December 2, 2014

The Electric Reliability Council says reserves are expected to exceed 15 percent through 2018.

By Laylan Copelin
Austin American Statesman

Hackeberry Wind Farm
Wind turbines generate electricity at the Hackberry Wind Farm, about 50 miles north of Abilene. Wind provided almost 10 percent of energy use in Texas in 2013, according to the Electric Reliability Council. CONTRIBUTED BY AUSTIN ENERGY

The state’s primary electricity grid should have plenty of power reserves, thanks to better forecasts of wind generation and new gas-fired plants, according to a new report.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the grid that serves three-fourths of the state, said reserves are expected to exceed 15 percent through 2018.

"ERCOT expects to have sufficient generation to keep up with demand and maintain the planing reserve margins needed to support reliable operations in the next several years," said Warren Lasher, director of system planning.

During the 2011 summer drought, state officials were concerned that low wholesale electricity prices and high demand could lead to rolling blackouts during brief periods of peak demand for electricity.

But ERCOT has rethought how it forecasts electricity loads, including how much of its wind production it can count on, and new power plants have opened.
Since the last forecast in May, the ERCOT region has added more than 2,100 megawatts of new gas-fired generation, more than 700 megawatts of wind power and a 38-megawatt solar facility.

"This forecast is a snapshot of our expectations in the coming years and we’ll continue to monitor the situation closely," Lasher said."The specific forecast could change as generation owners announce new resource additions and any changes to their future operating plans for existing resources."

Specifically, the forecast could change if pending Environmental Protection Agency emission rules force coal plants either to cut back or close. Also, the state’s large wind industry has relied on federal subsidies that may or may not be continued.

The state has more than 11,000 megawatts of wind generation, the most in the nation, but ERCOT only counted 8.7 percent of installed wind generation in its past reports. ERCOT this fall raised its wind averages based on historical data.

ERCOT now assumes it can count as much as 56 percent of coastal wind generation and 12 percent of West Texas wind power during peak demand for electricity.

The difference is that coastal winds tend to blow during summer afternoons, when electricity is most needed, while West Texas winds tend to peak at night.

Energy officials have predicted that Texas will come to rely more on natural gas, wind and solar generation and less on coal as new emission standards are enforced.

In 2013, natural gas contributed 40.5 percent of all energy use, coal accounted for 37.2 percent, nuclear was 11.6 percent and wind provided almost 10 percent, according to ERCOT.

Contact Laylan Copelin at

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