Sunrise brief: Texas grid struggles to recover from winter storm, massive outages


Mother Nature messed with Texas, not to mention large swaths of the South, as a major winter storm vexed transmission grid operators and power providers starting Valentine’s Day.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) was already dealing with frozen wind turbines in West Texas and limited natural gas supplies to power plants on Feb. 14, when a significant number of additional generating units tripped offline as weather worsened Sunday night.

By Monday, ERCOT reported that around 34,000 MW of generation was offline, including renewables, fossil generation, and nuclear power plants. ERCOT has a total winter generating capacity of around 85,000 MW. Demand was forecast to reach around 74,000 MW on Monday, but fell through the day to around 45,000 MW.

Record demand for power as the cold  set in was met by ERCOT-mandated load shedding as supply and demand curves narrowed to unacceptable margins. Reserve margins at one point Monday were around 1,000 MW. By around 7:30 a.m. central time on February 16, operating reserves stood at 1,480 MW.

ERCOT grid controllers ordered mandatory load shedding as wind turbines froze and gas supplies were interrupted starting Valentine’s Day.

Image: ERCOT

CPS Energy, which serves the San Antonio region, said it set a winter demand record of nearly 5 GW on Monday. It said that if  outages had not been imposed, then winter energy demand would have exceeded summer maximums for the first time in its history.

Austin Energy said that the sheer size of the load shedding hurt its ability to rotate outages among customers, leaving some people without power since early Monday morning. It said that in normal emergencies, outages are rotated throughout its service area. This time, however, the utility was unable to do that because there were no available non-critical load circuits to put into outage rotation.

By 4 p.m. Monday, ERCOT said that it had restored around 2,500 MW of load. It instructed transmission owners to shed around 14,000 MW of load, down from 16,500 MW earlier in the day.

Next door, the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) declared a Level 2 Energy Emergency Alert beginning at 7:22 am central time on Feb. 15. The grid operator warned that operating conditions could continue to tighten through the week because of the winter weather event, as well as “an inadequate supply of natural gas” to fuel an unspecified number of gas-powered electric generation units.

Meanwhile, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) said that it lost both generation and transmission due to the cold weather. The loss led to emergency actions in the region’s western portion to avoid a “larger power outage on the bulk electric system.” Periodic power outages began early Monday morning for some customers in Southeast Texas.

Texas operates its own electric power grid, which covers much of the state. In order to remain free from federal regulatory oversight, the grid has relatively few ties to the rest of the U.S. grid. As a result, ERCOT’s independent structure leaves the state largely unable to import energy when the grid is stressed.

Appalachian Power RFP

Appalachian Power issued a Request for Proposals (RFPs) for up to 300 MW of solar and/or wind generation resources. The request for bids is the first in a series of RFPs Appalachian Power will issue in 2021 to comply with provisions of the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA).

Under the VCEA, Appalachian Power must meet annual targets as it works toward 100% carbon-free energy in its Virginia service territory by 2050. The company is seeking facilities that are at least 50 MW in size and commercially operational by mid-December 2023. It said that proposals with an operational date of no later than Dec. 15, 2024 also would be considered. Bidders may also include proposals with an option for a battery storage system.

Under the RFP, Appalachian Power may acquire a single or multiple solar and/or wind facilities from winning bidders who meet certain economic and operational criteria. Proposals that qualify for federal tax credits are preferred, but not required.

To qualify for consideration, solar projects must be located in Virginia. Wind projects located in Virginia are preferred, but not required. All projects must be interconnected to PJM, the independent regional transmission organization that manages the electric grid in 13 states, including Virginia. Proposals must be submitted by March 31.

Canadian Solar closes fund

Canadian Solar said it closed its Japan Green Infrastructure Fund. The Fund secured $208 million of committed capital that will be used to develop, build, and accumulate new solar projects in Japan. The Fund will also consider green bond placements and project finance loans as it expands its asset portfolio. The Fund marks Canadian Solar’s first platform entry into the private institutional capital pool.

Battery recycler is acquired

Lithium-ion battery recycler Li-Cycle Corp. is being acquired by Peridot Acquisition Corp., a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company sponsored by Carnelian Energy Capital. The combined company will be led by Ajay Kochhar, co-founder, president and CEO of Li-Cycle, and Tim Johnston, co-founder and executive chairman.

The deal represents a combined company pro forma equity value of $1.67 billion. The transaction will provide $615 million in gross proceeds. That includes $315 million in “private investment in public equity” priced at $10.00 per share from investors that include Neuberger Berman Funds, Franklin Templeton, and Mubadala Capital, as well as Peridot sponsor Carnelian Energy Capital, existing Li-Cycle investors including Moore Strategic Ventures, and global marketing and strategic off-take partner Traxys.

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021. All of Li-Cycle’s shareholders will roll their equity holdings into the new public company.

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