Data source: US Energy Information Administration

The power grid managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) recorded an all-time high for winter natural gas-fired electricity generation for an hour in January, according to the US Energy Information Administration’s Hourly Electric Grid Monitor, when a three-day cold snap increased electricity demand. Hourly natural gas-fired electricity generation increased to 49.4 GW for the hour starting at 7:00 pm on 16 January 2024, 1% more than the previous winter record of 48.8 GW set on 23 December 2022, and within 4% of the summer hourly high of 51.2 GW set between 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm on 25 August 2023.

Electricity demand typically peaks in Texas in the summer during heat waves and in the winter during cold snaps. During peaks in electricity demand, grid operators must have dispatchable electricity generation sources available. Surges in electricity demand in ERCOT, which operates approximately 90% of Texas’s electricity load, are primarily supplied by natural gas-fired generation.

On a daily basis, natural gas-fired electricity generation made up 56% of all generation in ERCOT during the cold snap (January 14–16, 2024), compared with an average share of 46% for January 2024, as wind and solar electricity output declined and overall electricity demand for heating increased. On January 16, natural gas-fired electricity generation totalled 986.2 GWh, 72% more than the January 2024 average of 572.9 GWh and just a little less than the ERCOT winter record of 1006 GWh set on 23 December, 2022, according to the EIA’s Hourly Electric Grid Monitor.

Increased demand

Net electricity load requirements (which excludes variable generation such as wind and solar) peaked on 15 January by 630.6 GWh more than the day before the cold snap started (13 January). Natural gas supplied 78% of the generation needed to meet this additional net electricity load. Between 14 and 15 January, natural gas-fired generation supplied 91 % (164.2 GWh) of the increase in net electricity load.

On January 15, increased demand in Texas for electricity led to record daily natural gas consumption by the Texas electric power sector, 8.6 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d), a 0.1-Bcf/d increase over the previous record set on 25 August 2023, according to data from S&P Global Commodity Insights.

Despite involuntary production interruptions including inclement weather, maintenance events, and temporary oversupply conditions on natural gas pipelines, natural gas supplies in Texas were sufficient during peak generation throughout the past winter. Weatherisation standards implemented in August 2022 following Winter Storm Uri required critical natural gas infrastructure, including pipelines servicing electricity generation facilities, to be protected against weather emergencies.