ERCOT gears up for hot summer

Four years after thousands of people in the Rio Grande Valley were without power, those running the electrical system in Texas are more prepared for a hot summer.

In a conference call Monday, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said it is confident in its new equipment to keep South Texas online.

Since that outage in 2014, “a new large transmission line was completed down to the Valley,” said Dan Woodfin, ERCOT’s senior director of system operations. “Since that’s completed, we don’t anticipate specific concerns for the Valley this summer, assuming resources are available throughout the summer. There are also additional wind resources we’ll rely on.”

The 2014 outage, which affected McAllen, Edinburg, Harlingen, San Benito and others, was attributed to a “lack of generation capacity,” according to an American Electric Power spokesman.

“There was power in the Valley,” ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said in October 2017. “But it was not keeping up.”

The Valley’s population had become too much for the electric grid. Kip Fox, president for Electric Transmission Texas, or ETT, called the Valley’s growth “unprecedented.”

Last summer, a long transmission line costing roughly a half-billion dollars was constructed through the western part of South Texas to supply power to the Valley, Fox said. This line provides a new wing of power.

But ERCOT isn’t ruling out the relentless South Texas summers causing issues.

“We do have some scenarios where we could have extreme system conditions, rotating outages,” said Pete Warnken, ERCOT’s manager of resource adequacy. “Since we do have more resources, that risk is probably reduced a little bit. For ERCOT, we can quickly respond to system conditions. That’s what our focus is going to be on for this summer.”