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Officials: Electricity Conservation Can Prevent Rolling Blackouts

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NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - The state’s electric grid operator is trying to prevent rolling blackouts this week, but they say it’s up to consumers to make it happen.

The Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) issued an Energy Emergency Level 1 Power Watch on Tuesday and with temperatures expected to reach 110-degrees today it could happen again.

A Level 1 Power Watch is declared when the state’s energy reserves dip below 2,300 megawatts. One megawatt of power is enough electricity to power some 500 homes in Texas during normal conditions. But during a heat wave, one megawatt of power can only power 200 Texas homes.

On Tuesday, Texas was just 300 megawatts away from reaching a maximum usage point that would have forced the state to start shutting down big corporate users.

“This increase this year was just far beyond what we expected,” said ERCOT’s vice president of system planning and operations Kent Saathoff. “We got to around 2,000 megawatts reserves [Tuesday]. If we lost a 300 megawatt unit we would be at the trigger point.”

Oncor spokeswoman Catherine Cuellar says so far the grid is holding up. “There has not been the need for emergency rotating outages yet,” she said. “That is the last step, by the states grid operators, to prevent an uncontrolled widespread blackout.”

But with the extreme heat expected to continue all week officials fear getting too close to that ‘last step’. So, ERCOT officials are asking everyone to conserve energy — big and small.

“All Texans are being asked to conserve electricity in common sense, safe ways so that there will be enough electricity to keep everyone safe, especially as we’re expected to see more record breaking temperatures,” said Cuellar. “They can unplug their coffee maker or their toaster before they leave home. Any electronics or appliances that are not going to be in use while they’re at the office including cell phone and laptop chargers or televisions.”

Cuellar also suggests waiting until after 8 o’clock at night to run the dishwasher, washing machine, or clothes dryer.

WEB EXTRA: Reliant Energy tips on ways to reduce energy consumption and save money.

Texans are being urged to reduce their energy usage all of the time, but especially between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. for the rest of the week, as this is when demand is expected to be at a maximum.

The high demand on the state’s power grid could also mean a higher electric bill for you. To prevent blackouts ERCOT is buying electricity from Mexico and several U.S. states at a rate of about $3,000 per megawatt hour, which is very high. “That’s how the market works,” said Saathoff. “When you have shortages you have shortage pricing.”

North Texas has endured 32 consecutive days of temperatures at or above 100-degrees and is on pace to possibly break the record set in 1980 of 42 consecutive days.

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