winter storm 2

Downtown New Braunfels. Photo by Jason Whitworth

The state’s electric grid operator ended emergency conditions Friday afternoon, allowing New Braunfels Utilities to return to normal electric operations — but questions remain about what the spiking cost of power during the period could mean for ratepayers here and across the state.

“This week, we experienced an unprecedented winter storm across our region testing the resiliency of equipment, the electric grid, and many times our patience,” said Ian Taylor, NBU’s chief executive officer.

According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, no additional outages were needed overnight Thursday going into Friday to keep power supply and electric demand in balance, and only a few generating units tripped.

Early Friday, about 34,000 megawatt of generation remained on forced outage due to the winter weather event. Of that, nearly 20,000 megawatt was thermal generation, and the rest is wind and solar.

 

What cost?

The power grid has returned to normal operations as the cold blast eased, but the impact of the deep freeze on the wallets of NBU electricity consumers is not fully clear.

The Associated Press reported earlier this week that wholesale power market prices on the grid ERCOT manages skyrocketed from roughly $20 per megawatt-hour to $9,000 per megawatt-hour.

Melissa Krause, NBU’s executive director of communications and external affairs, said there would be a lot of discussion about this at the policymaker, legislator and energy market level.  

“This is also being debated at the Public Utility Commission,” Krause said. “Yes, customers will experience an increase. The cost of power went up to its highest cap at the onset of ERCOT’s level 3 emergency order. NBU has a hedge program which protected us and our customers to some degree, but there was a lot of volatility in the market this week.” 

NBU is working on projections and its strategy, Kruase said, but the outcome on the bottom line for consumers will not be fully known until the market settles down.

One Herald-Zeitung reader inquired about Taylor as a segment alternate member of ERCOT’s board.

Kruase said municipally-owned utilities a year ago voted on Taylor to serve as an alternate to represent them in the absence of the regular board member. 

Krause also said ERCOT’s board members had no influence on the decisions made this week.

 

Conservation efforts

Despite electric systems returning to normal operating conditions, NBU continued to advise customers practice conservation measures that reduce energy consumption.

Some conservation measures

include:

nSetting thermostats to 68 degrees while at home or as low as comfortably tolerable.

nSetting ceiling fans to the winter setting by running them clockwise to pull the warm air down.

nEnsuring doors and windows are sealed properly. Any light through the door indicates a penetration of cold air coming into the home.

nTurning off lights, computers, and other electronic devices whenever possible. 

Information will be available at nbutexas.com and on NBU’s Facebook page at facebook.com/new

braunfelsutilities. 

Customers can view ERCOT’s daily peak demand forecast, current load and available generation online at ercot.com or by downloading the ERCOT mobile app (available for download at the Apple App Store and Google Play). 

For the latest grid conditions updates, follow ERCOT on Twitter (@ERCOT_ISO) and Facebook (Electric Reliability Council of Texas).

NBU encourages customers to text “NBU” to #85700 to enroll in the Texting Outage Notification System to receive automated text notifications regarding outages, or call 830-629-8400 during business hours Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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