ERCOT Allowed to Bypass Rules in Freeze


High-voltage wires and poles are covered with frost | Image by Shutterstock

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) requested emergency approval from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to bypass certain emission standards, if necessary, to help keep the electricity running in Texas.

This was done in order to maintain the grid’s reliability after state officials declared that the power grid was ready for the forecasted below-freezing temperatures.

ERCOT sent a letter to the federal government on Friday, asking for clearance to bypass air quality emission standards as needed. The letter stated that, should homes lose power, it would pose a “far greater risk to public health” than if the council were to surpass specific permit limits.

The order received emergency approval from the DOE to bypass those environmental regulations so it can continue generating enough power, despite the council’s previous statements that it has been able to operate without any problems.

ERCOT officials said the DOE request was a preventive measure. The order expired at 10 a.m. Christmas Day and the organization has not requested a renewal.

“ERCOT does not lightly request this authorization,” CEO Pablo Vegas wrote. “It understands the importance of the environmental permit limits that are at issue.”

“The request, which was approved yesterday, would allow generators to promptly respond if conditions warranted,” officials later wrote in a statement.

“ERCOT has sufficient generation to meet demand,” the statement continued. “Every available on-demand generation resource is contributing electricity to the grid during this extreme cold weather event.”

The DOE declared an emergency in Texas and granted ERCOT’s request.

“While the vast majority of generating units in the ERCOT region continue to operate without any problem, a small number of units have experienced operating difficulties due to cold weather or gas curtailments,” the Energy Department said in its order.

On Saturday, temperatures rose above freezing but are forecasted to drop again overnight.

ERCOT’s seasonal forecast for peak demand was off by more than 10%. High demand is expected to continue, as the supply of wind-powered energy is expected to drop off, according to KHOU 11.

Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted about the grid, “Texas had the highest power demand in any winter.” He also said that Friday was the second “highest demand day for winter power. … No Texan has lost any power because of the ERCOT grid.”

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