Texas consumers and businesses urged to reduce energy use

6:10 p.m. update: The state’s power grid operator canceled an energy emergency alert at 5 p.m., about an hour and a half after urging Texans to cut back on electricity use due to record high power demand.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas resumed normal network operations at 5:30 p.m.

Operating reserves were below 2,300 megawatts when the alert was issued around 3:10 p.m., ERCOT officials said. Under normal system conditions, ERCOT’s operating reserves are equal to or greater than 3,000 megawatts.

This is the first time that ERCOT has issued such an alert since January 2014.

Earlier: On Tuesday afternoon, officials from the state’s electric grid operator urged consumers and businesses in the Austin area and across the state to reduce their electricity use until 7 p.m.

“High temperatures have driven record electricity demand over the past few days and could lead to a new record high today,” said Bill Magness, CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. “Consumers can help reduce their energy consumption by taking simple steps between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.”

ERCOT warned consumers earlier this year that record-breaking electricity demand in Texas was likely close to exceeding generating capacity, although continued summer outages remain unlikely.

The energy grid set a record on Monday, when peak demand reached 74,531 megawatts between 4 and 5 p.m., ERCOT spokeswoman Leslie Sopko said.

“It’s possible we’ll set another new record today,” Sopko said.

Peak demand is expected to eventually reach 74,853 megawatts this summer, about 2% higher than the previous record set on July 19, 2018. Peak generating capacity is estimated at 78,929 megawatts, although ERCOT officials have estimated that they could increase this number if necessary through various emergency measures.

ERCOT suggested that people take action, such as the following:

  • Raise the thermostat by 2 to 3 degrees between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
  • Set programmable thermostats to higher temperatures when no one is home
  • Use fans to feel 4-6 degrees cooler
  • Limit use of major appliances (i.e. dishwasher, washer, dryer, etc.) to mornings or after 7 p.m.
  • If cooking indoors from 3-7 p.m., use a microwave or slow cooker
  • Close blinds and curtains in the late afternoon
  • Schedule pool pumps to run early in the morning or at night; off between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

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