ERCOT, also known as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, schedules power on an electric grid that includes more than 500 generation units. These units serve Texas and Texas alone.
But ERCOT also shares jurisdiction over a handful of very unusual power generating facilities — six to be precise — that also serve adjoining areas. That is, these plants serve both ERCOT and some other grid, such as the Midcontinent Independent System Operator. Some of the power from these dual-certified plants flows to customers outside Texas.
Operational experts, consumer representatives and other interested parties met this week to consider the important technical challenges presented by such plants. What happens, for instance, if ERCOT were to call upon one of these plants during an emergency — but at a time when it is serving an adjoining grid?
ERCOT already has rules governing such plants, although thorny questions remain. During meetings at ERCOT’s headquarters in Austin, the organization’s staff presented a white paper outlining numerous technical challenges associated with such plants as well as possible guidelines for future action.
Some of the challenges identified by staff include:
- How should such plants be accounted for in the technical system reports that ERCOT engineers require for planning purposes?
- What kind of financial reimbursements should be made for the loss in revenues to a power plant if it is prevented by ERCOT from fulfilling its obligations to a neighboring grid?
- Should ERCOT’s rules be clarified for those situations in which the Texas grid operator requests a neighboring grid to relinquish its control over a switchable plant?
The power plants in question are the Antelope Station in Hale County, the Elk Station in Hale County, the Tenaska Frontier facility in Grimes County, the Tenaska Gateway facility in Rusk County, the Frontera Generation facility in Hidalgo County and the Tenaska Kiamichi Generating Station, which is located in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma. All told, the plants can provide about 4,159 megawatts of power, or enough electricity to serve more than 830,000 homes on a hot summer day.
Deliberations were conducted in two specialized subcommittees at ERCOT — the Wholesale Market Subcommittee and the Reliability and Operations Subcommittee — and more debate is expected in the coming weeks.
R.A. Dyer is a policy analyst for TCAP, a coalition of more than 170 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.