Archive for December, 2011

Texas Electricity Reserves: Grim Outlook for Electric Companies in Texas

It will be a grim outlook for electric companies in Texas as they will be caught in a “power” play between keeping the fires burning in old power plants and keep Texas electricityreserves at safe levels, and complying with new environmental rules imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Unlike water or gas, electricity is not stored but generated as needed and the shutting down of antiquated power plants will have serious implications on the state’s generating capacity.

 

In a latest assessment by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), significant concerns were raised regarding the lack of Texas electricity reserves by next summer and that electric companies in Texas may not have enough generating capacity to meet demand by the year 2013. What complicates things is the fact that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid is isolated from the emergency power supply systems from other states and can be cut off – a catastrophic event in the making that should be addressed now.

 

Capacity Assessments

ERCOT is targeting at least 13.75 percent Texas electricityreserve levels to ensure continued grid operation even during high temperature scenarios similar to what was experienced last summer. This reserve may be enough for electric companies in Texas to sustain increase in usage from consumers as well as generator outages and breakdowns.

However, the latest biannual assessment released by the grid operator for the next 10 years projects reserve margins to be only at 12 percent, or 2,600 megawatts less for the peak seasons in upcoming summers of 2012 and 2013. This lower projection was assessed after higher load forecasts were announced, compounded by additional announcements from electric companies in Texas planning to shut down several outdated power plants.

Power Play 

The US Department of Energy recently stated that it has the legal authority backed by the Federal Power Act to require the continued operation of power plants during energy emergencies to keep the grid capacity safely above the projected demand. This puts electric companies in Texas in a dilemma as many plans to shut down coal-fired power plants to comply with the new EPA rule – compliance to either federal ruling would mean defiance against the other.

What this imply is that when electric companies in Texas keep the power plants running to prevent rolling blackouts from occurring, they would be penalized for environmental violations. ERCOT’s forecasts however indicate that rolling blackouts is not a theory but an upcoming possibility and will come to reality the moment power generating units are idled or shutdown.

ERCOT however reported that it would not put electric companies in Texas to be in position that would break the law by asking them to continue operating power plants to ensure grid reliability. The EPA on the other hand insist that generators need not close down power plants to comply with the new rule but instead should switch fuels, purchase emissions allowances, and boost pollution controls.

With ERCOT’s forecast putting a grim outlook for Texas electricity reserves in the coming periods, legislations are currently being drafted by Texas lawmakers that aim to protect power plants from lawsuits from breaking environmental laws by continuing operation as a response to Department of Energy orders. Experts on Environmental and Natural Resource Law stated that the EPA can waive compliance for electric companies in Texas and would do so according to the needs of the state.

About Shop Texas Electricity– Shop Texas Electricity helps consumers and businesses compare and shop for their electricity plans in Texas. Learn more about Shop Texas Electricity by visiting us at www.ShopTexasElectricity.com

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The Time to Shop for Texas Electricity Rates is Now

In a deregulated energy market such as what is implemented in Texas and one of the main things people who have the power to choose energy options would like to know what would be the best time when they would shop for Texas electricity rates. As experienced over the last few years, the best period to shop would be during the winter months when historically Texas electricity rates were at their lowest and by locking in these rates in a long-term fixed rate plan, consumers would definitely get big savings.

 

Now, recent events and projected scenarios in the Texas electricity landscape are affirming the wisdom in shopping for Texas electricity rates now. Many residents will definitely remember the rash of electrical emergencies announced by ERCOT during the height of last summer’s heat wave that placed the state in a brink of rolling blackouts due to lack of capacity. Demand shoot up as consumers turned on their air conditioning at full power to combat the heat, almost eating up Texas electricity reserves prompting the electric grid operator to declare emergencies.

 

The same problem is foreseen the next time summer comes around unless additional capacities are realized. However, the cold winter conditions in the coming months are also projected to affect overall Texas electricity capacity. So, before all these projections commence and eventually affecting supply, it would be wise to be proactive and start to shop Texas electricity rates.    

 

Threats in Texas Electricity Supply

When the extreme winter conditions start to hit the state, it is projected that Texas electricity demand will shoot up to 60,000 megawatts. This is higher than the 54,000 peak demand that current grid capacities can supply during normal weather conditions. Current overall generating capacity is at 64,000 megawatts which could dip down to only 57,000 when extreme weather conditions strike.

 

This is further aggravated by the looming changes in clean air policies announced by the EPA, which could dip generating capacities further as old coal-fired power plants will most likely be shut down. With these developments, Texas electricity capacities may not be enough to maintain the 13.75 percent margin required during extreme weather conditions. There are over 59,000 megawatts of capacity under review and unless these additional capacities are realized, residents could be facing a serious threat to the Texas Electricity supply in the horizon.

 

The Ideal Time to Shop for Texas Electricity Rates 

With these projected scarcity in supply that the state could potentially encounter in the coming months, it is expected that electric companies will increase Texas electricity rates to recoup their losses in revenues. What this implies is that consumers should not wait for the full impact on winter to shop for Texas electricity but should make their move now – before Texas electricity rates shoot up.

