The North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s (NERC) 2012 Summer Reliability Assessment finds most of North America has sufficient resources available to meet summer peak demands, however, planning reserve margins in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) assessment area are projected to be below the NERC Reference Margin Level, the threshold by which resource adequacy is measured. In California, reserves are projected to be tight but manageable through the summer months.

With continued growth in peak demand and only a small amount of new generation coming online, resource adequacy levels in ERCOT have fallen below targets,” said John Moura, manager of Reliability Assessment at NERC. “If ERCOT experiences stressed system conditions or record-breaking electricity demand due to extreme and prolonged high temperatures, system operators will most likely rely on demand response and emergency operating procedures, which may include initiating rotating outages to maintain the reliability of the interconnection.

Texas is no stranger to rotating outages. Shortly before Super Bowl XLV, brownouts occurred when extreme cold weather hit the Southwest the first week of February 2011. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation released a staff report making recommendations to help prevent a recurrence of rolling blackouts and natural gas curtailments. Hopefully the lessons learned can help this situation. 

Despite the concerns in Texas and California, according to Mark Lauby, vice president and director of Reliability Assessment and Performance Analysis, NERC has reviewed the operating procedures and preparations in the assessment areas, and in most areas they appear to be sufficient to meet these challenges. Since summer 2011, capacity resources have grown across North America by approximately 12,310 megawatts, most notably within the SERC Reliability Corporation and the Northeast Power Coordinating Council areas. Compared to the 2011 projections, NERC-wide total peak demand forecast is 3,700 MW lower. The largest increase in peak demand is expected in ERCOT, where a 1.7 percent increase is projected.