CM – The Texan network operator is pushing for electricity savings until Friday, as temperatures rise and many power generators are offline


The Electric Reliability Council of Texas says the state has record demand in June while a number of power generators are offline for repairs.

by Erin Douglas

June 14, 2021

Updated: 2:10 p.m. center

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The Texas main power grid struggled to keep up with electricity demand on Monday, which prompted the operator to urge Texans to save electricity by Friday.

The conservation request comes at a time of heightened fear for electricity following the state’s catastrophic blackouts in February that left millions without power for days. These outages caused by a major winter storm may have killed up to 700 people, according to an analysis of mortality data by Buzzfeed News.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said in a statement Monday that a significant number of power plant outages have occurred combined with an expected record consumption of electricity due to hot weather has resulted in tight grid conditions. Approximately 11,000 megawatts of generation are offline for repairs or enough to supply 2.2 million households with electricity on a hot summer day.

Of the systems that are offline, approximately 8,000 megawatts, or more than 70% of the output, come from Failures from thermal energy sources, which in Texas are mostly natural gas-fired power plants. That is more than double what ERCOT normally sees offline on a summer day for the maintenance of the heat generation. Typically only about 3,600 megawatts of thermal generation are offline at this time of year.

« This is unusual for so early in the summer season, » said Woody Rickerson, ERCOT’s vice president of grid planning and operations, in a statement. He said the network operator would do an analysis to find out why so many units are offline this week.

Maintenance outages are more common in the spring and fall as the power plants focus on the extreme heat in the summer or the extreme cold prepare in winter.

Inquiries from companies about maintenance outages are « automatically accepted » if they are submitted 45 days in advance, ERCOT previously announced to the media in a conference call in April. The network operator can reject decommissioning requests with less than 45 days’ notice. In April, ERCOT also urged local residents to reduce electricity consumption as many facilities were out of order for maintenance, some due to repairs required during the winter storm in February.

The high number of outages this week paired with with expected record demand: The network operator estimates that the electricity demand could rise to over 73,000 megawatts on Monday. The previous record for June 2018 was 69,100 megawatts.

« [Electricity needs] is really determined by temperatures, and right now it’s 99 degrees in Dallas, 97 degrees in Austin and 97 degrees in Houston, » said Joshua Rhodes, research fellow with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin. At these high temperatures, people tend to turn up their air conditioning, which puts a strain on the network. At the same time, the power plants have already had a tough year due to the damage in February, which could cause the high number of power outages.

Power grids have to keep supply and demand in balance at all times. If the Texas grid falls below its oversupply margin, the grid operator takes additional precautions to avoid blackouts. The first precautionary measure is to ask the public to reduce electricity consumption.

After criticism that the network operator did not take serious scenarios into account in its planning, ERCOT has outlined the most extreme calculations for this summer that it has ever considered Has. In its summer assessment of electricity resources, ERCOT warned that a severe heat wave or drought combined with high electricity demand could endanger the grid. (In Texas this year, according to a climate outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a hotter and drier summer than normal is expected for April.)

Texans can reduce electricity consumption by setting the thermostat to 78 degrees or higher; Turning off lights and pool pumps; Avoiding the use of large equipment such as ovens, washers, and dryers; and turning off or disconnecting electrical devices that are not in use.

May 3, 2021

Updated: June 9, 2021

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