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Official: Texas electric supply will be tight

Associated Press Modified: July 10, 2012 at 12:15 pm •  Published: July 10, 2012
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas power grid barely has enough electricity to meet demand this summer, and an unexpected drop in generation or spike in demand could lead to rolling blackouts, the president of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas testified Tuesday.

Trip Doggett told state lawmakers the electric supply will be tight this summer and warned the agency will likely declare Energy Emergency Alerts asking consumers to cut back on use. It may also implement emergency procedures, including taking industrial users offline. But blackouts would only happen if there was an extraordinary drop in generation or the state experienced record high temperatures.

ERCOT is responsible for managing most of the state's electric grid, while private companies generate the electricity. Many of those companies have complained in recent years that Texans don't pay enough for electricity for them to invest in new generation plants. Last month, the Public Utility Commission raised rates to encourage an increase in power generation.

By managing the grid, ERCOT attempts to maintain a 13 percent reserve margin to be ready should demand spike or a generator shut down unexpectedly. But generation capacity has not kept up with population and demand growth, and ERCOT finds it difficult to maintain that reserve capacity in case of an emergency.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte asked whether the reserve capacity should be set in law, rather than just be a goal, in order to prevent blackouts. Doggett said he would leave that to the Public Utility Commission, which has scheduled a workshop on July 27 to discuss reserve capacity.

"I will look to the commission to see if that should be an imposed minimum reserve or a target," he said. Doggett said ERCOT is constantly evolving its protocols to make sure the state's energy needs are met.

John Fainter, president of the Association of Electricity Companies of Texas, said flexible protocols that allow generators to develop new sources of electricity will help boot supply.

"We can deal with the problem and we are better off dealing with the problem in a way that remains flexible to deal with new technology," he said, adding that additional laws are unnecessary.


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