As the historic winter storm swept through Texas last week, officials from the Texas Electric Reliability Commission (ERCOT) asked the federal government to temporarily suspend environmental restrictions on several power producers.
The request signed by Bill Magness, CEO of ERCOT, requires the U.S. Department of Energy to issue an emergency order and declare that “there is an electrical reliability emergency in Texas that requires the intervention of the secretary.”
The request was sent on February 14 and asked David Huizenga, the minister of energy, to allow certain power plants to operate at maximum levels and allow their emissions and wastewater discharge to exceed federal limits until February 19.
The emergency request read: “This period will ensure that ERCOT may continue to experience unprecedented cold weather, forcing the generator to stop operating during the period of more supply,” “According to the judgment of ERCOT, housing in restricted areas The power outages of local companies and local companies pose a greater risk to public health and safety than temporarily exceeding the permitted limit.”
The U.S. Department of Energy’s requirements stated that this storm “is expected to result in record winter power demand, which will even exceed ERCOT’s most extreme seasonal load forecast” and “this period will become the most extreme in the history of Texas. One of the events that affects the country.”
DOE approved ERCOT’s request at 7:41 PM CST on February 14. ERCOT officials could not tell when KPRC 2 made a request to DOE, but did provide us with a notice of “all ERCOT market participants” and informed them of the DOE request issued at 5:58 PM Pacific Standard Time.
You can read the full notice here.
The required wording is quite different from the public statement issued by ERCOT officials three days ago.
ERCOT spokesperson Leslie Sopko told KPRC 2 on February 11: “At present, we believe we have the tools to maintain a reliable system.”
Although ERCOT did not release a message on February 14 to ask the public to save energy, some elected officials criticized the organization for not sounding more alarms.
Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said: “If someone tells us,’We are in big trouble,’ we will make a completely different decision.” “We would have opened the greenhouse, we would give people A place to go.”
Henry said he didn’t know that ERCOT would have such concerns on February 14. Even after the storm, Magness said he believed that ERCOT’s forecast was accurate and accurately predicted customer needs. Dan Woodfin, senior director of system operations at ERCOT, said last week that, unexpectedly, 185 power plants were lost at the height of the storm.
“You know this is bad, why don’t you pass this information to us?” Henry asked. “Why do you insist on rolling out the blackout instructions?”
Henry said that the county did not receive a call from ERCOT officials, but did eventually receive some information from energy providers such as CenterPoint and Entergy.
“No one called us, we had to call them and asked,’When will it start to roll?” Henry said: “We have had someone in the dark for 24 hours in 16 degrees weather. “
Dr. Daniel Cohan, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University, understands why ERCOT made the request and why the DOE approved the request.
“I am an environmental engineer and I never want to see plants emit more pollutants than they should, but everyone realizes that we are in a dangerous situation,” Cohen said.
Cohen said he disagrees that ERCOT officials adequately predicted customer needs during this storm.
“They have planned a storm as strong as the freeze in 2011, and our storm is even stronger,” Cohen said. “Their initial plan, at least under the plan they released in November, expected a 5-10% reduction in demand.”
ERCOT officials stated that they used the 2011 winter storm as a baseline for preparation and prediction. As KPRC 2 reported, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and North American Electric Reliability Corporation stated in a 300-page report that power producers’ winter overwintering procedures were “either inadequate or not fully followed”. However, the cold protection plan submitted by the power plant to the Public Utilities Commission at this time is voluntary. ERCOT officials stated that they conduct random checks on 100 of the 600 factories each year to see if they are following the antifreeze plan, but they admit that they have no right to force factory owners to make any particular type of plan.
North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) has management authority over power plants, and the company will adopt mandatory cold protection rules in November 2021.
Governor Dan Patrick is outspoken about ERCOT’s assessment of preparations for this storm.
Patrick said: “I believe ERCOT is not ready yet. They told us that they are ready. Obviously they are not ready.”
On Thursday, the Texas Senate and House of Representatives will convene hearings to investigate the causes of these failures. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) also investigated the Texas power grid.
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