Source: United States Department of Energy, ERCOT. Graphic by R.A. Dyer.

Texas should have sufficient generation capacity to safely keep the lights burning for the coming months — even given the announced retirements of several big generating plants.

That’s the word this week from ERCOT, the organization that manages the state’s main power grid. The organization released twin reports this week that outline its projections for energy usage and availability through May.

“(Even) given these capacity reductions, ERCOT still expects to have sufficient system-wide operating reserves for the winter season,” said Pete Warnken, the organization’s Resource Adequacy Manager, in a  written statement this week.

“Our studies show this would be the case even with a much higher-than-expected peak demand,” he said.

ERCOT, also known as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, manages the flow of electric power to 24 million Texas customers across more than 46,500 miles of transmission lines. The organization periodically releases near-term reliability assessments — known as Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy or SARA reports — that compare expected electric generation capacity in Texas with expected electric usage.

This week the organization released its final SARA report for the upcoming winter season, defined as December 2017 through February 2018. It also released its preliminary assessment for the upcoming spring season, defined as March through May 2018.

ERCOT’s winter report projected nearly 81,000 megawatts of total generation capacity to be available in Texas during the season to serve peak demand of 61,000 MW. That projected seasonal peak demand would beat the previous winter peak record of 59,650 megawatts, set in January 2017, according to ERCOT.

The capacity projections in the winter report include nearly 1,400 MW of new generation plants, mostly wind and solar projects, and the possible loss of 3,551 megawatts of generation due to expected power plant retirements.

The preliminary spring report anticipates more than 59,000 MW in peak demand, and sufficient generation to serve that demand.  ERCOT accounted for a range of possible scenarios in calculating system reliability during the spring, including the assumption that peak demand would occur during the height of the spring plant maintenance season in March and April, as opposed to the more common peak period during May.

The final spring SARA report will be released in early March 2018.

A megawatt of power is roughly that amount needed to serve 200 homes on a hot summer day. There are 1,000 megawatts in a gigawatt.

— R.A. Dyer