The ERCOT grid is the only entirely intrastate grid, in which ERCOT serves as a reliability council and an ISO, and an independent division of ERCOT is the Regional Entity under the ERO <<<>>>
ERCOT is responsible for: managing the flow of electricity in a grid area representing 85 percent of the state’s electric load and 75 percent of its land, in both regulated and deregulated markets; scheduling power across a grid connecting 38,000 miles of transmission lines and more than 500 generating units, in both regulated and deregulated markets; reliably operating the grid to ensure it can accommodate scheduled energy transfers; supervising transmission planning to meet existing and future electricity demands; administering electricity markets in its area for services needed to ensure reliability; maintaining a database to record the relationship between retail electricity providers and their customers; and administering the state’s Renewable Energy Credit program.
Outages and Blackouts
Insufficient capacity can result in problems meeting electricity demands. In April 2006, for example, ERCOT ordered rotating outages across the state due to unseasonably high temperatures and limited available generation capacity. <<<>>>
Many generators were offline for seasonal (pre-summer) maintenance, and emergency conditions were triggered by the sudden, unexpected loss of multiple generators. Rotating outages are not "blackouts," they are controlled and managed, and in this case resulted in targeted 10- to 45-minute power outages for some non-critical residential and commercial customers. Within ERCOT, TDSPs controlled the outages, and continued "rolling" the outage to different sets of customers.
Rotating outages such as these help the electrical grid avoid "cascading" blackouts, which are uncontrolled outages that can shut down power across entire regions and take days to correct. Even intentional power outages can disrupt transportation and commercial activities, but cascading outages can be far more troublesome and potentially dangerous. Such an event occurred on August 14, 2003, when the largest blackout in American history affected eight states in the northeastern U.S. and parts of Canada. The blackout affected 50 million people and caused the loss of between $4.5 billion and $12 billion in economic activity.
In all, however, the U.S. electricity grid is extremely reliable, delivering uninterrupted power to customers more than 99 percent of the time each year.31 Prior to April 2006, the ERCOT grid had not experienced rotating outages since 1989.
ERCOT considers electric capacity to be "adequate" at a 12.5 reserve margin; that is, when forecast installed capacity exceeds the forecast peak hourly demand by at least 12.5 percent.
Despite its current reliability, experts say that the nation's power system is under increasing pressure, as demand for power outpaces improvements in grid transmission capacity. In the next decade, U.S. demand is projected to increase by 19 percent, while capacity is estimated to increase by just 7 percent. 34 ERCOT demand is projected to increase by 21 percent - very close to the national average - but ERCOT has been far more successful in adding transmission capacity, reporting that it will add $6.1 billion in transmission improvements over the next ten years.
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