AUSTIN, Texas — We are looking at some very cold temperatures here in Central Texas over the next 12 hours, and if Thursday night was any indication, we do not have a firm idea of how much demand for electricity there will be, besides "a lot." Thursday night, ERCOT missed the forecasted demand by as much as 10,000 megawatts at some points.
ERCOT underestimated how much demand there would be by about 23 percent.
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“ERCOT and the PUC have some explaining to do. I think they definitely owe the public an explanation. That is a frightening forecast miss,” said Doug Lewin, host of the Texas Power Podcast, who pointed out that the percentage of the forecast was off.
I reached out to ERCOT Friday to ask some questions. The spokesperson for ERCOT told me via email that "we are unable to schedule an interview at this time. ERCOT expects sufficient generation to meet demand. "
Lewin says Thursday night -- wind generation was a big contributor to grid stability, during the day Friday -- solar was key, and Friday night -- it is natural gas. Natural gas plants winterized after the February 2021 blackout, but that does not mean producers did.
“You could weatherize it to the nines, you could build a facility around it to keep it hot. If you can't get fuel to it, it's not going to work. So that is an issue and gas supply has been an issue,” said Lewin.
The result: tonight, Texas could be flying blind into the coldest night in years, and Lewin says explaining the demand and the supply would help ERCOT manage a nervous public.
“I would like some kind of media availability even if just by phone if they don't want to do it at the state operations center or whatever, fine. But I can't imagine not having a media availability when we're heading into the night where it's somewhat uncertain,” said Lewin.
Some of the reasons for the missed forecast include the state population, which has now topped thirty million; how poorly Texas homes are insulated; and the popularity of certain heating systems that require more energy in circumstances like this.