails in the event of weather-related problems. As bad as the winter storm was it hopefully has initiated the needed rules we need to have a robust Texas energy grid.
The Texas electric grid is currently in good shape to withstand another winter crisis like last year’s, but questions remain about whether the changes so far will be enough. In January 2020 ERCOT released its final report on inspections for 2021-22 which declared that after looking at 300 generation and transmission facilities across the state they were all ready this time around following last years’ disasters with power outages due mainly from renewable energies such as wind or solar farms not being able feed energy into our electric grid.
Experts have raised concerns about ERCOT’s winter reliability report, which suggests a potential shortcoming in their risk assessment and questions whether past events are truly representative of future ones when it comes to climate change.
The good news for Texas is that their gas production from the Permian Basin has continued to grow and now stands at a 33% increase from the direction they were going in 2021. The state’s oil industry, on the other hand continues its recovery after hitting rock bottom in 2020 during COVID caused recession when dinosaurs came back into fashion!
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center has predicted that this winter will be warmer than normal in the south, leaving Texans well out of danger. This should give authorities enough time to implement their new plans before they are due for review next spring.
The experts were frank in discussing the current issues Texas gas faces, including how an export license could help Europe and Russia replace lost production. They also talked candidly about challenges that exist there because they’re using imported LNG for now instead of domestic supplies- which means more fuel poverty in America!
Donny has been writing about the deregulated energy markets since early 2007. His knowledge has helped consumers lower their electricity cost.