DALLAS — Texans should expect cheaper electricity bills this summer, price trackers say.
Power prices soared in 2022, after Russia's attack on Ukraine upset the global energy market. The market has since stabilized, Energy Ogre chief operating officer David Kinchen says.
"We're starting summer from a very good position of strength, with relatively low gas prices and a good set of storage numbers," Kinchen said, noting that European natural gas reserves are essentially full.
Most Texas power plants use natural gas as fuel, meaning ratepayers' bills are all-but-directly tied to its fluctuating price.
In 2022, while fuel was most expensive, Texans used more electricity than ever. The state broke its peak electricity demand record 11 times last year.
Summer temperatures arrived earlier, forcing power plants to work harder for a longer stretch of time. This spring has been significantly cooler.
"You had a quantity problem with it being very hot and you had a price problem with fuel prices being very high," Kinchen said. "People got bill shock."
Kinchen said now is a good time for ratepayers to lock in to a fixed electricity rate.
Texas' growing population is likely to set electricity demand records again in 2023, ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas said. A seasonal report warns the state's grid doesn't have enough power to meet demand under an extreme scenario where the sun doesn't shine, the wind doesn't blow and natural gas pipelines break.
But there are some factors which might bolster confidence in Texas' grid. Generators' equipment should be in better shape this year, for example.
Typically, power plants go offline during the spring so workers can mend aging machinery. In 2022, Texas asked generators to delay planned outages so they'd continue producing power during an unusually hot May.
The move prompted concerns from industry monitors, who feared delaying maintenance might lead to more significant problems over time.
Generators have since caught up on routine work, Vegas said.
"We've seen a real active maintenance season this spring," Vegas said. "We feel we're in good shape coming into the summer and we're seeing the planned outages down at levels we expect for this time of year."
The grid manager will also pay power plants to maintain new reserve generators which can come online and begin feeding electricity to the grid in just ten minutes, Vegas said.
And ERCOT introduced a new communications strategy Wednesday, which aims to alert Texans days in advance of potentially tight grid conditions. Vegas added he does not expect ERCOT will need to issue many voluntary conservation requests this summer.
"We want to just help people be aware and informed of what's going on," Vegas said. "We want to be more transparent. We want to be more open and get more people comfortable with hearing from us under conditions that are not emergency conditions."