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5 Things to Know About ERCOT

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ERCOT has been a hot topic in the news as most of the state of Texas has been without power for several days until very recently. This was a catastrophe as a February chill that left millions of Texans without power and had to suffer through below freezing weather that contributed to 10 deaths statewide.

However, few people outside of Texas know what ERCOT is. For this blog are 5 things for you to learn about ERCOT.

Why Was ERCOT formed?

ERCOT (the electrical grid) was formed 75 years ago during World War II. In wartime, there was a great need for power along the Gulf Coast for the U.S. military, and electrical utilities in Texas agreed to work together to help the war effort. As of 20 years ago, ERCOT officially became the first independent service operator (ISO) in the U.S. The purpose of the energy council came when the Texas state legislature under Governor Bush charged ERCOT to be the governing body to facilitate power flows and being a neutral broker for businesses as the state’s governing body wanted to move electricity into a competitive market.

5 Things to know about ERCOT
An illustration of each interconnection in America and Quebec

Why does Texas have ERCOT?

The short answer is The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The FERC’s main duty is to regulate interstate electricity, natural gas, and oil sales throughout the country, as charged by the Federal Power Act signed by FDR in 1935. They monitor the Eastern, Western and Quebec Interconnections. However, as Texas was already running ERCOT as an electrical grid prior to the bill, they didn’t want to abide by the same standards as the rest of the continent when it came to their electricity.

However, Texas is still bound to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) reliability standards, which include:

  • Faculty Planning
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Voltage and Balancing
  • Interconnectivity

How many people do ERCOT service to?

They service 90% of the state’s power to more than 25 million Americans. The only areas ERCOT doesn’t service to is the western and eastern tips of the state, as shown by the picture below.

5 things to know about ERCOT
An illustration of what land ERCOT covers
  • The areas that aren’t monitored by ERCOT are part of other grids.

Who is in charge of ERCOT?

There is a chain of command in ERCOT that goes as such:

  • ERCOT is subject to oversight by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC).
  • ERCOT’s governing body is made up of a board of directors made up of representatives from each of EROCT’s market segments (areas of the state where ERCOT has a presence)
  • The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) makes recommendations to ERCOT’s board of directors
  • The board appoints officers to manage the day-to-day activities who work with personnel critical for certain ERCOT components.

What happened to ERCOT during the freeze?

In response to a cold-weather event, 34,000 MW of electricity generation was lost that caused major blackouts throughout Texas. This equated to 4 million customers losing their power for hours or days at a time. Because of this, Texan residents were forced to live in below freezing conditions in their homes.

But there is good news!

ERCOT has recently become operational again, and the state of Texas is on its way to recovering from the events of the past two weeks.

Here are some links to articles if you want to learn more about ERCOT in Texas:

http://www.ercot.com/about/profile/history

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/02/17/texas-power-grid-why-state-has-its-own-operated-ercot/6782380002/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_Reliability_Council_of_Texas

https://www.ksat.com/news/local/2021/02/16/why-does-texas-have-its-own-power-grid/

Hopefully this blog helped answer some questions you might’ve had about ERCOT. What did you find most helpful?

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