January 8, 2019 Read More →

Texas munis say Gibbons Creek coal plant to remain offline this summer

Houston Chronicle:

Gibbons Creek Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant about 20 miles from Bryan near College Station, put the state’s grid operator on notice that the plant will not operate this summer. The closure reduces the state’s already tight power reserves and is sparking forecasts of higher electricity prices.

The Texas Municipal Power Agency, a group comprising the cities of Bryan, Garland, Denton and Greenville, owns the plant and notified the Electric Reliability Council of Texas that it will suspend operations of the 470-megawatt plant through at least the summer. The move follows the shutdown last year of three coal plants with a combined generation capacity of more than 4,000 megawatts — enough to power at least 800,000 Texas homes — by Vistra Energy of Irving.

The loss of Gibbons Creek will cut the projected power reserve margin from the already record low of 8.1 percent to 7.4 percent, just over half of ERCOT’s reserve margin goal of 13.7 percent. The reserve margin measures additional power supplies available to meet unusually high demand, fill in for generators that break down unexpectedly, or both.

Coal-fired power plants have shut down in Texas and across the nation in recent years as they were undercut by cheaper natural gas and the rapidly falling cost of renewable energy, such as wind and solar. For the past two years, Gibbons Creek has operated as a “peaker plant,” dormant except during the scorching summer months when demand soars, supplies dwindle and prices spike.

In recent years, however, additional supplies from other sources, particularly wind, have moderated the summer price spikes that made it worth the cost of keeping peaker plants ready to go into operation. Peaker plants now face the growing likelihood that they may never be called upon to produce power, even as they maintain and staff them.

More: Another Texas power plant is mothballed, raising concerns over reserves and prices

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