Unseasonably warm temperatures weren’t the only thing causing Texans to sweat this weekend. Warnings from the state’s power grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, had many on edge about whether the lights would stay on as the mercury soared. ERCOT issued a notice shortly after 5 p.m. Friday asking people to conserve electricity as demand was expected to come close to supply.
Why were Texans asked to conserve electricity?
Part of the reason was that several power-generating plants went offline as temperatures rose, said Matt Smith, lead oil analyst for the Americas at Keplr.
Having six natural gas-fired plants offline “reduced electricity supply, not by a huge amount, but enough considering the backdrop of high demand already.”
What caused the plants to go offline?
“They’re saying they tripped off because of the heat, it seems,” Smith said. “It’s a very small share of the generation mix total there, but it just came at a time when it was really needed. And so I think that’s really what has raised concerns.”
Why is electricity demand in Texas so high?
In addition to higher temperatures, a couple of pandemic-related issues are contributing factors, Smith said.
“We’ve seen a lot of people moving to Texas during the pandemic, flocking to cities such as Austin and Houston. And secondly, we’ve emerged from the pandemic and everything is reopened, from commercial spaces for shops and people returning to offices. So that’s boosting demand as well,” he said.
Should Texans expect to see more warnings to conserve throughout the summer?
ERCOT says it sees sufficient supply to meet high demand, Smith said, also noting that five of the six plants that went offline Friday are now back online. However, the Public Utility Commission of Texas has expressed concern that generators haven’t had enough time to perform seasonal maintenance ahead of summer, he said.
“ERCOT has already asked power plants to postpone outages and return from outages to meet this higher demand. And so it is concerning given, you know, higher temperatures await,” Smith said.
“They’re saying that things should be okay, but really the proof is going to be in the pudding, right, as we get into these higher temperatures. While we are having more supply coming, particularly from the renewables side of things, demand is continuing to increase as well. So it’s really a case of kind of ‘watch this space.’
Ways to conserve power
ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission suggest the following energy-saving tips in hot weather:
– Set thermostats to 78 degrees or above
– Use ceiling fans and portable fans to circulate air
– Do not use large appliances like dishwashers or washing machines during peak hours (between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.)
– Use a clothesline or drying rack instead of a dryer
– Close interior blinds, shades or curtains to block the sun and heat
– Raise thermostats to 80 degrees or higher if leaving for more than for hours