Ercot Broke Rules During Wind Emergency…

Michael Giberson

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported over the weekend that Texas grid operator ERCOT broke the rules during the response to last Tuesday’s emergency conditions brought on by a sudden loss of wind power. The rules call upon ERCOT to make appeals through the news media for conservation during emergencies.

ERCOT officials acknowledged that they violated that rule this week because by the time they could have contacted the media, the crisis was over.

In documents filed with state regulators, ERCOT attorneys also said that by appealing for dramatic energy conservation measures, they could have actually made matters worse.

That’s because the organization had already taken steps to restore stability to the grid, ERCOT attorneys said in documents on file with the PUC.

“The detrimental effects and public alarm resulting from ERCOT’s issuance of a media appeal would have outweighed the public benefit of a media appeal because of the short duration and facts surrounding the … event,” ERCOT attorneys wrote.

Seems reasonable under a “first do no harm” principle.

A story in the Houston Chronicle looks a little deeper into the non-wind conditions on the ERCOT grid: “It appears several power providers didn’t perform as expected, according to a spokeswoman for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s quasi-public grid operator, but names won’t be revealed at this point.”

The Chronicle also quotes Rob Gramlich, policy director for the American Wind Energy Association who drew the obvious conclusions from Tuesday’s pair of public power events (the Florida outage and Texas wind): “No generation system operates flawlessly all the time, which is why we need to have well-equipped system operators that can address system shortfalls.” Gramlich added, “Wind, like all generation technology, is best used as part of a diverse portfolio of sources.”

And by the way, clearly consumer-side response can be an important part that emergency response. While some generators were slow to respond to ERCOT’s calls for more power, reliability on the system was protected largely due to the 1100 MW of industrial load that rapidly, and voluntarily, dropped off the system.