Energy Management

ERCOT Sets New, All-Time Record Load

3 min read

Earlier this month in the ERCOT market, six consecutive record loads were set between August 8-11th. On August 11th, record levels were reached at 71,197 MW between 4-5 p.m.

The previous record was achieved on August 10, 2015. On that day, system load peaked at 69,877 MW. Prior to 2015, the record was set on August 3, 2011 at 68,305 MW. That day experienced 100 degree temperatures and drought conditions.

On August 11, 2016, despite the higher system demand, reserve margins were adequate to limit the Operational Reserve Demand Curve (ORDC) charges as wind operating capacity was higher along with coal burns. This allowed gas-fired generation demand to provide a cushion against tighter reserve margins if wind output had not been as steady.

The chart below shows ERCOT load and its new record-setting peaks on August 8th-11th that drove load to a new, record high of 71,197 MW. A break in the humidity over the weekend reduced load that following week to between 40-50K MW. This decreases the chance of volatility in the real-time market. ERCOT real-time prices have averaged in the mid to upper $30/MWh range for most of August. The exception was the Houston zone on August 6th. It averaged $132/MWh that day and was driven largely by transmission constraints of power flowing from ERCOT’s North Zone. So far in ERCOT, generation and transmission owners have performed well in managing the higher demand.



Source: ERCOT

During the week of August 8th, Texas gas-fired generation was similar to last year at just over 6 Bcf/day. However, increased output in wind and coal generation displaced extra gas-fired generation from coming online. Monthly data from July 2016 in ERCOT showed coal generation recovering market share as spot gas prices moved towards $3/MMBtu, coming in 6% higher than July 2015. This is a Texas-size gain of 275% over March 2016 generation levels. That was when coal had its weakest market share at 13% of the stack, when NYMEX hit a 17-year low of $1.61/MMBtu.

Wind generation was higher by 3% points this August (11% of stack) for two reasons. Wind capacity increased 18% or 3,000 MW year-over-year (y-o-y). Specifically, wind improved y-o-y in West Texas, where large concentrations of wind farms are found. As the maps below show, wind speeds at 80 meters high this year are between 100-115% of normal versus 85-95% in 2015. This has helped boost wind generation output in Texas. This is especially true later in the afternoon between 4-5 p.m. when wind increases after its weakest point in the day, which is between 12-1 p.m.

Percent of Normal Wind Speed at 80 Meters

2015 2016
wind-speed-2015.jpg wind-speed-2016.jpg

Source: EarthStat

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