In the middle of a protracted heat wave that is draining reserves and raising prices, Texas officials last week pleaded with residents to conserve power. Its increasing reliance on wind energy is causing a massive summer headache as temperatures swell.
On Thursday, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) sent out notice that conservation was needed. On X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, the “Voluntary Conservation Notice” cited “extreme temperatures, forecasted high demand and lower reserves due to low wind generation.”
If it is safe to do so, Texans were asked to reduce power usage.
Accompanying the plea to cut back on electricity use were the usual specific recommendations covering raising the thermostat and unplugging “non-essential lights and appliances.”
The ERCOT notice listed the requests as voluntary but said they reach level three of four possible levels of urgency. Level four entails controlled outages to offset drastically lower energy reserves.
One issue facing the Lone Star State is its dependence on wind-generated power. CBS reported that this source is responsible for 24% of electricity production in Texas, but it does not keep pace with consumer demand during peak hours.
This is the forecast for North Texas but ERCOT wants us to conserve power. I already have my A/C higher than comfortable because I wouldn't be able to pay the bill! #Texas #ERCOT https://t.co/qD64jr5Js4 pic.twitter.com/xHfHwAzeEX
— BuffyHippie (@BuffyHippie) August 17, 2023
ERCOT complained that it expects power reserves to be further reduced from the failure of wind power to hold its own in the summer heat.
Officials reported having to turn back to traditional sources during these times. They included coal, natural gas, and nuclear power. Texas relies on roughly 15,000 wind turbines, more than any other state.
Now the state is using its emergency system after reserves dropped below the critical level. Meanwhile, power usage is hitting record highs for Texas’ 26 million customers.
On the cost side, real-time power prices rose above a staggering $5,000 in most ERCOT hubs. In layman’s terms, this means that energy has skyrocketed for state residents during the heatwave.
A week ago, a one-day surge saw the price for electrical services for Texans rise more than 800%. Energy demand has hit record levels and new marks are expected to be set this week as temperatures stay in the 100s.
Rolling outages have not been experienced by Texas electrical customers since 2006, though that is subject to change.
The state is hardly a stranger to extreme weather. A lethal winter storm in Feb. 2021 stranded millions without power, heat, and water for several days as crews scrambled to bring the grid back online.
The official estimate is that 246 residents died due to the storm, though many believe the total was far greater.