There should be an adequate supply of electricity to meet fall and winter peak demand, the operator of the state’s biggest power grid said Tuesday.“The system appears to be well-prepared for fall electric needs, and that outlook continues into the coming winter months,” said Warren Lasher, director of system planning for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. In a conference call with reporters, Lasher also said that ERCOT is adjusting its supply-demand model to reflect slower growth in electricity demand compared to the state’s economic and population growth. Energy efficiencies and pricing incentives seem to be restraining demand growth, he said, and ERCOT’s 2014 forecast released in December will reflect those changes.In its near-term outlook released Tuesday, ERCOT projects about 74,000 megawatts of available supply in October and November, and estimated peak demand of about 47,000 megawatts. One megawatt is roughly enough to serve 200 Texas residences during a period of high demand, such as a hot summer day, and about 500 homes during milder conditions.ERCOT typically sees its peak for the year in the summer, and it’s likely the grid has already seen its peak demand for 2013 — 67,180 megawatts registered the afternoon of Aug. 7. That’s short of the all-time record of 68,305 megawatts on Aug. 3, 2011, during a record hot summer.ERCOT said the December-to-February winter season should be able to draw on about 75,000 megawatts of supply, with demand expected to peak at about 48,000 megawatts. About half the homes in Texas use natural gas for heat, which reduces electric demand considerably. ERCOT meteorologist Chris Coleman said October could see some hot days, but November is expected to be cooler than normal. He told reporters that the winter should be drier than normal and mostly mild, with the greatest chance of unusually cold temperatures occurring in February.Lasher said the upcoming completion of new power transmission lines tying West Texas wind farms into the grid will likely spur construction of new turbines.Texas lawmakers in 2005 approved a multibillion-dollar project called Competitive Renewable Energy Zones to bring wind power to major centers of demand, such as the Metroplex.While there have been some periods this year when wind power had to be curtailed because of transmission bottlenecks, that is largely past, Lasher said. The new power lines have encouraged wind farm developers to proceed with plans for new capacity, which should start coming online in roughly a year, he said.
Jim Fuquay, 817-390-7552 Twitter: @jimfuquay