Christmas freeze was 'nonevent'

The Dallas skyline is barely visible from Winfrey Point in Dallas on Dec. 22, 2022. Temperatures dropped from 45 degrees at 9 a.m. to 25 degrees shortly before noon.

AUSTIN — Texas utility officials touted the grid’s reliability during Winter Storm Elliott, which brought freezing temperatures across the country and state over the Christmas holiday.

Temperatures dropped to as low as 11 degrees in Dallas and 10 degrees in the Midland-Odessa area Dec. 22-25, leading the state to hit winter record energy demands, officials said.

Even so, the grid held up, Dan Woodfin, vice president of System Operations for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, told members of the Public Utility Commission of Texas Thursday.

“At no point during the cold weather operations did ERCOT need to declare an emergency or even get close enough to issue an advisory or a watch for more reserves,” Woodfin said.

While the Texas grid cleared yet another hurdle, it was still tested. The event led the state to break another record on the evening of Dec. 22 and morning of Dec. 23, where demand peaked around 74 gigawatts of electricity.

The grid also experienced 5.7 GW of additional thermal generation outages and 11.6 GW in wind generation outages resulting in tighter conditions on the morning of Dec. 23 than had been the previous evening.

Woodfin added that the Dec. 23 evening presented the tightest conditions as the state continued to experience some outages as well as low producing wind during the day.

Additionally, the state, and other system operators across the country, did underforecast needed load, Woodfin said.

While the state knew Dec. 22 would present a cold weather event, it was deeper and quicker than what weather models forecast, resulting in a higher load.

Woodfin added that grid operators are already evaluating lessons learned and working to improve its modeling and processes.

“I want to emphasize that these underforecasts had no impact on reliability because we intentionally prepared for a higher load than what forecast models were projecting, and ultimately that is what happened so we were prepared for it,” Woodfin said.

PUCT Chairman Peter Lake highlighted Woodfin’s description that Winter Storm Elliott was a “non-event.”

“We had an extremely cold Arctic blast, but it was not a grid event,” Lake said. “That should be an outstanding demonstration of the operational reliability forums that this commission, this agency, staff, ERCOT and the ERCOT teams worked so hard on.”

PUCT leaders also touted changes made to shore up the state’s grid and ensure reliability. This includes the new “firm fuel” supply program that provides incentives to companies to have an on-site backup source of fuel for power plants.

Other rule changes to ensure reliability include weatherization requirements, comprehensive mapping of natural gas resources and improved communication between state emergency response agencies, among others.

“We can see that the grid we’ve got now, the generation we’ve got now, are reliable,” Lake said.

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