The Electric Reliability Council of Texas issued a conservation appeal for Wednesday afternoon and evening as triple-digit temperatures continue to scorch the state. It was the second time this week that the power grid operator asked Texans and businesses to voluntarily conserve electricity.
Texans were asked to conserve electricity between 2 and 9 p.m., but in a news release ERCOT said it did not expect systemwide outages. The request ended as scheduled Wednesday night.
According to ERCOT’s grid and market dashboard, demand hit a peak of 78,395 megawatts about 4:40 p.m., about 1,700 megawatts below committed capacity at that time.
Several factors, including high demand and low wind, drove Wednesday’s alert, according to ERCOT. Cloud cover in West Texas reduced the amount of solar generation, and forced outages of thermal generation — which includes gas and coal — also contributed to the alert, ERCOT said.
Conservation alerts are triggered as needed when tight operating reserves are expected to pose a reliability concern. Conditions are considered “normal” when reserves remain greater than 3,000 megawatts. ERCOT says it has used conservation efforts more than four dozen times since 2008.
ERCOT has three levels of emergency alerts that can be triggered when reserves fall below a certain level. Rolling outages may occur when reserves fall below 1,375 megawatts. Controlled outages initiated by the power grid manager have occurred four times, according to ERCOT: Dec. 22, 1989; April 17, 2006; Feb. 2, 2011; and Feb. 15-18, 2021.
The state’s reserves dipped below 2,500 on Wednesday afternoon but began rising about 6 p.m. as demand began falling.
On Monday, ERCOT’s grid and market dashboard showed demand reaching a peak of 78,379 megawatts, but outages were avoided after a conservation alert helped the state’s power grid meet demand.
The money generators are making in ERCOT right now is obscene. Wonder when/if #txlege will look to try to get Texans some relief from the astronomical bills we’ll be paying over the next several months & years…
— Doug Lewin (@douglewinenergy) July 13, 2022
Spot prices on the ERCOT wholesale electric market hit the price cap of $5,000 per megawatt-hour about 3 p.m. Wednesday, far above the typical price of about $50. A typical household uses about one megawatt-hour, or 1,000 kilowatt-hours, of electricity each month.
Energy expert Doug Lewin said on Twitter that into the fourth hour of the market hitting the $5,000 price cap, Texans could be paying “astronomical” bills for several months and years.
A heat advisory remained in effect Wednesday as North Texas temperatures varied between 100 and 105 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. High temperatures are expected to stay in the triple digits in Dallas-Fort Worth through the weekend, according to the weather service.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke took to Twitter Wednesday to blast Gov. Greg Abbott over the power grid.
“Abbott wouldn’t be repeatedly telling us to cut the A/C in 100+ degree heat if he had just fixed the grid,” he tweeted.
In an interview with KXAS-TV (NBC5) Wednesday, Abbott said the state has added about 15% more power capacity to the power grid this year and that 15% more would be added next year. Abbott also said that despite an extremely hot summer with record demand, the power has remained on.
“The power grid is able to perform adequately, even remarkably well, so far,” he said.
Abbott also said wind production was significantly lower than usual on Monday and Wednesday, contributing to the conservation alerts. Wind power dipped to 696 megawatts about noon Wednesday.
Confusion about imminent power outages briefly struck one Collin County city.
The Farmersville Fire Department said in a since-deleted tweet that the city of about 3,500 residents would be conducting “rolling blackouts” starting at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the request of ERCOT.
But a spokesperson for the power grid operator said in an email that the request was not ERCOT-driven and that the organization was working to correct the report. The Public Utility Commission of Texas also confirmed on Twitter that ERCOT had not issued any rotating outages Wednesday.
In a Facebook post a short time later, Ben White, the city manager and public works director, said that the outage alert was the result of a miscommunication and apologized for potentially causing alarm.
How to conserve energy
ERCOT recommends taking these actions to help reduce electricity use:
- Set your thermostat to 78 degrees or higher. Every degree of extra cooling increases your energy usage 6% to 8%.
- Use ceiling and portable fans to circulate cool air.
- Install patio covers, awnings and solar window screens to shade your home from the sun.
- Close interior blinds, drapes or shades to block the sun and heat during warm weather.
- Use a clothesline instead of a clothes dryer.
- On warm days, raise your thermostat to 80 degrees or higher if leaving for more than four hours.
- Turn off lights and try to save activities such as cooking, laundry and dishwashing for early morning and evening.
- Avoid use of large appliances such as ovens, washing machines, dryers.
- Businesses should minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment.
- Large consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing nonessential processes.
- If you don’t need something, turn it off and unplug it.
How to check on Texas energy
To find up-to-date information about demand and generation ability, Texans can visit the ERCOT website.
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