Texas Power Grid Struggles to Meet High Demand Amid Heat Wave

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The state’s power grid operator, ERCOT, has warned of possible rolling blackouts for the second day in a row as Texans face scorching temperatures and record-breaking electricity demand.

ERCOT issues conservation alert

On Thursday, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) issued a conservation alert from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., asking all Texans to reduce their energy use as much as possible. The alert was the fourth such request of the summer, and the first time since Winter Storm Uri in February that the grid entered emergency conditions.

ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas told the Public Utilities Commission that there was a “high likelihood” that the grid would operate under emergency conditions Thursday evening, due to a combination of factors:

  • Very high heat, with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas
  • Very high demand, with peak demand expected to surpass 75,000 megawatts (MW), close to the all-time record of 76,103 MW set in August 2019
  • Low expected output of wind power, which typically provides about 20% of the state’s electricity
  • Normal levels of outages for natural gas and coal plants, which can underperform or fail in high heat

Texas Power Grid Struggles

Vegas said that the gap between supply and demand would be “more tight than any other day” this summer, and that ERCOT would have to use all available resources to maintain grid reliability.

Texans urged to conserve power

To conserve power, ERCOT suggested residents set their thermostats a degree or two higher, avoid using large appliances such as washers or dryers, turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances, and turn off pool pumps. Businesses were asked to turn off lights and equipment in spaces that were not in use and turn off air-conditioning outside of business hours. ERCOT also requested that all government agencies implement all programs to reduce energy use at their facilities.

Some retail electricity providers, such as Reliant and CenterPoint, also sent emails to their customers asking them to conserve power during peak hours. Reliant offered incentives such as bill credits and free weekend power for customers who participated in its Degrees of Difference program, which allows Reliant to adjust customers’ thermostats remotely during high-demand periods.

Power grid survives another close call

Despite the dire warnings, the power grid managed to avoid rolling blackouts on Thursday night. ERCOT reported that it had enough reserves to meet the demand, thanks to voluntary conservation efforts by consumers and additional generation from power plants.

However, ERCOT cautioned that the situation could change quickly if demand increased or supply decreased unexpectedly. The grid operator said it would continue to monitor the grid conditions closely and provide updates as needed.

ERCOT also said it expected similar conditions on Friday and Saturday, with high temperatures and high demand. The grid operator advised Texans to continue conserving power until the heat wave subsided.

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