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Grid operator: Texas electric transmission capacity will fall short of demand

By: Emily Pickrell |

Think traffic was bad on the roads this morning?

There’s also plenty of congestion in the electric lines serving Houston, and it’s going to get worse , according to a report Thursday by state energy planners.

Texas transmission providers plan to complete $8.9 billion of improvement projects by the end of 2017, but this will not be sufficient to meet the growing demand, according to the report by The Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

“You are seeing the potential for more transmission congestion,” said Robbie Searcy, a spokeswoman for the council. “When you get busy transmission lines, it’s the same thing as roads clogged with traffic — it’s going to limit how much power you can carry through the existing transmission facilities.”

A number of factors contribute to the congestion, including maintenance that takes lines out of service, outages during construction and growing demand.

Increased traffic may also raise electricity prices as demand brings less-efficient resources online.

The agency said in the report that one of its statewide priorities will be to address growing power demands tied to booming oil and gas production in the Permian Basin of West Texas and Eagle Ford Shale in the south.

The expected completion this year of increased transmission capacity to Dallas-Fort Worth from West Texas, where wind generation has mushroomed in recent years, should help ease some congestion.

But these lines, part of what’s called the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone, may not be enough to handle future demand, the report warns. More than 20,000 megawatts of new wind power is under review for construction, which could increase congestion absent additional transmission lines.

“As we see the gap between available generation and peak electric demand become tighter over time, it becomes increasingly important to deliver new power resources to the grid as quickly, reliably and cost-effectively as possible,” council CEO Trip Doggett said in a written statement.