The worst drought in more than 50 years in Texas is expected to continue as a weak La Nina weather pattern is predicted to strengthen this winter. Drought has already reduced cooling water needed by coal-fired power plants and may limit electric output from power plants next summer, an official from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT – the grid operator) reported.
At this time, only one small generating unit is currently curtailed due to a lack of adequate cooling water, however a continuation of the severe drought in Texas could result in as much as 3,000 MW being unavailable next summer, Kent Saathoff, vice president of ERCOT grid operations told the board last week.
The drought has lowered the water level at nearly every reservoir in the state, according to the Texas Water Development Board. A lack of cooling water limits the ability of a power plant to operate at full capacity.
Texas’ hottest summer on record pushed power consumption to record levels, straining the state’s electric resources on many days in August.
Grid officials and lawmakers are worried that the drought will compound existing issues that impact the state’s power supply: looming environmental regulations that will curtail output from coal-fired power plants and a lack of new power-plant investment.
ERCOT predicts about 434 megawatts would be unavailable next summer if Texas gets about half its normal rainfall over the winter and spring months and if there is no significant rainfall, as much as 3,000 MW could be unavailable by May.
Power plant owners are taking steps to increase access to cooling water by increasing pumping capacity, adding pipelines to alternate water sources and securing additional water rights. Some water authorities have already curtailed new “firm” water contracts, so it may be harder for plants to secure additional water.
The Texas Public Utility Commission should:
- Reward utilities that exceed their energy efficiency goals.
- Use the money from a program set up to provide utility assistance for eligible Texans that is funded by fee Texans pay on their electric bills every month for the weatherization of low-income homes.
And the governor can issue an executive order that requires all state agencies, schools, municipal and county governments to reduce energy use by 5% next summer and report their savings to the state.
You can email the governor and express your opinion by clicking here.