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ERCOT OKs 2.6 GW of gas, storage, renewables capacity for commercial operation

Highlights

Texas regulators want dispatchable capacity

Winter forwards moderate since September

Retirement may offset gas plant additions

Resources totaling 2.6 GW of capacity, encompassing natural gas-fired, battery storage, solar and wind generation, were approved for commercial operation in October in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and another 1.8 GW neared commercial operation in the month. Such developments would tend to weaken winter power prices.

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The development of dispatchable capacity – 510 MW of gas-fired generation and more than 354 MW of battery storage – would tend to address the Public Utility Commission of Texas' repeated concern that ERCOT needs more dispatchable generation to be able to back up all of the renewable power being added to the state's fleet.

With October's additions, announced in the ERCOT Generation Interconnection Status Report, released late Nov. 1, the grid operator has 28.2 GW of wind nameplate capacity, 7.1 GW of solar capacity and 823.4 MW of battery storage in commercial operation.

Mid-February's deadly storm, which left about 4 million Texas customers without electricity, some for days, resulted in unprecedentedly high natural gas prices, which has tended to drive up winter power forwards, according to the S&P Global Platts M2MS Forward Curve.

However, since mid-September, the relative normalization of gas storage positions has resulted in steadier gas and power prices, albeit at higher levels than in August.

Since September 14, Houston Ship Channel January-February forwards have ranged from a low of $5.422/MMBtu Sept. 22 to a high of $6.885/MMBtu Oct. 5, and settled at $5.886/MMBtu on Nov. 1.

For the same period, ERCOT North Hub January-February packages have ranged from a low of $74.60/MWh Sept. 23 to a high of $94.50/MWh Oct. 5, and settled around $78.60/MWh on Nov. 1.

Gas additions, subtractions

The 510-MW gas turbine project approved for commercial operation in October was ProEnergy Services'Topaz Power Plant in Galveston County, near Houston.

However, the addition of this dispatchable capacity may be partially offset by Austin Energy's Nov. 1 announcement of plans to retire its 420-MW gas-fired Decker Creek power plant effective March 31. This retirement would occur unless ERCOT deemed the facility needed to maintain grid reliability, in which case ERCOT would have to negotiate reliability-must-run payments to cover operations and maintenance costs.

A 102-MW gas plant in Houston's Harris County has been approved for synchronization, meaning it can generate in the ERCOT grid but does not yet participate in the market. This is the final step before commercial operation.

In addition to the 102-MW gas plant, ERCOT has approved more than 703 MW of solar capacity and 348 MW of wind capacity for synchronization.

The step before synchronization is energization, and ERCOT has approved 503 MW of wind generation and 101 MW of battery storage for this stage.

ERCOT deemed more than 472 MW of solar and storage projects inactive in October, meaning they had failed to meet certain completion milestones.

Also, project developers canceled wind and storage projects totaling almost 452 MW in capacity in October.

ERCOT generation project status changes in October
Commercial operation approved
(MW)
Natural gas
510.0
Solar
970.0
Storage
354.4
Wind
765.0
Synchronization approved
Natural gas
102.0
Solar
703.3
Wind
348.0
Energization approved
Storage
101.0
Wind
503.0
Deemed inactive
Storage
100.8
Solar
371.4
Canceled
Storage
202.4
Wind
249.5
Source: Electric Reliability Council of Texas