Power usage soars; sets another June record

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on June 26, 2012 at 5:05 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 26 at 5:21 PM

DALLAS — For the second day in a row, Texas set a record for electricity demand in the month of June.

Tuesday's spike prompted the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s power grid, to issue alerts to its customers to conserve electricity.

Industry leaders are troubled that demand is spiking so early in the summer season.

“That is certainly a concern,” said Kent Saathoff, ERCOT’s vice president of grid operations. “The more days like this we have, that causes more wear and tear on the plants.”

The grid operator said customers demanded nearly 66,500 megawatts of power on Tuesday, beating the June record set last year and the record set the day before.

It’s also very close to beating the all-time record set last August, when Texans demanded 68,370 megawatts.

Usage tends to peak late in the afternoon, so ERCOT has been urging people to turn off their air conditioners when they’re not at home and to avoid using large appliances during the day.

If usage continues to grow, ERCOT is prepared to cut off power to large companies or impose rolling blackouts. Saathoff says those measures are still in the future; cooler temperatures forecast for Wednesday should ease demand.

State leaders have long said Texas needs more power plants, and studies have repeatedly warned of shortages in the coming years.

This week, the Public Utility Commission is considering raising the cap on wholesale prices. The move would likely clear the way for the construction of more power plants, yet critics say it would also likely raise electric bills by $200 a year.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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