United Officials Watching Summer Usage as
Models Predict Above-Average Temperatures
Officials at United again will closely watch how consumers use electricity after the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) announced it expected record electric use this summer and grid conditions similar to summer 2019.
The results were published in its final Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy for the upcoming spring season (March–May) and its preliminary assessment for the summer season (June–September).
“ERCOT has added new electric supply resources, and strong economic growth continues to push up demand in ERCOT,” said ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness. “We expect grid operations to be very similar to last summer.”
As in 2019, the need to declare an energy emergency will depend on a combination of factors, including demand, wind energy output and the number of generators on outage on any given day. ERCOT and its market participants are taking steps to ensure system reliability can be maintained during tight conditions.
Declaring an energy emergency allows the grid operator to take advantage of additional resources that are only available under these types of conditions. Additionally, the ERCOT wholesale market is designed to send appropriate price signals to encourage generators to be available when needed, and for customers to lower their energy use.
Total resource capacity for the upcoming summer season is expected to be 82,417 MW. The preliminary summer SARA report includes a 76,696 MW summer peak load forecast based on normal summer peak weather conditions from 2004 – 2018.
Based on the spring SARA report, ERCOT anticipates there will be sufficient generation to meet system-wide demand under a range of extreme system conditions. The spring SARA includes a 64,233 MW spring peak load forecast and is unchanged from the preliminary spring SARA.
Weather will play a large role in just how much energy Texas consumes, especially during the hottest parts of this summer, said Blake Beavers, vice president of power supply for United.
“United has been preparing for summer 2020 since last summer,” he said. “We have a hedging strategy in place to reduce our exposure to the market during the periods we typically see price volatility. We will keep monitoring our position during the summer months and will be prepared to make adjustments if needed. With the potential for higher-than-normal temperatures this summer, we could expect to see a new peak demand record for ERCOT. The good news is the projected reserves for summer 2020 are higher than they were in the summer of 2019.”
Beavers said United will continue warning members on peak usage days through several different programs including Beat the Peak, a voluntary energy usage notification program that warns members to reduce usage during peak periods through text and social media.
If this summer’s forecast were a Magic 8-ball, it may ask to try asking the question later, said Patricia Sanchez, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.
Overall, between June, July and August, and then again in July, August and September, the models are showing likelihood of above-average temperatures. And while that doesn’t mean hot temperatures won’t break now and then, the entire state and the North Texas area will stay above normal in terms of temperature, she said.
The big variable that hasn’t come clear to meteorologists is what kind of moisture can the area expect, she said. The Pacific Ocean has yet to decide whether it will grant a La Niña year, giving Texas hot, dry conditions, or an El Niño year, giving Texas cooler, wetter conditions.
From Jan. 1 to March 22, Texas experienced its wettest start of a year on record with more than 15 inches of rain. That may bode well for keeping the ground moist and temperatures down as time passes.
“As of now, the trends are not favoring more precipitation, and in fact there are equal chances for one or the other,” Sanchez said. “We know right now as far as spring, we’ve had a lot of rains recently here. So far up to March 25, DFW airport has seen over 15 inches of rain, which is about 7.5 inches above normal for the year. But we’re seeing neutral conditions for precipitation throughout summer. It really could break either way, which is either 50 percent chance of more rain or 50 percent chance of less rain.”