Cold pushes Texas electricity use to new record for November

Reuters

(Corrects year in second paragraph to 2006 from 2000)

* Second monthly electric use record set this year

* Year-to-date power use runs slightly ahead of 2012

By Eileen O'Grady

HOUSTON, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Cold temperatures across Texashave pushed November power use to the highest level in sevenyears, according to preliminary data from the state's power gridoperator.

Power demand reached 46,931 megawatts in the hour ending at7 p.m. CDT (0100 GMT) on Monday, surpassing the November 2006record of 45,143 MW, according to the Electric ReliabilityCouncil of Texas (ERCOT) website.

Over the weekend, a winter storm marching southward intoTexas pared more than 20 degrees from normal high temperaturesin Houston, Texas' largest city.

Monday's high temperature in Houston was 46 degreesFahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius), 23 degrees below normal whilethe low of 39 was 12 degrees below normal, according toAccuWeather.com.

In North Texas, Dallas' high on Monday was 38 degrees, 25degrees cooler than normal. The city's low was 33, 11 degreesbelow normal, AccuWeather.com said.

Real-time power prices in the state indicated ample powersupplies were available Monday as prices did not rise above $45per megawatt-hour. Daily power prices traded in the low $40s perMWh, about 30 percent above the region's five-year average,according to Reuters data.

Power use is expected to fall the rest of the week,according to ERCOT forecasts, as temperatures rise.

Texas has avoided extreme weather most of the year, butERCOT set a monthly demand record in October of 54,710 MW,surpassing the 54,102 MW record set in 2002, according toERCOT's website.

Electricity use in Texas has been growing faster thangeneration is being built, shrinking the region's reserve marginand increasing the prospect of rolling outages when supplies arestretched, the grid operator has warned.

Regulators and the grid agency have made several changes tothe wholesale market to attract new power plants, but marketparticipants remain divided on a long-term solution.

ERCOT expects to have sufficient power supplies for theupcoming winter season when demand is forecast to remain justbelow 50,000 MW under normal weather conditions.

Through the end of October, power consumption in ERCOT isrunning 0.6 percent ahead of 2012, according to grid reports.

Electric use in ERCOT in 2012 was 2.7 percent below 2011, arecord year for power consumption that began with frigid winterweather and the hottest summer on record.

ERCOT's winter consumption record is 57,265 MW set Feb. 10,2011 during an extreme statewide cold spell. The state'sall-time peak use of 68,379 MW occurred in August of the sameyear during a prolonged heat wave and drought.

One megawatt can power about 500 homes during mild weatherconditions and about 200 homes during high-demand summer months,ERCOT said.

Power producers in Texas include Luminant, a unit ofprivately held Energy Future Holdings, NRG Energy, Calpine Corp, NextEra Energy and ExelonCorp. (Editing by Diane Craft)

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