by Kelso King, Grid Monitor
Source – Grid Monitor
Posted 08/12/2020

At the August 11, 2020 ERCOT Board meeting, ERCOT CEO Bill Magness reported that the grid operator has not seen as much Covid-19 impact as expected. There has been no significant impact on peak but there has been a 1% decrease in overall energy use compared to pre-Covid, primarily between 6 and 10 AM. ERCOT data has revealed a consistently different load shape, which Mr. Magness suggested was not surprising, due to changing work patterns.

ERCOT continues to see new load records set, including a new July peak demand record on July 13, reaching 73,962 MW between 4 and 5 p.m. There has been significant load growth in the Far West and West zones, exceeding prior summer peaks in that area by 7% and 9%. The Far West zone reached 4,588 MW on July 15, and West reached 2,301 MW on July 13.

Generation Updates

Since summer 2019, ERCOT approved an additional 3,159 MW of solar and wind nameplate generating capacity for commercial operations (1,159 MW adjusted summer capacity contribution) that was not there last summer.

New wind and solar output records were set in June and July. A new instantaneous wind record was set on June 28, reaching 21,375 MW at 11:22 p.m. A new instantaneous solar record was set on July 3, reaching 3,746 MW at 11:31 a.m.

Mr. Magness noted that ERCOT is starting to see a real impact from utility-scale solar on the way we operate the grid, especially during summer days.

ERCOT’s CEO compared the August 2019 peak to the July 2020 peak, adding that outages have been low and the performance from thermal units continues to be excellent.

Source: ERCOT

The CEO suggested that the biggest change between summer 2019 and 2020 has been the addition of new solar capacity to the system. He noted that, while setting an all-time peak for July, prices were $25 to $33/MWh, reflecting a non-scarcity situation due to the resources on the system.

Examining load wind and solar patterns on July 4, 2020, Mr. Magness noted the now-familiar drop off of wind during the heat of the day. He reported that the emerging pattern continues to show wind declining throughout the before increasing again in the early afternoon and evening hours. Notably, we are now seeing solar generation fill in the dip in wind generation during the low output hours.

Source: ERCOT

Mr. Magness noted that 2019 prices were consistently higher than what has been seen in 2020, including the peaker net margin (PNM), a measure of the profitability of a new gas-fired power plant, which had spiked upward dramatically in August 2019.

Source: ERCOT

ERCOT’s CEO stated that the biggest event so far this summer has been Hurricane Hanna in South Texas. Some wind generation was lost but there were no system reliability issues and no damage to 345-kV transmission lines during the storm. Unsurprisingly, approximately 1,800 MW of wind generation was unavailable during periods of high wind speeds during the hurricane. A number of lower voltage transmission lines suffered damage, with approximately twenty 138-kV lines and ten 69-kV lines experiencing storm-related damage.

There was also a “significant issue” with the North Edinburg to North McAllen 138-kV line. Two miles of line went down in the storm, resulting in “a real balancing act” since that time, managing the grid on a minute-by-minute basis, an extremely challenging situation. However, the line was put back into service several days ahead of schedule, an extremely difficult project, especially in the heat in the Rio Grande Valley and with Covid-19 hotspots in the area.

ERCOT’s CEO reported that, as reported in June, ERCOT is running behind in revenue, primarily due to interest income $15.9 million, which has improved recently, followed by a $9 million decrease in System Administration fees. ERCOT forecasts year-end revenues approximately $25.2 million (10.1%) below budgeted amounts.

Mr. Magness provided an update on various projects. He noted that vendor support for ERCOT’s current Energy Management System (EMS) ends in June 2024 and needs to be replaced by then so ERCOT has committed to have Real-Time Co-optimization of Energy and Ancillary Services (RTC) incorporated by that time, adding that energy storage and distribution generation resource (DGR) solutions need to be implemented by that time as well.

Unaffiliated Board member, Peter Cramton, stated that he loved the slide showing the Passport Program Scope and Delivery, adding that the approach of simultaneously having all of these important projects come together in an integrated fashion is incredibly important because these things are interrelated and it is better to treat them in a holistic way.

Source: ERCOT

Acknowledging that, although it will be ambitious to bring these things together in less than four years, each of which is complex in their own right, he stressed that, not only ERCOT, but stakeholders will have to work really hard to make sure this continues to go as smoothly as they have so far with RTC. Mr. Cramton concluded that in June 2024 ERCOT should be in a position to be “leading the world in modern electricity markets.”

Mr. Magness replied that the commitment he has been seen this year in getting the market rules written, during all of the difficult [Covid-19] circumstances, is a good indication of the commitment that stakeholders have to making sure that these things work.