AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – The manager of the electricity grid in Texas says four inactive natural gas units will be brought online for emergency use through October as the state battles extreme heat and drought.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said Tuesday it had agreed to short-term deals with NRG Energy and Garland Power and Light to activate the units.

“They are calling up additional generation resources — plants that are called “mothballed”, meaning they essentially aren’t operating but they have all the workings, all the mechanics, to be fired up within a few weeks,” explained Terry Hadley with the Public Utility Commission.

While Hadley says he doesn’t think the extra units will be needed he’s glad they’re an option. “There are still other contingencies available, but this provides a little extra cushion,” he said. “We are expecting higher than normal temperatures through September, so this will be helpful.”

ERCOT Chief Executive Trip Doggett says the units would be used only in emergencies to avoid competing with companies already bidding in the state’s deregulated energy market.

Two weeks ago, the state set a power demand record three straight days, topping out at 68,295 megawatts and barely avoiding rotating outages. ERCOT says the four backup units can provide 400 megawatts of electricity.

Despite the additions, customers are still being encouraged to conserve electricity.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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