More than 500,000 Texas electricity customers lost power Sept. 13-14 due to the arrival of the tropical cyclone Nicholas, which strengthened into a hurricane shortly before landfall in the north-central Texas coast overnight. Power demand forecasts dropped, but power prices surged, partly because of stronger natural gas prices.
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PowerOutage.US reported more than 505,000 Texas electricity customers offline as of 8:07 am CT Sept. 13, but by about 2 pm, that number hand dwindled to about 280,000.
CenterPoint Energy, which is the main electric utility for the Houston metro area, reported the largest number of customers without service, at 232,640, followed by Texas-New Mexico Power's 24,439 customers offline. TNMP serves customers along the Gulf Coast south of Houston.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas forecast power demand on Sept. 14 to peak around 59.7 GW, which is about 1.6 GW or 2.7% less than its Sept. 13 forecast for Sept. 14. However, the revised forecast for the remainder of the week, through Sept. 19 indicates an average peakload increase of about 900 MW from the Sept. 13 forecast.
ERCOT North Hub day-ahead on-peak prices were similarly strong, with the trading on the Intercontinental Exchange ranging around $59.50/MWh for delivery Sept. 15 and around $70/MWh for Sept. 16-17.
At the Houston Ship Channel, spot gas was trading up about 15 cents to $5.283/MMBtu, compared with the previous five-year a range of $2.11/MMBtu to $2.96/MMBtu for the same date.
The National Hurricane Center has forecast Nicholas to cross into Louisiana Sept. 15, creating more problems for Louisiana utilities still restoring service after the Aug. 29 arrival of the Category 4 Hurricane Ida on the Louisiana Gulf Coast.
Nicholas follows Ida
Power demand has begun to be restored in the wake of the Ida, but not necessarily wholesale power prices. The Midcontinent Independent System Operator, which contains almost all of Louisiana, reported a peakload of about 94.1 GW as of about 2:30 pm CT Sept. 14, already more than forecast peakload of 93.1 GW. For that date in the previous five years, peakloads have ranged from 85 GW to 105.9 GW, with an average of 93.8 GW.
The MISO Louisiana Hub real-time locational marginal price was $35.41/MWh as of about 3:30 pm CT Sept. 14, compared with a range of $22.43/MWh to $94.20/MWh for the previous five years, with an average of $42.09/MWh.
In a morning news release on Sept. 14, Entergy Louisiana reported that "tens of thousands" of workers had restored power to 815,000 of the 902,000 customers who lost service. As of about 2 pm CT Sept. 14, it had about 90,000 customers offline.
Ida damaged more than 30,000 utility poles, more than 36,000 spans of wire and almost 6,000 transformers in Louisiana.
"In total across the company, then umber of damaged or destroyed poles from Ida is more than hurricanes Katrina, Ike, Delta and Zeta combined," Entergy said.
Entergy said its crews and contractors "are on alert and prepared to safely respond if necessary following Hurricane Nicholas."
Entergy's latest estimated restoration times extend as late as Sept. 29. For some of the more remote areas.
Entergy probe possible
However, the head of the New Orleans City Council, as well as consumer and environmental advocates, are seeking a probe into Entergy New Orleans' response to Hurricane Ida including "failures" that led to a citywide blackout.
New Orleans City Council President Helena Moreno has reportedly called for an investigation into Entergy New Orleans' "power, generation, and transmission failures" that led to the Ida outages. At a Sept. 22 utilities committee meeting, Moreno is expected to introduce measures that also call for an audit of Entergy New Orleans' operations and a study on retail competition as it applies to utility ownership in the city.
And the Alliance for Affordable Energy, the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice and the Sierra Club want the New Orleans City Council to investigate Entergy's "failure to harden transmission lines in an appropriate manner" and "shifting rationales" by the company regarding the black start capabilities of the 126-MW New Orleans Power Station after downed transmission lines left New Orleans "islanded."
In a news conference Sept. 2, Entergy executives addressed questions related to the availability of the New Orleans Power Station, which was brought online about three days after Ida made landfall.
DEMCO, an electric cooperative serving rural areas between Baton Rough and New Orleans, Louisiana, remains the Louisiana utility with the second-largest total number of customers offline, around 6,850 as of 2 pm CT Sept. 14. Some areas show estimated service restoration times ranging from Sept. 29 to Oct. 16.