Ercot Reliability Monitor Issues Report on the February 2 Rolling Blackouts

Michael Giberson

The Texas Reliability Entity has issued its report on the ERCOT extreme cold weather events and rolling blackouts of February 2, 2011. Texas RE is the NERC regional entity for the ERCOT power system and contracted to the Public Utility Commission of Texas to serve as ERCOT reliability monitor for the state agency. In this latter role it was asked by the PUCT to report on compliance with ERCOT reliability rules during the cold weather event. (The ERCOT independent market monitor has already issued its report on market issues surrounding the February 2 event. See link to report, related KP post.)

In brief, Texas RE finds that ERCOT and ERCOT market participants took steps to prepare for the extreme cold, but the preparations were  not always adequate. For the most part it appears that parties complied with ERCOT protocols. In some cases, rules may have been violated and Texas RE is continuing to investigate. Texas RE notes it is working with NERC on further analyses of the events surrounding the rolling blackouts.

The report indicates that market participants were quick to learn from the failures of February 2. From the report at page 11:

Similar weather conditions occurred in the ERCOT Region on February 9-10; however, freezing equipment issues did not have the same impact as on February 2. ERCOT and many generation facilities implemented lessons learned from the February 2 event and prevented similar issues during the cold weather that followed on February 9-10. These lessons learned include improving winterization of the power plant equipment, starting combustion turbines further ahead in advance of severe temperatures to keep lube oil warm, and exercising moving equipment to ensure that the units will be available.

As previously noted here, powerful economic forces are already at work that will help avoid a repeat of February 2’s system emergency. Generator companies that did not deliver to the market the power they had committed day ahead suffered significant financial consequences (and similarly for retailers that had not contracted sufficient power in the day-ahead market to cover their customer loads, so ended up topping off at the extreme real-time market rate).

Here is the conclusion of the Texas RE report:

Texas RE’s investigation has revealed that, for the most part, ERCOT’s and Market Participants’ conduct during the Energy Emergency Alert that occurred on February 2, 2011, was consistent with requirements set out in the Protocols and Operating Guides. Loss of scheduled generation due to freezing pipes, valves, and instrumentation, and to a lesser extent issues associated with natural gas supplies, caused a shortage of generation reserves which ultimately required ERCOT to direct firm load shed in order to restore system reliability. Although ERCOT and Market Participants took steps to prepare for the expected cold weather, the actions taken proved to be inadequate or ineffective for the prolonged freezing weather which occurred February 1-4, 2011. However, ERCOT and many generation operators implemented lessons learned from the February 2 event and prevented similar issues during the cold weather that followed on February 9-10.

During the February 2 EEA Event, ERCOT Market Participants committed potential violations of the ERCOT Protocols and Operating Guides in connection with failures to meet Ancillary Services obligations, failures to meet Emergency Interruptible Load Service obligations, failures to execute manual load shed in accordance with requirements, and possibly with the performance of Black Start units. Texas RE will conduct additional investigations as necessary to determine the full extent and implications of non-compliance with the Protocols and Operating Guides, and will forward information to the PUCT for further action, as appropriate. Issues of possible noncompliance with NERC standards are being examined as part of Texas RE’s analysis in its capacity as the NERC Regional Entity for the Texas Region.