 

Texas residents should start looking around the marketplace and start shopping for Texas electricity rates while they are still low. The next step would be to lock in these rates for a long term plan, preferably for a 12-month period as indicators point to potentially much higher rates not only in the coming winter season, but is projected to roll over to the subsequent months as well.

 

About Shop Texas Electricity– Shop Texas Electricity helps consumers and businesses compare and shop for their electricity plans in Texas. Learn more about Shop Texas Electricity by visiting us at www.ShopTexasElectricity.com

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Are Texas Electricity Providers Ready for the Coming Extreme Weather?

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s electricity grid operator, recently announced that the coming extreme weather conditions this winter may require more generating capacity from  Texas electricity generators. Without this additional capacity, the state may face a new rash of electricity emergencies and may eventually result in rolling blackouts, similar to what occurred in February of this year.

 

The question now hanging in consumers’ minds is whether Texas electricity providers have enough generating capacity to meet potential simultaneous worst case scenarios: extreme winter weather that may cause damages to utilities and power plants resulting in generation outages and the mothballing of several coal-fired power plants by Texas electricity providers to comply with new EPA clean air requirements. Although ERCOT admitted that the risk for outages may be on the low side, the potential issues are still present and worthy of being highlighted for increased consumer awareness.

 

As a proactive step, ERCOT is currently working on changing some rules pertaining to the grid operator’s emergency demand response program and has coordinated the Public Utility Commission of Texas in this regard. On top of that, ERCOT has also asked Texas electricity providers to review their existing capacity levels and work out additional capacity that they can contribute to the overall grid. 

 

Winter and Rolling Blackouts

Under normal weather conditions, Texas electricity providers can have an overall capacity of 64,000 megawatts which could effectively supply power to the 54,000 demand during peak hours. However, the extreme weather conditions this coming winter could increase Texas electricity demand to 60,000 megawatts. This can be aggravated by the fact that power generation could dip down to 57,000 during such conditions and would be unable to meet demands during peak hours.

 

This is reminiscent to the occurrence of rolling blackouts last February, the second time it hit the energy capital during the last few decades. The extreme weather conditions during that time forced Texas electricity providers to shutdown power generators. The problem almost repeated last summer when the extremely high temperature levels triggered increased Texas electricity demand, prompting ERCOT to mobilize its emergency demand response program.

 

Are Texas Electricity Providers Ready to Meet Demands? 

Since May, available generating capacity by Texas electric providers dropped by 4 percent according to ERCOT. This raised concerns from several sectors fearing that demand during the coming extreme weather cycles in winter and subsequently during the next summer may not be met unless additional capacity is generated.

 

Each megawatt generated by Texas electricity providers is enough to feed 500 homes on the average under normal weather conditions and electricity usage. This figure drops down to only 200 homes during extremely hot weather conditions, brought about by longer air conditioning operating times.

 

ERCOT reported that 13.75 percent marginTexaselectricity generating capacity reserves are sufficient to meet abnormal weather conditions and potential generator outages. However, the grid operator projected that reserve generating capacity may fall short and will reach only 12 percent margins. There are however, an additional 59,000 megawatts of capacity in review that could be used to beef up the grid, but there are no substantial finalizations that such capacities in review will ever materialize.

 

About Shop Texas Electricity– Shop Texas Electricity helps consumers and businesses compare and shop for their electricity plans in Texas. Learn more about Shop Texas Electricity by visiting us at www.ShopTexasElectricity.com

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Texas Electricity and the New EPA Rule

Despite several protests and lobbying efforts, the state of Texas has been included in the new clean air regulations that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently implemented to reduce the amount of harmful emissions generated by power plants. The new EPA rule requires electric power plants from 27 different states including Texas electricity generating plants to reduce harmful emissions down to specified levels.

 

For Texas electric power plants, the EPA rule requires a 47 percent reduction of harmful emissions or estimated as equivalent to the reduction of 244,000 tons of sulfur dioxide emissions each year. The EPA stated that Texas electricity power plants can utilize several viable options to reduce emissions such as upgrading power plants to include more boilers and scrubber, switch to a different fuel other than coal, or use coal with lower-sulfur content. Texas electric companies have up to March of 2013 to comply with these new EPA requirements. 

 

Cleaner Air… Better Health… Less Jobs?

Most of Texas electricity is generated through coal-fired boilers that emit sulfur dioxide. This chemical is known to cause several environmental hazards such as soot, haze and even acid rain. Soot is made up of very tiny and fine particles that can be absorbed or inhaled into the body and has been clinically proven to cause breathing problems, heart issues and even premature death.

 

According to the EPA, clamping down on the amount of sulfur dioxide from these coal-fired electric power plants will give huge health benefits to the people of Texas and surrounding states. The EPA estimates that the specified reduction of emissions with this new rule could save up to 1,700 Texan lives each year on top of the tens of thousands of lives saved from other affected states.

