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Texas Grid in Spotlight Again as ERCOT Seeks Energy Conservation Measures

Texas Grid Heat
(Credit: Pixabay)

For the second time this summer, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas asked its energy users to voluntarily conserve power to keep the grid operational.

ERCOT issued what it calls a Conservation Appeal and asked Texans to conserve power between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on July 11. It also issued a watch for a projected reserve capacity shortage during the same timeframe, although it did not expect any system-wide outages.

The combination of 100-degree temperatures and low wind was part of ERCOT’s request for easing energy use. The state is seeing record-high temperatures and ERCOT says while solar energy generation is nearly at capacity, wind energy generation is lower than usual for the time of year and is 10% below capacity.

ERCOT says it uses a Conservation Appeal when projected reserves could fall below 2,300 MW for 30 minutes or more. It has deployed the notification more than four dozen times since 2008.

It last took the measure in May when six power plants went offline, also during a time of high temperatures. Those facilities accounted for 2.6 gigawatts of energy, but at the time ERCOT said the grid wasn’t in danger. The resilience of the Texas grid has been a concern since widespread power outages occurred during a February 2021 winter storm.

These types of natural events are a big reason grid resilience is often at the forefront of energy transitions across the nation. That has increased the implementation of distributed energy resources with tools like microgrids and battery storage.

Ultimately, power outages were avoided in the state, and ERCOT says users heeded the call for energy conservation, according to Dallas’ Fox 4. ERCOT says in the five minutes leading up to the 2 p.m. request, 500 megawatts of load dropped from the grid. By 4:30 p.m. supply of energy exceeded demand by 3,700 MW, according to the Austin Statesman.

The forecasted energy demand this week is nearly 80,000 MW, which would be a record. In addition to the Conservation Appeal, ERCOT has three levels of emergency status that are triggered starting when reserves fall below 2,300 MW and aren’t expected to recover within 30 minutes and include public alerts and potential rolling blackouts.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas offers suggestions for businesses to lower their energy usage. Some of those include using smart thermostats, smart lighting systems, efficient light bulbs, and setting HVAC systems to higher temperatures in the summer.

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