AUSTIN, Texas — With unseasonably hot temperatures expected this weekend, state leaders are trying to prepare the Texas power grid for high demand. As of Wednesday evening, ERCOT is not expecting to have to issue any blackouts for customers, but it is asking energy generators to postpone any planned outages for this weekend. This is because the grid will need more energy than normal, for this early in the year.
Starting around May 15 is when Texas power plants are not supposed to go offline for maintenance, due to state needing power for the high energy demand in the hot summer months. But this year, the high temperatures are coming early.
"So there's this summer window where they're not able to take out maintenance outages," said Joshua Rhodes, a research associate with the Webber Energy Group at The University of Texas at Austin. “We just happen to be right before that window, so there's still a lot they are trying to get ready. They're, you know, trying to fix whatever they need to get ready for the summer. But it looks like summer is coming to us sooner.”
This is why ERCOT is asking that energy generators postpone any planned outages this weekend, as Central Texas may see triple-digit temperatures, weeks ahead of when we normally see them.
“So, if we have those summer temperatures before then, well, then we just might need the power plants before we typically have needed them in the past. And that's kind of the situation where we find ourselves in in now,” explained Rhodes.
Rhodes said the expected heat in the major cities leads to more people using air conditioning, which in turn drives up energy demand. But he said there are things you can do at home to try to help conserve energy.
“Maybe don't do the load of laundry in the middle of the day; maybe wait until night to do that kind of thing, making sure any lights you have on that you don't need are off. Don't use ceiling fans unless you're actually in the room,” said Rhodes, “because they actually heat up your house, heat up a room, if no one's there to actually feel the air that they give off.”
Rhodes said if we were to see this type of heat later in the summer, it would not be a big issue because more power plants would already be online.
“If people want to use the energy, we have to generate it right now. But if we don't have the power plants online, we can't do that,” said Rhodes. “And so that's what's got us tight. It doesn't mean we don't have enough power plants. It just means we don't have it right now.”
People have a lot of concern over the grid with February 2021’s near failure, but Rhodes said this is different and we all can help do our part.
"They're talking about outages at power plants themselves, not necessarily outages in people's homes," said Rhodes. “But I mean, you know, things break, things can happen. It's not outside of the bounds of reality or possibility. But I think we'll probably be OK, particularly if everyone just kind of preserves a little bit here and there. I think we'll be fine.”
ERCOT will continue to give updates in the coming days about what it is expecting and how high our energy demand gets. Their biggest concern is Friday and Saturday.
ERCOT issued the following statement on Wednesday:
“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is anticipating unseasonably hot weather in the region Friday, May 6th through Monday, May 9th and may experience larger than normal demand for power. ERCOT will deploy all the tools available to us to manage the grid reliably. ERCOT is coordinating closely with the Public Utility Commission, generation resource owners and transmission utilities to ensure they are prepared for the extreme heat. ERCOT has asked power plants across the region to postpone planned outages and to return from outages already in progress in order to serve Texans this weekend.”
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