Twitter/Alberta Electric System Operator

Two of the most energy-rich jurisdictions on the planet, Alberta and Texas, struggled to keep the lights on Tuesday evening. The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) declared its second “grid alert” in two days on Tuesday evening, as did the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). ERCOT issued its previous alert on Sunday.

At 5:29 on Aug. 29, the AESO issued the alert, followed by this tweet, “The AESO declared a Grid Alert in response to challenging conditions caused by hot weather, heavy demand, a B.C. outage impacting imports, low wind and declining solar. Find out more at aeso.ca.”

However, Alberta’s wind generation during the alert wasn’t nearly as low as it had been during previous alerts. Usually when these alerts occur, wind power in Alberta has fallen to around 1 per cent or less of capacity. But that wasn’t the case on Tuesday. Twitter bot account @ReliableAB, which posts hourly updates on the Alberta grid based on AESO reports, posted at 6:57 p.m. that Alberta was getting 432 megawatts out of its installed base of 3,853 megawatts of wind generating capacity. That was ten times the amount compared to the day before when an alert was issued. Solar was still producing 321 megawatts as the sun was setting. However, at that same moment, they were actually exporting 7 megawatts to British Columbia, instead of importing from their western neighbour, the usual affair when Alberta’s short on power.

Also, during this time the pool price of electricity again maxed out at the cap – $999.99 per megawatt. That’s nearly 20 times what was at 5 a.m. the same day. This is a frequent occurrence during low wind conditions, but again, the wind generation at this time wasn’t nearly as bad as on other days.

 

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At 8:01 it tweeted, “Grid conditions are starting to improve. Thank you to our System Controllers for all your great work managing the electricity network to keep power flowing!”

The alert was lifted at 8:02 p.m.

A similar alert occurred in Texas on the same day. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) issued its own “conservation appeal,” which was otherwise almost identically worded to Alberta’s “grid alert,” with similar actions suggested. Those actions include delaying charging electric vehicles.

When the alert ended later in the evening, ERCOT warned that similar conditions were expected for Wednesday.

Additionally, the Southwest Power Pool, which has an intertie with SaskPower south of Estevan, has also been facing challenging wind conditions. On Aug. 29 it issued a “resource advisory” for the following day, stating, “The SPP BA footprint is issuing a Resource Advisory effective Wednesday, August 30, 2023 from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. This advisory is being declared due to high load forecast, low VER forecast, and potential for more generation outages.

“A Resource Advisory does not require the public to conserve energy.”

On Tuesday evening, wind, which usually produces over half of SPP’s power, was down to 13.9 per cent, and coal was producing 43 per cent while natural gas was 34.7 per cent. SaskPower is in the process of expanding its intertie with SPP from 150 megawatts to 650 megawatts in capacity by 2027.

Regarding the Alberta grid alert on Monday, Conservative Energy Critic, MP for Lakeland (including Lloydminster) Shannon Stubbs tweeted, “Yet again, what yesterday’s Alberta grid alert points out is that the reality of electricity generation and grid capacity in every province and territory is the number one question the Liberals must answer Canadians ASAP as they talk about imposing their costly transition away from oil and natural gas, penalize and increase the costs of traditional energy for everyday Canadians, and set targets and penalties around EV sales, which will require a massive scale up. How will they get there? How will they incent innovation and technology instead of letting it collapse in Canada’s “valley of death” between idea and commercialization, and stop driving innovation and investment out of Canada? How will major projects actually get approved and built in Canada when the Liberals’ track record after 8 years is the opposite? Who will pay for all of it? How much will it cost?

“This alert was declared while it was around +30 outside and is similar to an alert when it was between -30 and -52 during winter in Alberta. When the Liberals set targets, complete with punitive policies & laws, but can’t or won’t explain how to get there & who will pay for it, while simultaneously imposing punitive policies and massive costs, Canadians lose confidence and trust in governments, politicians, and public policy.”

As for issuing two grid alerts in two days, this closely mirrors what occurred in Alberta in December of last year. At the time, Alberta issued its second “grid alert” in one day, the third in 24 hours, and fifth in three weeks, and set another demand record. Except at that time, the temperatures across Alberta were -30 C instead of +30 C.

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