There they go again, pulling that fear tactic, the “we’re gonna swelter (this is Texas after all) in the dark on a respirator without a job” because if they don’t build coal plants, we’re gonna have blackouts in August 2009. That’s a whole lot different than the NERC review of Texas generation and transmission reliability in the NERC 2006 Long-Term Reliability Assessment. Hey, duh, where do you think I learned about those mothballed gas plants???

Read the article from the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram below and count their examples of histrionic hype:

Deal to scrap new TXU plants leaves future supply uncertain

Mar 3 – McClatchy-Tribune Business News Formerly Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News – Dan Piller Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas

Those who worry about an upcoming shortage of electricity in Texas point to the week of August 9, 2009.

That’s when projections from the energy consortium that operates the state’s power grid show a shortfall of almost 1,000 megawatts in North Texas for what is likely to be a time of peak air-conditioning usage.

What the industry portrays as the Great Texas Blackout can’t be predicted with certainty. But numbers from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas provide a troubling preview.

Its outlook has become even more relevant in the past week, as TXU Corp. scuttled plans for eight of 11 coal-fired power plants in a high-profile compromise with environmentalists as part of a $45 billion buyout bid.

Come August 2009, ERCOT predicts, electricity demand in the state’s northern zone, which includes Dallas-Fort Worth, will total 25,827 megawatts. Dallas-based TXU and other generators will be able to produce 24,403 megawatts, according to industry estimates. One megawatt can power about 800 homes.

The sole hope for new generating capacity now is a 518-megawatt plant that TXU will build on its generating site at Sandow, northeast of Austin. If two other coal plants are approved, they would come online right at crunch time or shortly after, according to TXU and ERCOT.

TXU and ERCOT focused attention on the projections of a looming power shortage as TXU sought fast-track approval for the 11 coal-fired plants that would have increased its power production by almost 50 percent, helping meet increasing demand throughout the region for years to come.

But now that TXU has scaled back its plans, what do the projections look like?

Pretty dire, according to the industry. But there are cushions that the industry hasn’t discussed much.

Trudy Harper, president of Tenaska Power Services Co., which generates 3,200 megawatts in Texas and schedules electricity for TXU’s competitors, said many businesses have gone to interruptible power, which could be saved during peak loads, as well as other conservation measures that could forestall the day of reckoning.

Also, TXU could produce about 2,000 megawatts at older, mothballed plants that can be pulled back into service to bridge the shortage, gaining perhaps two or three years.

Calpine and NRG have generator plants in the works, including natural gas plants, that are expected to be online in three to five years.
Pat Wood, former chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, thinks returning the older plants to service would be enough to save the day.

“The problem is those older plants are very expensive to operate, so that makes the electricity more expensive at a time when Texas is going to want to cut electricity costs,” Wood said.

He said more plant builders will step forward, particularly now that TXU has taken much of its plans off the table.

“You’ll see a mix of coal, natural gas and nuclear come on,” Wood said.
Harper agrees, saying: “There’ll be room for more generators. I think you’ll see them. But they take four or five years, so we don’t have much time to wait.”

The head of the company that supplies most of the electricity in North Texas — and which has the majority of residential customers, thinks that the state would scrape through the potential shortage but that things would be tight.

TXU Chairman John Wilder said he is no more than “cautious” about the ability of TXU and other generators to meet local power demands in the next three to five years. “We can’t let the reserve margin get much lower,” he said.

Harper said: “I don’t let myself be panicked about it, but the generation situation could become scary.”

In coming years, the electricity margin is likely to become a much-discussed topic among Texas policymakers and business leaders. Considering that Texas’ margin of surplus electricity has fallen from more than 25 percent at the beginning of this decade to 15 percent this year and will be down to 10 percent by 2009, it is safe to say that projected demand will draw than passing interest.

Texas’ electricity surplus, and the resulting low rates, has been a prime engine for economic growth. Chambers of commerce, in wooing corporate relocations and new operations, could always tout cheap and available electricity, along with inexpensive land, no pollution problems and a relatively educated and energetic work force.

When demand peaks — in Texas, that’s on the hottest days of the year — the surplus dwindles and the marginal prices for the last units of electricity thrown onto the system can soar. Even with Texas’ historic margins, wholesale prices can jump to $300 per megawatt hour or more during peak periods.

But it is only during the hottest time of year that Texas comes near its peak usage and when the need for surplus power may approach the limit.

On Tuesday, the temperature in Fort Worth reached a balmy 79 degrees — warm enough for short sleeves but not enough for most folks to turn on the AC.

On that day, ERCOT reported a peak statewide demand of 34,500 megawatts, little less than half of the grid’s 71,756-megawatt capacity. North Texas consumed about 12,000 megawatts.

But on, a business day when schools were in session and the temperature reached 104 degrees, Texas’ grid reported a record demand of 63,330 megawatts.

About 20,000 megawatts were consumed on the North Texas portion of the grid.

“It’s really dramatic what air conditioning does to electricity demand, and the peak demand periods are caused when air-conditioning use is highest,” said Tenaska’s Harper.

OK, let’s do some math. 71,716 MW capacity, 63,330MW peak, 8,386MW of headroom, and there’s a lot more generation coming on line. Something tells me that they’re going to be just fine…

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