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Texas Gov Greg Abbott speaks before signing Senate Bill 1, also known as the election integrity bill, into law in Tyler, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. (AP) Texas Gov Greg Abbott speaks before signing Senate Bill 1, also known as the election integrity bill, into law in Tyler, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. (AP)

Texas Gov Greg Abbott speaks before signing Senate Bill 1, also known as the election integrity bill, into law in Tyler, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. (AP)

Nusaiba Mizan
By Nusaiba Mizan April 4, 2022

Abbott referred to installed capacity in the grid, not power available during severe winter weather

If Your Time is short

  • Abbott was referring to installed capacity when he said Texas added 15% more power generation capacity
  • Installed capacity represents how much the grid theoretically could produce if it was producing at 100% its potential. However, the grid isn't producing at 100%. The amount of power available for severe winter weather, bringing peak demand, would be less.

As temperatures dropped in early February and Texans braced for severe winter weather, state officials assured the public the power grid was better prepared to handle freezing temperatures compared to 2020.

In a Feb. 3 news conference, Gov. Greg Abbott listed the reasons why he believed Texans should have confidence in the grid: "As compared to last year, Texas has about 15% more power generation capacity."

Seasonal data from grid operator Electric Reliability Council of Texas indicates available generation capacity is at 85,000 megawatts for winter 2021-2022, up from 83,000 megawatts in winter 2020-2021.

That comes out to be a 2% increase. So where did Abbott get 15%?

Abbott referred to installed capacity

Abbott's office referred PolitiFact Texas to the Texas Public Utility Commission, which oversees ERCOT.

According to ERCOT and PUC officials, the 15% cited by Abbott describes an increase in total installed capacity from 102,874 megawatts in winter 2020 to 118,257 megawatts in winter 2021.

Total installed capacity refers to the maximum amount of power that can be generated under ideal conditions.

"That's just if everything we had on the grid was operating at its full output. That's what it could make," said Joshua Rhodes, research associate at the University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute and Webber Energy Group.

However, at any given time, the grid isn't producing at 100% potential, experts told PolitiFact Texas. For example, the sun isn't always shining for solar energy, or the wind isn't always blowing for wind energy, Doug Lewin, energy consultant and president of Stoic Energy Consulting, said as example.

"It's sort of more of a theoretical potential," Lewin said.

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"There is no resource that has a 100% operational capacity," Lewin said. "That does not exist, but generally thermal plants have a higher operational capacity. But when you start to put together enough wind and solar, and they're spread out across a broad enough geographic area, their overall capacity factors or operational capacity increases."

Rhodes also said a lot of the capacity added in the last year included wind and solar, which would not operate at 100% capacity all the time.

"We don't expect all the wind and all the solar to be available during a winter peak event," Rhodes said.

ERCOT officials said in February that the grid has a total generating capacity at about 86,000 megawatts if needed, the American-Statesman reported then.

The value Abbott cited described what the grid is capable of creating, though the amount of available power might be less than total installed capacity.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with saying we added a whole lot of capacity in the last year," Lewin said.

Aidan Tuohy, program manager of Grid Operations and Planning at the research and development firm Electric Power Research Institute, said resource adequacy assessments have processes to account for wind patterns and sunlight in its seasonal estimates.

"One, that let's say ERCOT used, they look at historical performance and then take either an average during stressful conditions, or some other statistical measure during stressful conditions," Tuohy said. "And then another way to do that is to actually simulate operations. For example, in California, they simulate a thousand different patterns of generator outages and wind and solar patterns based on historical data and then try to come up with what the expected observed load will be."

ERCOT included risk assessments for thermal resources based on historical information, Tuohy also noted.

Our ruling

As Texas braced for the effects of cold weather, Abbott assured Texans: "Compared to last year, Texas has about 15% more power generation capacity."

Experts say Abbott was referring to the total installed capacity if power generation infrastructure were running at 100% capacity. However, that is a theoretical figure. Instead, stations generate at a fraction of the total installed capacity. The amount of available power in an emergency situation would be less than the installed capacity.

We rate this as Mostly True.

Our Sources

Press Conference "HAPPENING NOW: Update on Winter Weather Response," posted on the Facebook page of the Texas Governor, Feb. 3, 2022 (time stamp: 10:49)

Email from Sheridan Nolen, press assistant at the Office of the Governor, March 10, 2022

Email from the Texas Public Utility Commission, March 11, 2022

Email from ERCOT Media (Electric Reliability Council of Texas), March 14, 2022 and March 22, 2022

Phone Interview with Doug Lewin, Energy Consultant and President of Stoic Energy, March 16, 2022

Phone interview with Aidan Tuohy, Electric Power Research Institute Program Manager of Grid Operations and Planning, March 17, 2022

Phone interview with Joshua Rhodes, research associate at the University of Texas at Austin, March 17, 2022

ERCOT, "Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy for the ERCOT Region (SARA) Winter 2021/2022," Nov. 19, 2021

ERCOT, "Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy for the ERCOT Region (SARA) Winter 2020/2021," Nov. 5, 2020

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Abbott referred to installed capacity in the grid, not power available during severe winter weather

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