Why don’t utilities put more power on the grid to prevent shortages?

by admin on July 19, 2012

Shortages are caused by plant failures, grid limits and off estimated demand. Blackouts and brownouts are more common during the summer because of these factors.

Grid operators want to send the exact amount of electricity demanded to the grid. Power plants generate enough electricity to meet demands. If a power plant goes down it could be too late to turn another. To meet peak demand, gas plants will be turned on following a hot summer day. When demand decreases, hydro and gas plants are the first to be turned off. Nuclear plants are expensive and hard to shut down and start up.

Consumers may wonder “why isn’t there more power ‘available’ on the grid to prevent blackouts?” Electricity is like water going through a pipeline. There is a limit to how much the pipeline can hold. In this scenario, voltage is pressure and current is volume. It’s impossible to add volume (voltage) at a set pressure (voltage).

Power outages can occur if demand estimates are off. Because of this, businesses and residences have agreed to turn off power during peak times to prevent brownouts and blackouts. These businesses often use backup generators to provide electricity while they remain off the grid.

Curtailment Programs

Load Resource Participation:

Customer load curtailment can be bid into different ancillary service markets. Participation requirements and compensation depend on the particular market. All programs require customers to have real-time telemetry installed. For Responsive Reserve and Non-Spinning Reserve markets, capacity payments are made regardless of whether the customer is called upon to curtail.

Voluntary Load Response:

Participants get compensated for curtailing electricity load at their will in response to the actual or projected hourly MCPE.

Emergency Interruptible Load Service (EILS):

Participants bid to provide electric load reductions. The program is for helping in emergencies rather than simply high price conditions on the ERCOT grid.

Consumer interested in participating in these demand curtailment programs can call 1-800-971-4020.

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