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Heat Wave Pushes Texas Power Demand To Record-High

Irina Slav

Unusually high temperatures caused a surge in power consumption in Texas yesterday and could continue driving record consumption today as well, as weather forecasts point to even higher temperatures than the 100 degrees recorded on Monday.

Reuters reports, citing the state’s main grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, as saying demand for electricity had reached 74,531 MW in the afternoon on Monday and could today rise further, hitting 75,000 MW. The previous record was recorded in July last year, at 73,473 MW.

As Reuters notes, 1 MW of power is enough to power 1,000 households--but at peak demand, this falls to 200 households.

The good news is that ERCOT has the capacity to meet this record demand even if it tops 75,000 MW: the grid operator has 78,000 MW in capacity. However, reserves are not abundant and ERCOT said it might have to resort to issuing energy conservation alerts if the heat wave continued.

The reserve margin of the grid operator is just 7.4 percent, which was a historical low because of the retirement of several generators in spite of rising demand. The retirement was prompted by the advent of natural gas that has replaced coal in many power plants across the states. In Texas, natural gas-fired plants account for almost 50 percent of power output.

Texas is just one of several states grappling with the heat wave. The AP reported today parts of 13 states in the South and Midwest were under heat advisories, with the temperature reaching 120 degrees in one town in Mississippi.

Last month, the Houston Chronicle’s Bernard L. Weinstein questioned ERCOT’s ability to keep the air conditioners running in August in light of the fact that a third of the state’s power comes from wind farms. Weinstein also noted the small reserve margin, noting “Should several large power plants go offline for maintenance or a broken gas line, we will likely see brownouts or blackouts.”

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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