Feds: Texans at greatest risk for summer power problems

June 7, 2013
Fuel Fix
Simone Sebastian

There have been a number of reports about how likely Texans are to find themselves shrouded in darkness at some point this summer, caused by an overburdened grid and our enduring love affair with air conditioning.

ERCOT, the state's grid operator, says it's ready for the challenge. Warnings from the feds sound more perilous.

This week, another federal agency weighed in.

The Energy Information Administration called out the Lone Star State as the region of greatest concern for power troubles this summer. Texas is the only region in the country whose anticipated power reserve margin — the excess electricity supply above expected demand — falls short of its target, according to the agency.

Texas has an anticipated reserve margin of 13 percent for the summer. Its target is 14 percent.

The EIA notes that projections for Texas' peak power demand increased by 2.3 percent between 2012 and 2013. Meanwhile, the state's supply grew by just 1.4 percent.

"The reserve margin estimates exceed the target in every region, except in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas region (ERCOT), which is most of Texas," the EIA wrote.

Other southern states are in much more comfortable positions. The designated Southwest region (encompassing most of Arizona and New Mexico) has a projected summer reserve margin of 22 percent. It's a healthy 38 percent in the Southern region, which includes parts of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. Even our neighbors in the Gulf region, including much of Louisiana and Arkansas, have a hefty reserve margin of 45 percent.

Even California, which recorded the most power outages in the nation last year, has improved its precarious power situation, the EIA noted. It has an estimated summer reserve margin of 19 percent, comfortably above its 15 percent target, though risks remain for the Golden State if it encounters extreme weather conditions over the next few months.

"Although California is above the target reserve margin, it remains an area of concern especially in the southern portion of the system because of its reliance on imported power and the prolonged outage of the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station," the EIA said.

The EIA made its analysis based on data from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation's 2013 Summer Short-Term Reliability Assessment.

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