Can Texas Happen Here?

When it comes to the electrical grid, we're much different than the Lone Star State

Is it possible for Georgia’s power grid to find itself in an icy grip like Texas just experienced? (Spoiler alert: It’s very unlikely, say the three companies that play a major part in generating and delivering your power.)

Oglethorpe Power Corporation (OPC), Georgia Transmission Corporation (GTC) and Georgia System Operations Corporation (GSOC), jointly known as the Family of Companies (FOC), just issued a fact sheet discussing Georgia’s electric grid in light of the recent crisis in Texas.

The FOC is jointly owned by 38 of Georgia’s 41 EMCs – including Walton EMC – to generate, transmit and balance the energy supply on their behalf.

When it comes to the electrical grid and electricity market, we’re much different than the Lone Star State. Here are the highlights of the FOC fact sheet:

Planning

  • The storm system that hit Texas was much worse than the state’s grid operator’s planning had envisioned ever happening.
  • GSOC sets an amount of power generation in reserve each year. This projection includes a forecast of the peak load plus additional reserve capacity. All EMCs review this reserve requirement to ensure it is large enough.

Interconnection Between Power Grids

There are two main power grids in the United States: the Eastern Interconnection and the Western Interconnection. But most of Texas has its own power grid.

  • The Texas grid is independent from the rest of the United States, making it an “island.” Texas has limited interconnectivity with the rest of the U.S. to get aid if the electricity generation inside the state is unable to meet demand.
  • Georgia’s electricity grid is interconnected with the rest of the Southeast, having strong interconnections with neighboring utilities from Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, the Carolinas and beyond. This mutual support is maintained through planning and communications.
  • The FOC has long-term agreements with these neighboring utilities to support each other when the power grid is stressed.

Energy Markets

  • Texas is organized as a deregulated “energy-only” market. Power producers only get paid for power they actually generate and send to the grid. That means they are not paid for unused plants that would normally be on standby to provide a reserve for emergencies.
  • Georgia’s utilities are more traditionally regulated. They receive incentives to invest in reliable long-term generating capacity. The current anticipated power reserves in our region are currently at 27 percent for summer and 32 percent for winter.

Winterization

  • OPC power plants are built and designed to operate in extreme winter weather.
  • After the 2014 Polar Vortex, OPC improved the design of its power plants and then carried out projects to safeguard against subzero temperatures.

Diverse Resources

  • OPC utilizes a diverse fuel mix to power its plants including nuclear, coal, hydro and natural gas. In an emergency, some of the natural gas plants can switch to fuel oil.
  • Georgia’s natural gas supply is diversified. We can get natural gas from the Gulf of Mexico or gas fields of the upper states.
  • OPC owns a significant share of Georgia’s nuclear plants, a baseload resource that will last 60 to 80 years, if not longer.

You can bet that what happened to the electric system in Texas will be reviewed, analyzed, studied and critiqued by countless experts and organizations. Maybe in the end, they will look to Georgia’s robust electric grid as one to emulate.