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05/01/2013

Texas electric supply tight but improving

The state's largest power grid says electricity supplies could be tight during hot summer weather, but it also said its longer-term outlook is improving. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which serves about 85 percent of the state's electricity demand, said in its final summer forecast that it could initiate  calls for conservation on the hottest days. "We are expecting above-normal temperatures throughout summer in most areas," said Kent Saathoff, an ERCOT executive advisor.

ERCOT said it expects a peak power demand of 68,383 megawatts, just slightly more than the existing record of 68,305 megawatts. A megawatt is enough to power about 200 Texas homes during the hottest afternoons, when air conditioners are blasting. Power generation available to meet that demand is estimated at 74,438 megawatts, which includes 925 megawatts of new capacity from a McLennan County coal-fired facility and 700 megawatts in new wind power capacity. The state's ongoing drought isn't expected to create problems, which can result if cooling water for power plants is restricted.

ERCOT's summer 2014 outlook calls for a reserve margin of 13.8 percent, right at the grid's preferred minimum of 13.75 percent. The reserve margin is the excess of estimated capacity over estimated peak demand. That's up from ERCOT's December estimate of 10.9 percent. The margin was boosted by additions of more than 1,500 megawatts of gas-fired, solar and wind capacity expected to come online by next summer, plus the earlier start-up of two new gas-fired plants previously announced by Panda Power.

-- Jim Fuquay

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