ERCOT Issues RFP to Procure 3,000 MW of Capacity to Alleviate 2023-2024 Winter Concerns

October 9, 2023

On Oct. 2, 2023, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) issued a request for proposals to stakeholders to procure up to 3,000 MW of generation or demand response capacity to meet load and reserve requirements during the winter 2023-24 peak load season (Dec. 1, 2023, through Feb. 29, 2024).

ERCOT cited “several factors, including significant peak load growth since last winter, recent and proposed retirements of dispatchable Generation Resources, and recent extreme winter weather events, including Winter Storm Elliott in December 2022, Winter Storm Uri in February 2021, and the 2018 and 2011 winter storms, each of which resulted in abnormally high demand during winter weather.” It now seeks additional capacity under its “authority to prevent an anticipated Emergency Condition.”

In its notice regarding the RFP, ERCOT identified a number of mothballed and recently decommissioned generation resources that may be eligible to offer capacity under the RFP. It further stated that offers must comport with the format of its “Reliability Must-Run” agreement but could include a proposed “Incentive Factor” that reflects the revenues the unit owners determine would be necessary to bring the unit back to operation. It added that the Incentive Factor is not necessarily limited to 10%. Providers of eligible demand response can submit offers based on similar principles that are not necessarily constrained by cost. The notice identifies potential acceptable sources of demand response, describes certain parameters for the kinds of demand response that are permitted to respond to the RFP, and outlines the time periods during which ERCOT must be able to deploy the demand response resources.

To meet the Dec. 1, 2023, service start date, ERCOT developed an aggressive timeline to solicit and evaluate proposals through the RFP. Responses to the RFP are due Nov. 6, 2023. ERCOT’s schedule provides that it will notify market participants that obtain awards on Nov. 23, 2023. Expect contracts to be executed by Nov. 30, 2023.

As support for the procurement, ERCOT stated that its Winter 2023-24 Capacity Scarcity Risk Assessment determined that the region will face reserve shortage risks during high net load hours throughout the season. ERCOT forecasted an estimated 20% chance of hitting Energy Emergency Alerts (EEA) level conditions, an estimate that exceeds the 10% probability threshold that constitutes an “elevated” risk under the standard employed in ERCOT’s winter resource adequacy assessments. Although ERCOT is “not projecting that EEA conditions are likely to occur, ERCOT nevertheless finds that this elevated risk of EEA is unacceptable” and that the additional 3,000 MW of capacity will reduce the probability of EEA to below the 10% threshold.

Unlike Regional Transmission Organizations in the Northeastern United States, ERCOT does not have a capacity market. Instead, ERCOT relies on a high price cap of $5,000 per MWh for its energy market (decreased from the $9,000 per MWh cap in effect during Winter Storm Uri) and an Operating Reserve Demand Curve adder that pays additional funds to generators supplying power and ancillary services when supply conditions are tight. In the wake of Winter Storm Uri, some calls were made to have ERCOT adopt a capacity market for reliability reasons, and a number of legal battles continue to play out in the wake of Winter Storm Uri. (See recent McGuireWoods legal alert “Winter Storm Uri Power Dispute Reaches the Supreme Court of Texas.”) Though a capacity market was not adopted, the Texas Legislature approved a $7.2 billion loan program for generators to build up to 10,000 MW of dispatchable generation. The legislature also approved a version of the Public Utility Commission of Texas’ proposal to establish a “Performance Credit Mechanism,” but with a cost cap of $1 billion.

The loss of life and economic impacts of Winter Storm Uri in 2021, along with the energy crunches and calls for conservation this past summer, are driving changes to ERCOT’s “energy-only” market. Texas policymakers are providing multiple financial incentives to promote investment in dispatchable on-demand generation to make the Texas grid more reliable and able to deal with power demand from a growing economy and increased demand for electricity driven by weather. In the meantime, ERCOT’s plan to procure 3,000 MW through this RFP process is a stopgap measure intended to bolster reliability for the upcoming winter season and lower the probability of load shed in the event of severe winter weather.

McGuireWoods represents energy generators and consumers in Texas, and the energy team at McGuireWoods LLP and McGuireWoods Consulting has been following these developments in ERCOT. For more information, please contact the authors.