ERCOT leadership on forced outages: “It’s very concerning”

Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 11:00 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Two weeks after Lubbock joined ERCOT, the state power grid is asking consumers to preserve energy.

It’s because unexpected mechanical failures forced 12,178 megawatts offline for repairs.

ERCOT issued a conservation alert until Friday, asking consumers to preserve power for the sake of the grid.

“This is not consistent with fleet performance over the past few summers and like I said, it’s very concerning,” Warren Lasher, senior director of system planning at ERCOT, said.

As of 2:30 Monday afternoon, ERCOT reported three to four times the number of forced outages in its system than what it expects this time of year. Lasher says he can’t explain why the mechanical failures unexpectedly piled up.

“The analysis has to be more why across the fleet are we seeing all of these unexpected, unplanned, unscheduled maintenance issues,” Lasher said.

For the 30 percent of Lubbock residents still on Southwest Power Pool’s grid, it’s a different story. SPP has issued a “resource alert” until Wednesday. Wes Reeves with Xcel Energy says that’s not the same as asking customers to conserve, but putting member utilities on notice that conditions are tightening. He’s not aware of any forced outages in Xcel Energy’s area.

“It appears unlikely that we will have to enter an energy emergency alert,” Lasher said.

Senior leaders at ERCOT say they’re not expecting outages at this time. When asked on Lasher’s confidence getting through the summer without a blackout, he said he found the current number of units on outage very concerning.

“Especially when we are, a day like today, where there are concerns about scarcity conditions where we have called for conservation, if we do see several large units trip that could dramatically change the status in the control room,” Lasher said.

Lasher was asked if people should buy their own generators.

“I don’t think I can speak to what individuals should do for their own preparation and accommodation,” Lasher said.

In a letter sent to the governor Monday, Eddie McBride, the president of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, urges him to make ERCOT a top priority in special sessions. He says Monday’s warnings reinforced there is still work to be done to ensure businesses and families have reliable access to electricity.

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