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ERCOT’s Heat Challenges: Balancing Electric Supply And Demand

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been reporting record hourly demand again this summer. ERCOT constantly monitors grid conditions to determine to determine whether voluntary conservation is needed.


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ERCOT recorded four consecutive daily records for electric demand in July, and more hourly records have been set this month.

ERCOT’s Robbie Searcy says balancing supply and demand is the grid operator’s primary chore.

“ERCOT specifically looks systemwide at whether there’s actually enough generation online in any given operating day to meet that day’s peak demand,” Searcy says. “Even in less brutal extended periods of heat, we’re seeing higher demand because our state continues to grow. Fortunately, we’ve also seen additional generation.”

There are a series of steps that can be taken when demand exceeds supply, starting with asking consumers to conserve.

“After that, we would start asking those entities that contract with us to reduce demand,” Searcy says. “They get paid to reduce demand when we call on them for these emergency response services. If we still are seeing that system frequency drop too low, what we have to do then is implement rotating outages.”

Previous All-Time Peak Records*

68,459 MW — Aug. 5, 2015
68,305 MW — Aug. 3, 2011
67,929 MW— Aug. 2, 2011
66,841 MW — Aug. 1, 2011
65,776 MW — Aug. 23, 2010

*These numbers are preliminary and, in some cases, may include exports. Final demand records are subject to change, pending final settlement in the ERCOT market.

Those outages can typically last 15 to 45 minutes.

Searcy says the established target of power reserves is 13.75 percent above expected peak demand, and she says there’s a sufficient planning reserve margin in the coming years.

“Now that does not mean that we wouldn’t have days like we’re seeing coming up this week where we wouldn’t still need to ask for conservation,” Searcy says. “But it does indicate that we think there would be sufficient reserves to manage most of our peak demand needs.”

More electric demand records are expected to be set this summer.


ERCOT Region

Image provided by ERCOT

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