ERCOT caught in political crossfire publishes reliability roadmap – POWER journal

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The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has unveiled a roadmap that outlines critical improvements to improve network reliability for “adequate and reliable” resources such as natural gas, coal and nuclear power.

ERCOTs July 13th – published 60 point roadmap is rooted in two far-reaching laws passed by the governor in June require besides a number of reforms, a revision of the organizational supervision and weathering mandates of the electricity market for electricity producers.

But in his opening letter Brad Jones, former ERCOT Chief Operating Officer, who was named Interim President and CEO by the organization's board of directors in April this year after Bill Magness was fired in the February freeze, noted that ERCOT is also “working” with the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) to implement “immediate” orders from Governor Greg Abbott in a letter dated July 6th. “We also gathered ideas from many Texans, including clients, city guides, heads of state, current and past regulators, environmentalists and market participants, to help us identify key improvements, ”Jones wrote.

As an independent organization, ERCOT has presented its “roadmap” The definition of requirements to meet the reliability of the power region prepares the publication of its final analysis after the events following the power outages in February in August. Since the February event, ERCOT has called for two more opportunities to save energy, citing tight conditions: In Aprilwhen 32 GW of generation failed, and in June when 11 GW were reportedly in forced outage.

Details are still known about the Arctic event in which the Texan network operator took the initiative three days of widespread load shedding as it swung steeply towards system collapse. In one comprehensive report published by the University of Texas at Austin this week, researchers stressed that the failure of the electricity and natural gas systems before and during the winter storm Uri “had no single cause.

The researchers pointed out generation errors of all kinds; an underestimation of demand; the severity of the storm; rapidly deteriorating network conditions; Failures of natural gas systems; and limited natural gas storage. “The grid operator ERCOT has managed to avoid a catastrophic failure of the power grid despite the loss of almost half of its generating capacity, including some black starters that would have been needed to jump-start a complete breakdown of the grid. ”They concluded.

Even so, the event had “unprecedented effects”, including enormous financial disparities. “Natural gas suppliers who could produce and transport gas reported unexpected profits. Many financial sector companies operating in the ERCOT energy market also reported high profits, ”they said. “The financial losers included power generators whose equipment failed, natural gas-dependent generators who could not obtain the fuel or who were not covered by high natural gas prices, and utility companies (power retailers, municipal utilities, and rural power cooperatives). ) that were inadequately secured. “

Net Electric Reliability Council of Texas generator failures at the start of each hour February 14-19, 2021, by cause category. The highest unavailable capacity in the period from February 14 to 19, 2021 occurred on February 16 at ~ 8:00 a.m. and amounted to 52,037 MW. Courtesy: ERCOT (version date: April 22, 2021) Net capacity failures and reductions by fuel type, relative to the expected contribution from wind and solar energy. Courtesy: ERCOT (version date: April 22, 2021)

Abbott's instructions are badly accused, and there are no special features

In his letter to the PUC, Abbott asked that state regulators immediately “rationalize the incentives within the ERCOT market” promote the development and conservation of adequate and reliable sources of energy such as natural gas, coal and nuclear power. ”Although he did not detail a path for incentives in the competitive market, Abbott said that the incentives“ must be directed towards the types of electrical generators we produce Need for reasons of reliability ”.

The governor also urged the PUC to allocate reliability costs to generating resources “that cannot guarantee their own availability” – such as wind or solar power – reflecting action rejected by legislators in May when they drafted Senate Bill 3 (SB 3). Instead, the law is closely tailored to the requirements for reliability in extreme events. In particular, it requires ERCOT to be developed adequate skill and performance requirements for providing service during an extreme event and penalties for loss of service.

Abbott suggested, however, that market rules, by and large, should ensure that all power producers can deliver a minimum amount of electricity at any given time. He added, “If they don't, these generators should bear the cost of this failure. Otherwise, an uneven playing field will arise between non-renewable and renewable energy producers and create uncertainty about the available generation in ERCOT. ”

Abbott also called for ERCOT to “draw up a maintenance plan” for non-renewable generators “to ensure that there is always sufficient power on the grid”. And finally, he called on the PUC to commission ERCOT to “accelerate the development of transmission projects that increase the connectivity between existing or new switchable generation plants and areas of need”.

