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The state's grid operator asked Texans to conserve electricity from 6 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday as conditions are expected to be tight due to unexpected outages at plants fired by gas, nuclear or coal and because of forecasted low wind power generation. It's the eighth such request from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas this month amid intense heat and threats of a power-supply emergency.
So far, the grid has held up, and temperatures even cooled slightly around much of the state this week.
ERCOT asked people to reduce their energy use between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Wednesday, hours that are typically the most perilous for the grid because people returning home from work crank down their thermostats while solar power dwindles as the sun sets.
Extreme heat this month has driven demand for power to record levels. Houston tied its hottest day ever on Sunday when temperatures reached 109 degrees. New solar farms have helped meet daytime demand, but forecasts for low wind or gas-, nuclear- or coal-fueled power when the sun sets has caused concern.
If people try to pull more power off the grid than is available, grid infrastructure can be badly damaged. ERCOT can call on reserve power sources and trigger emergency operations to prevent that from happening. A worst-case scenario would bring rolling power outages.
Unlike the rest of the United States, much of Texas is on the ERCOT power grid, which largely stands alone. Operators in a statement said they have been calling on large power users to reduce their consumption and asking other grids to provide what limited help they could.
Residents can conserve energy by turning up thermostats a few degrees and refraining from using large appliances such as washing machines and clothes dryers.
In addition to Wednesday, ERCOT asked residents to conserve power on Aug. 17, 20, 24, 25, 26, 27 and 29.
ERCOT on previous days credited "conservation efforts by Texas residents and businesses" for helping avoid emergency operations.
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