Texans asked to reduce energy use again as ongoing heat wave strains power grid

The state's power grid manager has asked Texans to reduce electricity use from 3 to 10 p.m. Thursday to reduce strain on the grid. (Eli Hartman/The Texas Tribune, Eli Hartman/The Texas Tribune)

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The state’s grid operator asked Texans to conserve energy on Thursday afternoon and evening, when forecasters expected grid conditions to be tight because of high demand for power as excessive heat continued to grip the state.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, warned of “high potential” to go into emergency operations. The first step would involve bringing all available power generation online, including unused reserves. The worst-case would have been to implement rolling power outages.

But ultimately the grid held without the need for emergency action.

“Thank you to Texas residents & businesses for your conservation efforts, which along with additional reliability tools, helped us to get through a tight peak time,” ERCOT tweeted Thursday night.

Forecasts for relatively low wind power generation before and after sundown contributed to the situation, according to ERCOT. Texas has more wind capacity than any other state, and solar farms built recently have helped carry the grid through the summer.

ERCOT called for Texans to reduce their power use between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Thursday by turning up their thermostats, refraining from using large appliances such as washing machines and turning off pool pumps.

"We are expecting . . . to have extremely tight conditions this evening," ERCOT President and CEO Pablo Vegas said at a public meeting Thursday morning. "What we're seeing is conditions that are more tight than what we have seen at any other day this summer."

This is the fourth time the grid operator has called for people to lower their energy use this summer; the most recent request was on Sunday. The state has broken its power demand record 10 times so far this summer because of economic and population growth and the punishing heat.

ERCOT said it was also asking industrial customers who use a lot of energy to lower their power use and working with other power grids to get more electricity, though much of the region also is under strain due to the heat. Unlike the eastern and western halves of the United States, the ERCOT grid largely stands alone with limited connections to the larger grids.

You can follow Texas grid conditions here and sign up for emergency alerts here.

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