In response to the governor's letter, but without intervening in the politicization of network resources, Jones of ERCOT said that the network operator had “taken more time” so far. proactive, aggressive approach to ensure that sufficient generation supply is ready to meet customer demand. ”This includes increasing the amount of generation“ that is running at a given point in time ”. ERCOT also “bought significantly more reserves than at that time a year ago,” he said.

Significant achievements to date by ERCOT

ERCOT's 60-point roadmap, meanwhile, highlights several other initiatives that have been taken to ensure reliability. These include:

  • Proposal of a new market rule that obliges generators to report all forced failures and to automatically release failure information in the event of a grid event.
  • Improve situational awareness by proposing a new market rule for generators to provide more frequent operational updates.
  • Take a more aggressive approach to running the network. “This will have an impact on outage approval, resource use, maintenance alerts, and system risk communication, as well as wholesale prices. ERCOT will work with the PUC to take into account the impact on reliability and make necessary adjustments to ensure proper pricing, ”said the network operator.

In addition to revising the market processes “to continuously perform planning assessments required to bring resources back online in anticipation of strained grid conditions,” ERCOT said it will also assess and communicate its assessment and communication of “extreme weather scenarios with low probability and high impact, including Temperatures “has improved, duration, precipitation, humidity and wind.” She plans to update these methods in her regional report on Seasonal Resource Appropriateness Assessment (SARA). So far, it has also included short-term solar forecasts in existing models and started an initiative to “recognize when ERCOT forecasts show a high degree of variability” in order to check whether additional reserves need to be procured during the difficult to predict time periods.

ERCOT is also a leader in market protocol reforms so that fixed load shedding is taken into account in price signals for market shortages. “This adjusts the pricing to the operational conditions,” it said. It has also revised the market protocols to limit the prices for ancillary services to the system-wide limit of supply. These efforts make the market “more predictable and stable for market participants and create a better market for customers,” it said.

A long to-do list

However, much more needs to be completed, particularly to fill the fuel safety gaps, noted ERCOT. The company is currently evaluating market incentives to improve fuel safety and plans to consider on-site fuel supply, “including secured long-distance delivery contracts.”

It is also crucial to evaluate and develop a plan to improve the accuracy of the generation reports to ERCOT. These efforts can “determine whether journeys to resource adequacy that result from low frequency require changes in market operations”. Generator weathering efforts, as mandated in recent legislation, will also be a regulatory priority. ERCOT plans to “review weathering and emergency operations plans for generation resources”. It will then provide “information, technical expertise and analysis to the PUC to support rule setting and implementation”.

Significant is planned to promote and “advocate” PUC actions in order to begin work on improvements to the Black Start Plan. “Although the entire work of this plan is aimed at avoiding the need for a black start process, it is up to the responsible network operators to invest appropriately to minimize the duration of the process, if it is ever needed,” said ERCOT. “This will protect Texans and the Texan economy in the event of the one-in-a-million event.”

Finally, ERCOT's long to-do list also specifically addresses the governor's demands. It said, for example, that it “will review the reliability of the current and forecast mix of resources and assess market changes in order to create incentives for sufficient disposable resources”. On another point, it added that it also intends to specifically assess “that inverter-based resources such as wind and solar generators are needed to provide additional reliability attributes such as the ability to network”. It also plans to conduct a study “to measure the effects of different levels of wind and solar penetration, including the effects of energy storage and allocable energy and the appropriateness of revenue for each of these levels”. And it will “assess the potential costs and benefits of increased transmission both internally and externally from ERCOT and improve coordination with other power regions”.

ERCOT plans to extend its roadmap “rregularly “until the end of the year. “In order to continue to reliably serve the millions of customers and companies that depend on us, a change is required so that ERCOT can continue to operate reliably,” said Jones.

– Sonal Patel is Senior Associate Editor at POWER (@sonalcpatel, @POWERmagazine)


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