The Electric Reliability Council of Texas [ERCOT]
If you followed the news during the Texas Grid power outage, you may have heard about ERCOT. So, what is ERCOT and what is its role in the Texas electric system? How does it make sure that Texas power remains independent in the wider USA electric system? How does it run the Texas electricity market and any company working in it?
What is ERCOT?
In North America, there are three interconnections: the Western Interconnection, the Eastern Interconnection, and the Texas Interconnected system or ERCOT grid. They work independently from each other to make sure that North American residents get their electricity in a reliable way. The ERCOT board makes sure that power is delivered to every electric consumer and that any power outage is prevented.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas or ERCOT manages the Texas power. ERCOT’s job is to manage the state’s electric load by providing open access to the power grid and ensuring that businesses and customers are connected to reliable supply. ERCOT delivers power to 26 million Texas homes, or 85-90% of the Texas electricity market.
Ensuring that the electricity network of Texas remains independent, yet functional and efficient is the main concern of this regulatory body. It successfully manages electricity production and distribution to every household connected to this extensive electric system. Unfortunately, a smaller network also means more vulnerability as many could witness in 2011 and 2020.
ERCOT: Texas Power Grid
In the most basic sense, the Texas power grid is not a part of the USA power and is not run by the federal energy regulatory commission. All power generators supplying energy to Texas households are run by the ERCOT board, rather than by the federal energy regulatory commission. ERCOT acts as a system operator and does not produce any energy.
The ERCOT grid is massive and covers a total length of around 45,000+ miles of power lines. It also includes energy generation systems and 26 million Texas customers and businesses. The ERCOT region covers the majority of the Lone Star State and includes over 500 energy generation units.
The Texas power grid has been deregulated, for the most part, meaning that a competitive retail market could be created. They ensure that Texas power lines are maintained in the ERCOT region and that the ERCOT board can maintain a competitive wholesale market. Its work is overseen by the Public Utility Commission (PUC), to ensure that transmission is done in a responsible way that guarantees that the businesses’ and homeowners’ demands are met.
ERCOT as an Organization
ERCOT was founded in 1970 as an independent system operator. The public utility commission of Texas oversees the work that ERCOT does. ERCOT operates a competitive wholesale market and ensures that energy transmission and supply can meet the Texas consumers’ demand.
ERCOT as an organization acts as an independent system operator. System operators manage the power network and make sure that enough electric energy is produced to meet current consumers’ demands. ERCOT does not generate any electricity, does not sell electricity, and is not responsible for electricity consumption.
ERCOT ensures responsible electricity production and transmission by managing all its 160 members. The members are electricity-generating capacities, energy providers, as well as any utility company that supplies energy within the ERCOT power lines. As an organization, it manages the intrastate power supply in a way that is little regulated by the Federal Government.
Main Responsibilities of ERCOT
ERCOT has many responsibilities in the state’s electric grid, such as:
- It ensures open access to energy,
- It oversees the competitive retail market,
- It manages the wholesale market,
- It ensured the reliability of Texas power lines and transmission.
Making sure that all its operations are run smoothly and efficiently takes a lot of planning and precaution, but also an ability to anticipate future needs and react timely to them.
Additional responsibilities of ERCOT
- It manages power flow through the power grid: efficient flow prevents blackouts and ensures demand is met with minimal losses,
- Ensures that the transformers and transmission capacity are not exceeded,
- Its board oversees financial settlements, especially of investor owned utilities,
- Ensures that future energy demands are met, especially during hot Texas summers when the AC units draw a lot of power,
- Making sure that all Texas customers remain on the electricity network through proper maintenance.
Where does ERCOT get its power?
ERCOT does not get its electric energy, since it only manages the electricity distribution according to the demand. The ERCOT board’s responsibility is to manage electricity generation and transmission to Texas residents. The electricity they manage mostly comes from natural gas, wind turbines, as well as thermal power plants, and solar arrays.
Why are there so many power outages in Texas?
Texas has a grid and electricity supply that is separated from other states. This gives Texas more freedom to run its energy system the way it sees fit, but it also makes it more vulnerable to power outages, especially during the summer and winter months. As the electricity demands increase, any fluctuation in power providers or energy generation facilities can cause a massive blackout, since the network has no buffer to absorb the shock.
Why do power grids fail?
Power grids fail when energy production does not meet or exceeds energy needs. When there is electricity surplus, the breakers pop to protect the electric system and entire areas can be left without electricity. When there is not enough electricity, the high demand can knock out any electric company and make the entire network more vulnerable to a blackout.
Is Texas part of FERC?
No, Texas is not a part of FERC. ERCOT is regulated by the Texas Public Utilities Commission. This is so because Texas wanted to enjoy a deregulated energy market, to ensure a low energy price for its consumers.
ERCOT manages electricity production and supply and makes sure that the energy needs of businesses and small consumers are met. In a sense, the ERCOT board is responsible for any business, city and household electricity needs being met and that all systems are run smoothly to ensure that the grid operates at its optimum capacity. The ERCOT board ensures that the Texas power supply remains independent from the Federal Government.