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Natural gas providers notify ERCOT of supply reductions: What that means for the power grid

The reductions, known as curtailments, are expected to result in a loss of energy reserves between 1,200 and 2,600 megawatts, according to ERCOT.

DALLAS — Officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) say they've received notice from natural gas providers of "some instances" of reduction in supply in the North Texas area, though energy experts don't anticipate a major impact on the statewide power grid.

The reductions, known as curtailments, are expected to result in a loss of energy reserves between 1,200 and 2,600 megawatts, according to ERCOT.

Power generators that are impacted by the curtailments "will be able to use alternative fuels stored onsite or use alternative pipelines," ERCOT officials told WFAA.

While the impact of the loss in megawatts remained unclear Wednesday, 1,200-2,600 megawatts can power anywhere between 60,000-520,000 homes at peak demand, according to estimates on ERCOT's website and an energy expert.

Still, ERCOT officials have remained confident in the state power grid, saying Wednesday that the grid remained "strong" heading into the winter storm.

ERCOT interim CEO Brad Jones said "there is always a chance for local" outages during winter storms, due to ice and fallen tree limbs. But Jones said local outages "are not related to the amount of electricity generated and put on the grid."

"While grid conditions remain strong with enough capacity, our weather forecasts show there is potential for significant frozen precipitation behind this week’s cold front,” Jones said.

Texas over the last year has implemented winterization requirements for energy providers, in the wake of last year's February storm, which knocked out power for millions of Texans.

However, providers of natural gas, which fuels Texas power plants, were not required to winterize their equipment. Legislation passed by lawmakers required natural gas providers that identified as part of the electric supply chain be winterized by the winter of 2023.

Energy experts on Wednesday said the projected gas curtailments would likely not have a major impact on the state power grid. Unlike last year, this week's storm is not expected to be a statewide event and will likely be limited to North Texas and Central Texas.

"These magnitudes of curtailment are not surprising and evidence of the limitations of natural gas as a reliable fuel for generators in cold conditions," said Beth Garza, a senior energy fellow at the R Street Institute. "As long as Houston, Corpus, and the Valley stay above freezing, this coming weather will be a nonevent from a state wide supply perspective."

Michael Webber, Josey Centennial Professor in Energy Resources at the University of Texas, said the gas curtailments, if limited to North Texas, likely won't pose a problem.

"I think ERCOT isn’t too worried because it’s an isolated curtailment and some of the power plants in North Texas have spent the last year getting backup fuel on site," Webber said. "However, if there are widespread curtailments, ERCOT will be very nervous."   

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