Texans Urged to Conserve Power as Temperatures Hit Triple Digits

Energy usage for the month of June broke records for two days in a row, as ERCOT and the Public Utilities Commission scramble to prevent rolling blackouts.
Thu June 28, 2012 2:35 am
Flickr | BFS Man

As hundred degree temperatures have pummeled the state this past week, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has warned consumers to conserve energy in order to prevent rolling blackouts.

ERCOT, the primary power grid operator for the state of Texas, announced on Tuesday that Texas had broken the June power demand record for the second day in a row, with Texans consuming some 66,583 megawatts as they cranked up their air conditioners to escape temperatures that reached well into the 100s. (According to AccuWeather.com, temperatures in Houston hit 102 degrees on Tuesday, while San Antonio reached a high of 106 and Austin baked at 109 degrees. )

Texas also set a record for monthly power demand in May with a usage of 59,037 megawatts, surpassing May 2011's previous record high by 29 percent.

ERCOT asked users to especially monitor their power usage during the sweltering afternoon hours. The agency released a statement Wednesday asking " consumers and businesses to reduce their electricity use during peak electricity hours from 3 to 7 p.m.," which extended to precautions like closing blinds and drapes of especially sunny windows, as well as shutting off unneccesary lights and appliances and keeping thermostats set to 78 degrees or higher.

The Texas Public Utilities Commission is expected to meet Thursday to negotiate raising the price cap on wholesale power. The commission hopes that raising the cap will encourage investment in building new power plants to help relieve the state's grid.

But, as Dave Fehling of StateImpact Texas reported, an industry group called the Texas Industrial Energy Consumers believes that "the higher peak prices for wholesale electricity favored by the PUC would add from $4.5 to $14 billion to the total annual cost of electricity in Texas" — a price hike that might mean hundreds of dollars more per residential customer annually.

ERCOT is taking its own measures to help relieve the demand on the grid, especially when it comes to reaching out to consumers. On Tuesday, the ERCOT Board of Directors approved the implementation of a new pilot project, the 30-Minute Emergency Response Service. The project, which is similar to response systems used by other grids, allows eligible participants a half-hour "ramp period" to respond to ERCOT requests for reduced power usage.

The agency also recently released a new mobile app , which provides customers with real-time energy updates and tips on how to effectively conserve their energy usage.

Last summer, ERCOT was forced to declare emergencies on six days due to heat waves and an extended drought, leaving interruptible customers without power to avoid blackouts.

ERCOT's President and CEO Trip Doggett told WFAA that he believes the agency will be able to meet the energy demand of the coming weeks, though he still stressed energy conservation in order to avoid another summer of rolling blackouts and power emergencies.

"Conservation helped us make it through last summer and it'll be the key this coming summer," he said.

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