CREZ: How it will Impact Texas and Affect You

By Vernon Trollinger, January 21, 2014, News

windfarmThe Competitive Renewable Energy Zone transmission projects – also known as CREZ – were authorized by the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas in 2008 to solve the problem of getting 18,456 megawatts (MW) of power generated by wind farms in west Texas to the bigger cities in central and eastern Texas consuming the electricity. The project required building nearly 3,600 miles of new 345,000 volt capacity (kV) transmission lines as well as switches, terminals, and substations from the Texas Panhandle to San Antonio.

As of January 1, 2014, CREZ was finally finished (except for a few sections) at a cost of $6.9 billion.

However, not only does CREZ bring all that electricity to Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, and even Houston more efficiently and cheaply, it also solves what has been a growing transmission congestion problem in ERCOT.

Transmission line congestion happens when there’s more electricity that needs to be sent, but there’s not enough power line capacity to safely handle the load. When this happens, generators typically are paid “rent” for the energy that they generate but must wait to transmit. One of the major areas for congestion is known as the “West to North stability limit” (see map)ERCOT ZONES where growing energy demand in both the west and east forced electricity transmissions through a bottleneck. In 2011, ERCOT paid $27,824,327 in congestion rent for constraints caused in the “West to North stability limit”. Those transmission congestion costs eventually filter down into the consumer’s electric bills.

CREZ adds transmission capacity and successfully reduces the frequency of congestion. In its December 2013 report, Report on Existing and Potential Electric System Constraints and Needs, ERCOT said, “Through October 2013, the West to North stability limit was not even in the top 30 highest congested constraints while it had the third highest amount of congestion rent in ERCOT in 2012 and the highest in 2011.” By reducing congestion in the West to North stability limit, Texas electricity customers don’t share another $27.8 million bill.

Ultimately, is the installation of the CREZ saving you money? Yes – it certainly is. CREZ enhances opportunity for  Texas energy consumers to be supplied with more clean, renewable energy. Not only did CREZ include transmission lines through the Panhandle and West Texas, it also included other transmission capacity expansions. These enhancements reduce the likelihood of rolling blackouts, improve the ERCOT grid’s reliability during peak demand periods, and also leave room for electricity demand growth in the future. Simply put, the CREZ gets more Texas energy to the energy grid more effectively, and this reduces the costs paid by your electricity company.

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A native of Wyomissing Hills, PA, Vernon Trollinger studied writing and film at the University of Iowa, later earning his MA in writing there as well. Following a decade of digging in CRM archaeology, he now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, DIY projects, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

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