When it comes to producing wind power, Texas beats California, Oklahoma and Iowa — combined. If Texas were its own country, it would be the fourth largest wind producer in the world.

But with all that wind energy also comes reliability challenges. In response, ERCOT, the organization that manages the state’s main power grid, recently announced the creation of a new “Risk Desk” in its main Taylor control room.

Wind power is intermittent — that is, it can cut out without warning — and so technicians at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas must have substitute power standing by and ready to go at a moment’s notice. The new Risk Desk, which was announced during ERCOT’s April board meeting, allows technicians to improve the accuracy of their wind and solar forecasts, and to make quick adjustments during extreme weather events.

The establishment of this new, renewables-focused operations desk comes as Texas continues setting wind generation records.  On March 31, for instance, Texas wind generators pumped out a record 16,141 megawatts of electricity — or approximately 40 percent of all the power on the ERCOT grid at that time.

Besides boosting the environment, renewable power also helps keep power prices down under certain circumstances. But at least one Texas regulator expresses concern that some strategies used to deal with its related reliability challenges can inappropriately dampen wholesale energy prices. This is important because any such “market failure” can discourage long-term investments in power generation, which, in turn, impacts future system reliability.

Speaking during a recent ERCOT meeting, Public Utility Commissioner Ken Anderson cited the growing number of “reliability unit commitments” on the ERCOT system. ERCOT employs reliability unit commitments, or RUCs, to maintain reliability during unexpected system challenges.

Commissioner Anderson stated that he views the use of the RUC mechanism as a market failure that should be addressed.

R.A. "Jake" Dyer

R.A. "Jake" Dyer

Is a policy analyst for TCAP, a coalition of cities and other political subdivisions that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because high energy costs can impact municipal budgets and the ability to fund essential services, TCAP, as part of its mission, actively promotes affordable energy policies. High energy prices also place a burden on local businesses and home consumers.

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