ERCOT Preliminary Forecast Is Half of 2011 Forecasted Growth in Peak Summer Demand

It’s been a discussion for more than three years, especially since an August 2011 heat spell which saw Texas come dangerously close to black-outs as Texans turned up their air conditioning, and certain generation plants broke down. Since that time, ERCOT — the Electric Reliability Council of Texas — has been reviewing the way it projects growths and supply of electricity. Today, in a workshop at ERCOT, ERCOT released its new preliminary load forecasts, which are significantly lower than previous load forecasts. These preliminary figures are still subject to “tweaks” and final approval from the Board of Directors of ERCOT.

ERCOT found that overall peak demand rose by an annual average of just 1.1% per year between 2003 and 2013. While they projected that annual peak demands would grow by some 2.5% in 2011, they then adjusted that total down to 1.7% per year the following year. Even that appears to have been too high.

A new “neural” model based more on premises — or meter counts — of residential, commercial and industrial entities — finds much lower peak demand growth, with an estimate of 1.3% per year.

It is important to note that these figures are assuming “normal” weather — that is an average summer based on weather patterns since 2001. The Sierra Club believes that weather patterns – or more accurately climate — is becoming more extreme which means we may want to build in some risk into these projections. Still, the ERCOT preliminary results suggest that we may have time to build out new power plants, new more efficient buildings and demand response programs, and more onsite power like Combined Heat and Power, energy storage and onsite solar while we keep the lights on.

Much more information about the ERCOT workshop on its upgraded forecasts can be found here. The new load forecast — again yet to be adopted by ERCOT and the PUC — was not welcomed by those who favor a new capacity market, since they have been arguing there will not be sufficient generation to meet load. Sierra Club’s favors a more nuanced approach with new emergency response and ancillary services, including demand response and energy storage to keep the lights on.

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