ERCOT’s Protocol for Dispatching Demand-Side Resources

March 24, 2020

As the state’s grid operator, ERCOT maintains a sophisticated system of levers and triggers that dispatch increasingly potent demand-side resources designed to help maintain balance when the demand for electricity outpaces the grid’s ability to supply it. 

Understanding ERCOT’s system provides a context to help understand not only how demand-side resources are used in Texas, but also which of the demand response programs might be best for a given organization. 

ERCOT’s arsenal for grid defense

When the grid is stressed, ERCOT takes the following steps to avoid blackouts across the state:

Real Time Pricing–this relies on basic economics to deter electricity consumption. As demand rises and approaches the reserve margin, prices start to rise. Large consumers monitor the real time price and determine it’s more economically sound to stop consuming (and producing in the commercial sector) given the escalating electricity prices.

If demand continues to rise…

4CP–At any given point, there are about 1,500 MW of “peak-chasing” load that can be curtailed by a collection of consumers seeking to lower their 4CP charges the following year. Typically, this load will come off the grid between 3-6pm during the hottest days of the year. 

 If demand continues to rise…

Utility Demand Response Programs–Utilities (Oncor, CenterPoint, et al.) have roughly 200 MW that can be called for a three-hour dispatch. 

 If demand continues to rise…

Voluntary Curtailments–when demand infringes the 3,000 MW mark of the reserve margin, ERCOT issues a series of public address announcements urging consumers to voluntarily shed their load.

 If demand continues to rise…

Energy Emergency Alert 1 (EEA1)–ERS 30 demand response resources are called. 

 If demand continues to rise…

Energy Emergency Alert 2 (EEA2)–ERS 30, ERS 10, and Load Resources are called. 

 If demand continues to rise…

Rolling blackouts–ERCOT will instruct utilities to rotate power outages in an effort to avoid statewide blackouts.


This post was excerpted from the 2020 State of Demand-Side Energy Management in North America, a market-by-market analysis of the issues and trends the experts at CPower feel organizations like yours need to know to make better decisions about your energy use and spend.

CPower has taken the pain out of painstaking detail, leaving a comprehensive but easy-to-understand bed of insights and ideas to help you make sense of demand-side energy’s quickly-evolving landscape.

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Mike Hourihan

Mike Hourihan is market development manager and analyst for the ERCOT market. He is a long-time advocate for demand-side resources participation as a reliable low-cost alternative to traditional generation assets. He has extensive experience in analyzing and developing market rules in multiple energy markets across North America.

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Mike Hourihan

Mike Hourihan is market development manager and analyst for the ERCOT market. He is a long-time advocate for demand-side resources participation as a reliable low-cost alternative to traditional generation assets. He has extensive experience in analyzing and developing market rules in multiple energy markets across North America.