DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – On the hottest day in more than a decade, the agency that manages the state’s power grid appealed to residents and businesses to conserve electricity by beginning the first stages of an energy emergency.
The state consumed a record 67,929 megawatts during peak usage on Tuesday, over 1,000 megawatts more than the previous high set on Monday. One megawatt is roughly enough to power 200 homes with air conditioning in the Texas heat.
With dry conditions and temperatures predicted to swell to 110 degrees again on Wednesday, the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said that it was almost a sure-thing that Tuesday’s Energy Emergency Level 1 Power Watch would float on for at least the next two days. Consumption on Wednesday is projected to surpass 68,000 megawatts by at least 100 megawatts.
“I would think we will be doing this for the rest of the work week, and the afternoons for Wednesday and Thursday,” said Kent Saathoff, ERCOT vice president of system planning and operations. “We may moderate some on Friday, but Wednesday and Thursday, definitely.”
The emergency was declared even with wind power generating 1,800 megawatts — 1,000 more than the standard 800 — and as Texas wrangled hundreds of additional megawatts from other nearby states and Mexico.
Saathoff said that ERCOT declares the first level emergency when the state’s energy reserves dip below 2,300 megawatts. At this current warning, ERCOT is asking residents and businesses to conserve energy by cutting all non-essential appliances like hair dryers and dishwashers. The agency also starts operating the state’s grids at their capacity.
Once the reserves dip below 1,750 megawatts, Saathoff said that ERCOT declares the next level of emergency and begins interrupting service to commercial and industrial operations, which is agreed upon in their terms of service. “Hopefully we won’t have to use that interruptible load,” said Saathoff, “but if we lose some generation, and if the load doesn’t start leveling off — which it usually does — we might have to.”
Rotating power outages, last in February during the area’s debilitating ice and snow storms, will not start until the third emergency level, something that Saathoff called “very rare.”
Tuesday was the second time this summer that ERCOT has had to declare the level one energy emergency. On June 27, Saathoff said that reserves had dipped below 2,300 megawatts for “a brief period,” although not nearly as long as the four-hour stretch from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday.
Temperatures peaked at 110 degrees on Tuesday, a blistering heat not seen in the DFW area since September 4, 2000. “The increase this year was just far beyond what we had expected, and it’s driven by record temperatures,” Saathoff said. “It’s just a very unusual year as far as increase in demand.”
And that increase could mean more emergency declarations in future summers, Saathoff said, especially if the state’s major municipalities do not see thunderstorms, which can help reduce a load by “several thousand megawatts.”
“If we have summers like this, where you have temperatures in the hundreds, yeah,” Sathoff said, “we’ll be facing this.”
ERCOT canceled the energy emergency at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday.
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