Texas out to “Get Shorty” in ERCOT Outage

Electric Reliability Council of Texas

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Anyone who has been in Texas during one of its winter storm events knows it can get ugly.  So it was no surprise that the recent winter cold snap and snow ‘messed with Texas.’  But rotating power outages and wholesale power generation prices spiking from $50 per megawatt-hour to over $3,000 sent power detectives looking for scoundrels manipulating the market.

We don’t know as I write this what actually caused so many power plants to suddenly develop broken pipes and other malfunctions when the storm rolled into town.  In a case of horrible coincidence, ERCOT raised its maximum allowable price for peak events as part of its long term contracts with power producers from $2,250 to $3,000 per megawatt hour as a way to induce generators to keep their power plants humming—the day before the storm.

Every Texan remembers the bad old days of Enron and the coincidence was not lost of those shelling out big bucks for the preciously little power available that night.  Hearings will be held and power generators grilled and, no doubt, more long term contracts will be signed to make sure that ugly surprise is well hedged.

Just as coincidentally, power supplies returned to near normal and wholesale prices fell to $30 per megawatt hour on Sunday as Texas hosted the Super Bowl.

There are some things you just don’t mess with.

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