Texas ERCOT power shortages (again) April 13

ERCOT ISO Texas has announced the end of today's emergency energy conservation appeal due to a shortage of generation capacity and higher than forecasted demand caused by a cold front.

No this is not an old message. Yep, Texas is having power shortages again in mild April weather.

So looks like ERCOT have 32,000MW of capacity offline for maintenance and repairs, which they claim is not unusual for this time of the year as they gear up for the summer. So generation capacity was only 50,000MW, while demand was 49,000MW. 1,000MW in reserve is right on the nose. Solar production was also down by 3,000MW due to cloudy skies.

Fundamentally, the outlook for energy production, globally, is not that great. Operators are going to have a tougher and tougher time meeting demand as electrification increases, consumer demand increases, and the pressure to use more renewables increases.

Considering that supply and demand must always be balanced, it's a little hard for operators to be conscious about their sources of energy while consumers continue to live as normal. There has been plenty of talk about IDSM (integrated demand side management) through automation with smart grids that can control when folk use appliances, remotely. But practically, most DSM measures will be led by deliberate behavioural changes, through appeals like the one ERCOT made for folk to conserve energy. That won't ramp-down demand as fast as operators would like, and with our habits of flipping switches and expecting the lights to come on and the kettles to boil, it's not a small problem.

Even as I support renewable plants, I am not yet fully convinced that a quick and massive decommissioning of fossil fuels for base load generation is feasible.

I believe the success of renewable generation capacity (coupled with storage) lies in distributed delivery through community micro grids, and not grid-scale deployment.


ERCOT ISO Texas has announced the end of today's emergency energy
conservation appeal due to a shortage of generation capacity and higher
than forecasted demand caused by a cold front.

No this is not an old message. Yep, Texas is having power shortages again
in mild April weather.

a watch that has been cancelled, not an emergency

Apr 13 2021 19:22:55 CST
Physical Responsive Capability < 2500 MW: ERCOT has cancelled the
following notice: ERCOT is issuing a Watch due to Physical Responsive
Capability being below 2500 MW.

there was no supply shortage in day ahead market (not a generation
capacity shortage)

day-ahead forecast peak was ~2800 MW lower than current-day forecast,
as a result actual load exceeded current-day HSL (High Sustained
Limit). The gap peaked 340MW at 4pm
Imgur: The magic of the Internet (screenshot)

ancillary services (10 minute responsive reserve service, 30 minute
non-spin) were deployed to meet higher than forecast demand and worked
as expected

reserve never dropped under 2300MW which would have triggered an
emergency (EEA-1)

emergency response service (additional generation/load resources
reserved for emergencies) wasn't deployed

Pity, I can't access ERCOT's web site (I believe others had the same issue last time). They say I need to show a business reason why access should be granted. I can't be asked.

There appears to be some discrepancy between what ERCOT are publishing and what the media are sharing. Wouldn't be the first time.

But considering it's all over the place, no smoke without fire.


Sounds like we all need to start keeping a few days reserve of energy on hand at home now because the utilities can't be trusted to keep their system online in 2021.

It just makes sense to plan along those lines, really. Despite popular belief, power companies are preferring energy conservation from their customers more than they do sales, because they just can't keep throwing up new coal-fired or nuclear power stations a la the days of old (anyone remember the 1973 and 1979 oil crises?)

Most people would assume that power companies want to sell more electricity so they can make more money, but they dread the days when the network is brought to its knees, even if the revenue will climb. So between asking customers to save more on energy + being able to rely less on fossil fuels for generation, one needs to consider their personal energy security over the long term, fully or partially independent of the traditional grid.

Funny how this obsession with a green grid has made the grid unreliable, resulting in sales of gas-burning generators and perishable fuel. Dare I say it's not been worth it?

I wouldn't say that the obsession is without merit. It's just that regular folk are only seeking the solution from one perspective - that of the power generators. If folk (and that includes the gubbermints) met the power companies half way, renewables would make a lot more sense, more quickly. But as I said before, when we flick the switch, it must turn on. End of. And then we revert to demanding power companies to embrace the additional revenue, or fulfill their mandate to deliver a basic, life-sustaining utility, no matter what.

Unfortunately, there really hasn't been sufficient education to regular folk about what it takes to generate electricity reliably, no matter the season. And yet, there is far more education out there about the benefits of conserving it, and preserving the earth. So the view is not balanced, and power companies as well as oil producers will knee-jerk to either justify or distance themselves, rather than encourage a fair, practical engagement. In the end, he that feels the most pressure, caves... and this can go either way depending on which side of the economic development curve you are sitting.

Nuclear and hydro were the only reasonable obvious choices and ecological paralysis hamstrings those as well.

Ultimately, no target toward zero emissions is complete without some kind of nuclear and/or hydro. Especially as a solution for peak demand, (pumped) hydro will continue to be the most efficient option, if folk are interested in keeping the lights on at 7:45PM on a wintery Tuesday night.

Now is the time to speak the message. Write your elected representatives. Talk to your families and friends about energy. Change minds.

There is room for co-existence, I think. But the honest discussions need to be had, and not the glossy wish list that should be fixed by someone else, because we are just citizens minding our own business.


Funny how this obsession with a green grid has made the grid
unreliable, resulting in sales of gas-burning generators and
perishable fuel. Dare I say it’s not been worth it?

Yes, desire for renewable power sources is totally the reason that power generators neglect proper preventative maintenance and adoption of lessons learned during past problem periods. It absolutely has nothing to do with profit being the most important thing ever. Right?


You do realize that ERCOT is a non-profit organization….


I am aware. That’s also not relevant at all to the point.

