Texas power grid operator looks to keep up with increasing demand

The head of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas told its board of directors on Tuesday that dynamic growth in Texas is pushing demand for electricity.

That extra demand is putting pressure on the grid to perform both now and in the future.

"The combined effect of all of this is beginning to illuminate a picture that looks very different than what we have seen in prior forecast," said ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas. 

Explosive population growth, greater demand for data centers and evolving AI are fueling the Texas economy and a greater demand for energy.

"I believe it's going to increase exponentially as we continue to attract more and more business" said Bruce Bullock, the director of the SMU Maguire Energy Institute.

The forecast is for increased electricity demand in the next five years.

"This is the opportunity to work together to figure out what that resource mix of dispatchable wind and solar is going to be in order to create a balanced generation and demand resource supply to meet this growing load," said Vegas.

Bullock says alternative energy sources will also be part of the mix, with some coming on line now.

"That is creating power right next to some older natural gas wells that is going directly into cryptocurrency and data mining capabilities, so they're not drawing it from the grid," he said.

Two months ago, congressional members introduced the Connect the Grid Act, legislation to force Texas to join the national gird and come under federal regulation.

"Connecting to the national grid is the safest most reliable way," said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) on February 14.

The bill, which is still pending, has its critics.

"We've talked in recent meetings about the many advantages that ERCOT has by being an independent energy island," said Vegas.

He told the board of directors that Texas is better off being an energy silo.

"It's a significant advantage that we need to think about how we preserve that point going forward," Vegas added.

He told the board Texas will be ready for the coming power demand.

"As we start to see some of the challenges beginning to emerge with the degree and the scale of the growth ahead of us, there's clearly solutions out there, and it really requires all of us to be creative and innovative in how we think about solving these problems," said Vegas.

The hope is with incentives in place to develop new dispatchable energy supplies, alternatives coming on line that create energy without drawing from the grid and the right mix of solar and wind that Texas will have energy for its continued growth.