By Tom Kleckner
Walker: More Visibility Needed into DERs, Self-Gen
Calling ERCOT’s recently projected reserve margin of 8.1% for 2019 a “very concerning number,” DeAnn Walker, chair of the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT), last week urged the grid operator to gain a “better sense” of the distributed resources and self-generation that could be affecting the system.
“I think we’re getting to a point where we need more transparency into those issues,” Walker said during the PUC’s Dec. 7 open meeting. “I think the electric system is changing, and we’re moving to a more customer-initiated ownership” of energy resources.
Using her favorite example of the mammoth Buc-ee’s convenience stores found along Texas highways, Walker noted how the chain “is dropping gas units behind [the stores] to get away from high prices or to sell into the market.”
“More and more people are going to be doing this,” Walker warned. “I really want ERCOT and the market to move forward to give them more visibility into what we have out there.”
Warren Lasher, ERCOT’s senior director of system planning, agreed with Walker that the initiative does not require a rulemaking from the PUC.
“We have been working with stakeholders on a different number of fronts,” Lasher said. “It’s likely our current efforts are not urgent enough to meet the need associated with the changing grid and the resource reports we have been issuing lately. I would take that need back, and maybe set a slightly different tone working with stakeholders.”
ERCOT has seen a 62% growth rate in distributed energy resources over the last three years, CEO Bill Magness said during a November Gulf Coast Power Association luncheon. Although DERs currently account for about 1.3 GW of capacity, Magness said staff have worked with transmission and distribution providers to map some of the 93 existing registered DERs and to map all registered DERs to the system load. (See ERCOT CEO: Solar Growth ‘an Interesting Challenge.’)
Commissioner Arthur D’Andrea pointed out that the lack of visibility into DERs and self-generation hampers the preciseness of meeting projected load.
“It’s striking how much well-spent time ERCOT [uses] estimating load out in West Texas, and how much time we spend getting it right,” he said. “Then you have that precision undermined by someone and having this giant question mark out there.”
SPS, DOE Dispute Dismissed
The PUC agreed with an administrative law judge’s dismissal of a dispute between Southwestern Public Service and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pantex nuclear weapons facility near Amarillo, Texas (Docket 48440).
The department sought an order from the commission compensating it for excess generation from the facility’s 11.5-MW wind farm. The request was part of a broader SPS rate case but was severed from the application in 2017.
The ALJ found SPS met its burden of proof in showing its billing arrangement with DOE was appropriate and ordered that no changes be made.
PUC Issues $1.49M in Fines
The commissioners approved $1.49 million in administrative penalties following settlement agreements in nine dockets. The largest fine, $1.1 million, was assessed to generator Luminant for providing ERCOT with false telemetry data, which prevented the grid operator from economically dispatching units (Docket 48607).
Two retailers, Source Power and Gas and Reliant Energy Retail Services, were fined $50,000 and $100,000, respectively. Source improperly placed switch-holds on 91 customers who had entered into payment arrangements and failed to remove 71 switch-holds in a timely fashion (Docket 48608), while Reliant was docked for failing to timely send bills to customers and for improperly billing more than 47,930 customers (Docket 48773).
Commission to Intervene in SPS FERC Docket
Following its executive session, the PUC agreed to intervene in Xcel Energy’s request before FERC to change SPS’ transmission formula rate template (ER19-404).
SPS is seeking a $9.4 million increase in its 2019 wholesale transmission service revenues, with almost $5 million being recovered from wholesale customers in the company’s SPP transmission rate zone and $4.5 million being recovered from other SPP tariff customers through regional transmission rates.