 

To comply with this new ruling, Texas producers such as Luminant will be shutting down coal-fired electric plants with the highest emission levels. It will also shut down the lignite coal mines where the fuel used to feed these power plants are coming from. The company will instead use low-sulfur fuel on some of its power plants that will be retrofitted and at the same time the company will also invest over $280 million on enhanced pollution control systems with their other electric power plants.

 

While the EPA and other proponents of this new environmental ruling is happy that some of the older, outdated and inefficient coal-fired Texas electricity power plants will be shut down, thousands of Texas residents will lose their jobs in the process. As in the case of Luminant that will layoff more than 500 employees from the lignite mines that will be shut down, other companies shutting down their power plants will also encounter the same scenario. However, new jobs will also be created as focus on mining will be shifted towards low-sulfur coal mining.

 

Impact on Texas Electricity Supply 

Another fear that people lobbying against the new EPA rule is voicing out is the impact on Texas electricity supply. Shutting down the power plants will definitely affect the total electric grid capacity of the state. A 1,200 to 1,400 megawatt reduction in capacity will result in rolling blackouts across the state. Earlier this summer, Texas encountered an electricity emergency due to the significantly immense increase in demand for electricity brought about by the extremely high temperature levels.

 

What this implies is that new Texas electricity power generation capacity should also be undertaken to supplement the loss in capacity from the electric power plants that will be shut down. While some companies are refocusing investments on low-sulfur coal power plants, other companies that have already invested in new lignite coal power plants will not have enough capital to pour into new capacities. The EPA however is confident that supplies and capacities will be met, while new emission levels are complied with.

 

About Shop Texas Electricity– Shop Texas Electricity helps consumers and businesses compare and shop for their electricity plans in Texas. Learn more about Shop Texas Electricity by visiting us at www.ShopTexasElectricity.com

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New Updates on Advanced Metering System Deployment in Texas

The state of Texas is at the forefront in the deployment of Advanced Metering technology, or what people refer to now as smart meters. The “smart” in advanced meters is the real-time communication and interaction between customers and their Texas electricity utility. This opens up a whole new world of benefits for the consumers with the power to select electric options.

 

In summary, what advanced metering systems do is to help consumers take better control of their Texas electricity usage, lower their bills and reduce their impact on the environment. On the other side of distribution channel, Texas electric companies can better manage and operate the power grid with automated features and real-time electricity usage analyses – unlike the old grid where many processes are still performed manually.

 

 The Benefits of Advanced Metering Systems

The following discusses the benefits of advanced metering systems in further detail, both from the consumer side and the Texas electric utility side.

  • Increased      Usage Control – the real time feedback that consumers can get from the      smart grid give them better control of their electric usage. With better      control of their usage come lower Texas electricity bills. On top of that,      reduced or more controlled usage will also reduce the amount of harmful      emissions and thus contribute in the protection of the environment.
  • Automated      Systems – Unlike the old grid, advanced metering systems will provide      greater automation for the new Texas  electricity grid. Manual meter readings will be a thing of the past      and so will inaccurate billing. In a deregulated electricity market such as in Texas, consumers can easily and      more swiftly switch from one Retail      Electric Provider to another. This will also prompt the Texas electricity suppliers to      provide better services and more innovative products
  • Better      Grid Maintenance – The real-time feedback that smart meters give      provide Texas electricity      utility companies a better maintenance and monitoring system for the grid.      Problems with the electric supply      can easily be detected and addressed by the companies. There will also be      lesser need for Texas electric  companies to routinely check the grid, providing increased safety for      employees and better privacy for consumers.
  • A      Modern Texas Electricity Grid      – Advanced metering systems will also allow the use of gadgets, tools, and      other home appliances with “smart” capabilities to be used in homes and      offices. Usage settings can be adjusted automatically and will also allow      scheduled reduction during peak grid load.
  • Greener      Options – Aside from reduced emissions due to the reduction of electricity usage during peak      hours, advanced metering systems also enable proper integration of Texas electricity supplies coming from renewable energy resources into the main grid.

 

Advanced Metering System Deployment in Texas 

As of August 15, 2011, there are over 3.6 million advanced metering units installed in the state of Texas, delivering real-time feedback and control for Texas electricity consumers and utility companies. Texas electric companies that are already ahead in the deployment race are already registering over 69% deployment among their users, while other companies have also initiated deployment now.

 

A Texas electricity consumer that has already been hooked up with a smart meter can monitor their usage data using a separate In Home Device (IHD) that will be provided. This set-up will also open up the influx of innovative products from Retail Electric Providers such as energy monitoring services, pricing schemes based on time of use, and the possibility of pre-paid systems for transient consumers.

 

About Shop Texas Electricity– Shop Texas Electricity helps consumers and businesses compare and shop for their electricity plans in Texas. Learn more about Shop Texas Electricity by visiting us at www.ShopTexasElectricity.com

 

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