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Texas Electricity Emergencies and Calls for Energy Conservation

August 17, 2011

Recently, the state of Texassuffered through unrelenting heat waves, causing usage of Texas electricity to jump high to record levels. This prompted the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to issue electricity emergency alerts and begin emergency procedures in an attempt to prevent rolling blackouts. Calls for energy conservation have also been issued, urging the public to monitor and conserve their consumption of electricity.

According to ERCOT, at least 20 power plants stopped working during these heat waves. These include coal-fired plants as well as natural gas plants. All available reserve supplies were used up to meet the tremendous increase in Texas electricity demand as the heat waves persisted for several days, going as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Texas Electric Emergency 

The increase in Texas electricity demand jumped to a record 66,867 megawatts during the first day, but still further increased to 68,000 megawatts during subsequent days. This sudden increase in demand consumed the daily 2,300 megawatts reserve capacity maintained by ERCOT, triggering the grid operator to issue the energy emergency alert level 1.

Under alert level 1, ERCOT calls for energy conservation from the public. If the reserved capacity dropped below the 1,750 megawatts level, ERCOT has no choice but to call on large industrial customers to stop using power. Those who responded to these calls will be provided special rates during these periods.

The Need for Conservation

ERCOT, during Texas electricity emergencies would call on the public, particularly large industrial consumers to minimize use of electricity during the peak consumption hours between 3 pm and 7 pm in an attempt to stem depletion of the reserve capacity levels.

If the conservation efforts were too late or would not be enough to sustain the demand, ERCOT would no choice but to begin rolling outages. These blackouts would occur for about 20 minutes each time and would be rolled out one neighborhood at a time. Conservation is needed not only to prevent such scenarios from occurring, but also preventTexaselectricity prices to fluctuate quite significantly – varying from $30 per megawatt-hour to as high as $3,000 per megawatt-hour.

Texas Electricity Conservation Tips

With their power to choose energy options, Texas consumers should establish conservation efforts as an integrated part of their daily lives – until the time when abundant and relatively cheap electricity are made available to the public.

The following are some conservation tips provided by the Public Utility Commission thatTexasconsumers should follow and implement:

  • Turn off all unnecessary lights, appliances, and electronic equipment.
  • When at home, close blinds and drapes that get direct sun, set air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, and use fans in occupied rooms to feel cooler.
  • When away from home, set air conditioning thermostats to 85 degrees and turn all fans off before you leave. Block the sun by closing blinds or drapes on windows that will get direct sun.
  • Do not use your dishwasher, laundry equipment, hair dryers, coffee makers, or other home appliances during the peak hours of 3 to 7 pm.
  • Avoid opening refrigerators or freezers more than necessary.
  • Use microwaves for cooking instead of an electric range or oven.
  • Set your pool pump to run in the early morning or evening instead of the afternoon.
  • Businesses should minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible. Large consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing non-essential production processes.

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