Sorry guys, I bought 1210MW for impulse delivery, which very briefly ate
that reserve. I can assure you that the next four days of sunny skies
will regenerate it, though.

In unrelated news, the Rangers got me on an 88MPH speeding ticket.
Anyone know a decent traffic attorney that accepts payment in lotto

Can we keep this mailing list free of politics please? Being for or against renewable energy has nothing to do with network operations.

  • Mike Bolitho

And the good news is that spent nuclear fuel can be recycled (over 90% of it). I know the French are doing it, seeing as they have one of the world's largest nuclear power plant fleet.

The only problem with nuclear power plants is the cost and time required to build them, as a function of the amount of electricity they can generate. Take the UK's Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant build, which will cost about £23 billion, will only start operating in 2025 (if all goes to plan), but will only generate 3,260MW.

This is compared to just under 40,000MW of daily demand from UK citizens, more than half of which is delivered by fossil fuels (mainly CCGT and to a much smaller degree, coal).

One would need to dot quite a few nuclear power plants around the country to make up the difference. And many places don't have enough water to make hydro a base load provider.

Noting, of course, that the UK have some 85,000MW of installed capacity, which is interesting when you consider that over the past decade, demand for electricity on the island has been dropping, even though the population has grown quite substantially in the same time.

Lockdown didn't help (any country, for that matter), but I'd expect demand to rise over next decade, putting even more pressure on a balanced energy source compliment.


Not necessarily as all those large data centres popping up in my neighborhood means better Internet for me and my customers, but also places pressure on the grid, which it needs to deliver that better Internet.


It appears that Mark Tinka <mark@tinka.africa> said:

There is no profit motive for a non-profit company. It’s completely relevant to your response.

For profit companies have similar issues with power generation and maintenance as the way power is generated requires maintenance. No power system is generating at 100% of capability at any single point. Your assumptions of neglect, poor maintenance and failing to learn are subterfuge. Traditional methods are more reliable (so far) than the newer “green” methods.

Just pointing out facts.


The idea that because ERCOT is a non-profit somehow means they would never do anything to save money, or management is not granted bonuses or salary increases based on savings, or have no financial incentive is ridiculous. E.g. Salaries for the top ERCOT executives increased 50% from 2012 to 2019. “Just pointing out facts.”

Also, green vs. traditional has little to do with why ERCOT had problems. It is undisputed that ERCOT failed in 2011, was handed a report by the feds showing why they failed and how to fix it, yet ERCOT did not require suppliers to enact those fixes. Those actions had a direct, operational effect on the Internet. And as such, seem perfectly on-topic for NANOG.

Why that happened may still be on topic. For instance, you state correctly that ERCOT is a non-profit (although you and I disagree on precisely how that affects things). But the suppliers are not. Are we 1000000% certain the CEO’s salary jumping far far far far far faster than inflation had nothing to do with protecting the suppliers’ profits? I am not. However, that question is only tenuously operational.

Bringing it back to the topic on hand: How do we keep the grid up? Or plan for it not being up? Simply saying “green power is unreliable” is not an answer when many RFPs at least ask what percentage of your power is green, or flat out require at least some of your production be green. Making a blanket statement that “XXX is a non-profit” does not absolve them from poor business practices, which at least saves the non-profit money and frequently results in profits outside that entity. Etc.

I think "planning for the grid not being up" is more within our control than the former :-).

Data centres serving base power load from solar PV, for example, can be one place to start if they have the land (or rooftop space), in economies where they are not only allowed to do grid feed-in, but are also able to draw those credits from the grid in the evenings and/or on cloud days. Of course, if the grid allows this but is unreliable, then this doesn't work very well. But if it does, low-hanging fruit.

I think data centres are already good at performing demand side management with how they use energy, given that they are now classified by how much electrical energy that they can deliver vs. how much space they have to sell. So while these activities help alleviate pressure on the national grid, they probably have a more meaningful impact that gives the data centre the opportunity to operate its own mini grid that would survive a national grid outage, while minimizing its carbon footprint. But this requires even more deliberate, multi-faceted initiatives from the data centre operator, which costs money.

National grid prices are only going in one direction, the world over. Couple that with an expected reduction in generation capacity (reliable or otherwise) due to the rising levels of electrification, one would not be entirely off-base if they approached the problem from a "How do we stay up, regardless of the grid's condition" vs. "How do we go green", because I believe the answer to both those questions innately calls for renewable generation, operated at a very small scale to the rest of the nation.

Think about this: there are more mobile phones in Africa than there are people with electricity. At its most basic, those phones need to be charged. The same can be said for most of the developing world. Care to imagine what shambles the power companies will be in when those people finally get on to the grid? It's not like they don't need their Facebook, Google or Instagram :-)...


Not what I was saying. The demand for virtue-signaling green energy is not an effective strategy to actually having power available.

I appreciate the nuances, but the need to imply that a profit motive was the issue is not proven. This issue was NOT foreseeable except with the perfect reverse 20/20 vision. It’s like saying that I shouldn’t have built the house where the tornado hit.

The issue was not only perfectly foreseeable, ERCOT has a ten year old document explaining PRECISELY how to avoid such an occurrence happening.

Did you miss the second paragraph below?

My reading of the reason ERCOT were concerned is that it was due to some generation plants being taken offline for maintenance/repairs, as prep work for the upcoming summer, when they came close to running out of juice.

I did not get the impression - from what I've read in the news anyway - that they were caught off-guard, apart from, perhaps, underestimating the forecast.


Patrick - I hope that your determination of failure isn’t dictated by the federal government telling you so. :flushed:

Again, green-energy solves none of these issues. In fact, it is likely less green, and more expensive than the traditional solutions.

Much resect for you and I really appreciate your views on these topics.