Texas wind power keeps pressure on gas, coal

OREANDA-NEWS. September 22, 2016. Increased output from Texas wind farms continued to pressure the amount of natural gas burned in Texas in August as hourly electric consumption broke all-time records.

Coal use by Texas power plants continued to regain market share in August after sliding earlier this year to the lowest level in more than a decade, according to grid operator the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

The Texas power grid set six peak-hour demand records from 8-11 August, exceeding 70GW, then 71GW for the first time. One MW can serve about 200 Texas homes during peak hours in the summer when air conditioners run continuously.

Gas-fired generation reached 17.9GWh in August, according to ERCOT, down by 5.3pc from August 2015. Last month, gas accounted for 49.1pc of ERCOT's fuel mix, down from 51.2pc a year ago.

The August market share for gas-fired generation in Texas rose from 45pc in July as spot gas prices were stable after climbing more than 60pc from a low of \\$1.69/mmBtu back in March. The August average Henry Hub spot price of \\$2.78/mmBtu was unchanged from July and less than 1pc above the August 2015 level.

So far this year, gas has fueled nearly 47pc of Texas power generation, versus 48pc in 2015. Coal plants have supplied nearly 26pc of 2016's electric supply, down from 28pc in 2015. Wind has accounted for nearly 15pc of the fuel mix this year, up from nearly 12pc last year. Nuclear has supplied 12pc of the fuel mix this year, up from 11pc from 2015.

Texas coal burn in absolute terms rose by 2.7pc in August from the year-earlier period to 11.3GWh. Coal accounted for 31pc of the monthly fuel mix, up from nearly 30pc in August 2015.

Wind farms produced 3.4 GWh last month, jumping by 16pc from the previous August, but sliding by one-third from July which ranks as ERCOT's highest monthly wind output ever. Wind accounted for 9.4pc of ERCOT's August fuel mix compared to 8pc a year ago.

ERCOT has more than 16,000MW of installed wind capacity, the most of any US state, with another 3,000GW in development this year. ERCOT's independent market monitor Beth Garza said wind's annual capacity factor has grown to 37pc this year, up from 32pc last year, boosted by new wind farms, expansion of the state's transmission grid and weather factors.

Output from the region's four nuclear reactors was flat in August from the year-earlier at 3.7GWh, surpassing wind output for only the second month in 2016. Nuclear generation accounted for 10pc of ERCOT production last month, flat from a year ago.

Despite record-breaking hourly consumption, overall Texas power use fell from the same month of the previous year. August power use slid by 1.4pc from the year-earlier month, according to initial figures from ERCOT.

While total US electric use lags 2015 so far this year, Texas is on pace to set another electric record. For the first eight months of 2016, Texas power use is running 2.7pc above the same period in 2015 after lagging by more than 3pc earlier this year.

Last year, Texas power use rose by 2.2pc from 2014 to a record 347mn MWh.