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Lubbock Power & Light confident in reliability of ERCOT after summer’s record demand

Updated: Sep. 10, 2018 at 5:45 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - The summer of 2018 has caused a record demand for energy across Texas and the grid managing about 90 percent of the state’s power will add Lubbock’s demand in a few years.

"When you talk about having enough resources available during the peak summer season when everybody's running their air conditioners or you talk about making sure you have enough resources available in the winter season for people who heat with electricity, it is important that you maintain reliability," Matt Rose, Public Affairs Manager for Lubbock Power & Light said.

In March the Public Utilities Commission approved LP&L's application to join the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in June of 2021. The next month ERCOT forecasted that the electric grid would most likely see record-breaking peak demand over the summer. In July that record was met with 73,259 megawatts of power demanded from the system.

"There is approximately 80,000 megawatts of generation or power available in the ERCOT market," Rose said. "Every single season, going back a couple of years, you might have seen from news reports that ERCOT has set record demand levels. That does not necessarily indicate anything in terms of the resources available. That is simply the amount of demand being put on the system. Texas is going to continue to set demand records every single season because Texas is growing."

Rose says the margin between the record usage and capacity is smaller with ERCOT, between 10-15 percent, than it is with the Southwest Power Pool, the grid Lubbock is currently on, which he says is 30 percent.

"Today in the Southwest Power Pool you have a larger reserve margin, meaning you have more power available on any given day than you do in ERCOT," Rose said. "But, the Lubbock rate payers pay a premium to have that reserve margin. When we look at it just for the LP&L system you are looking at about $41 million that Lubbock rate payers pay in the Southwest Power Pool that they would not have to pay in the ERCOT, just simply to have a larger reserve margin."

Rose tells KCBD that access to the reserve power is not guaranteed with the Southwest Power Pool since it is a multi-state grid stretching from Lubbock to Canada.

"ERCOT was established and has been operated specifically over the past 20 years as a more efficient market," Rose said. "It's one that really draws upon the principals of a market designed where demand is going to drive investment into that market."

According to LP&L, Lubbock also set a record demand for energy this summer at around 600 MW. Rose says while this doesn't make much of an impact on the margin with ERCOT, more resources will be needed to keep up with demand and shrinking margin he says was affected by several coal plants going offline.

"What we want to make sure of is, as we look to the next 3 years and we start gearing up to that transfer over to the ERCOT market, we want to watch to see what ERCOT but also what the PUC and the legislature do in this upcoming session in terms of addressing that growing demand in Texas."

There is no expectation there will be any outages due to the transfer to ERCOT.

"We have not seen any of the issues that people were concerned about in terms of not having enough power and there were brownouts," Rose said. "The last instance that took place in ERCOT, a brown out due to resources available, was back in 2011."

Rose said LP&L is currently holding public meetings with those affected by the building of transmission lines to join ERCOT. Those landowners should receive information in the mail about the meetings. An application will be sent to the PUC for approval of those lines.

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