Texas power grid sees record-breaking demand during heatwave

·2 min read

July 26 (Reuters) - The Texas power grid operator on Monday forecast that demand would reach a record high over the next week as homes and businesses crank up their air conditioners to escape a heat wave settling over the state during the next month or so.

High temperatures in Houston were expected to reach 97 degrees Fahrenheit (36 degrees Celsius) on Monday, according to AccuWeather. Although that is only 2 degrees F above the city's normal high for this time of year, energy traders noted temperatures were expected to hit the 90s every day from July 22-Aug. 31.

That unrelenting period of extreme weather caused the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the grid in most of the state, to project power use will reach 74,711 megawatts (MW) on Monday evening and 76,875 MW on Aug. 2.

Those peaks would be the highest so far in 2021 and, if correct, next week's forecast would top the grid's all-time high of 74,820 MW in August 2019.

One megawatt can power around 200 homes on a hot summer day.

ERCOT said there is enough generation available to meet current demand and operating conditions were normal. The grid has not called on consumers to conserve energy on Monday.

Millions of people were left without power during a deadly winter storm in the state in February that exposed the vulnerability of the electric grid in Texas. Prices soared in February as an unusually large amount of generation shut due mostly to freezing gas wells and pipes and frozen wind turbines.

While real-time power prices were still in the $20s per megawatt hour (MWh) so far on Monday, traders noted that it was early, and prices will rise as temperatures climb. In the day-ahead market, prices averaged over $400 during one hour this afternoon.

On-peak power at the ERCOT North hub has averaged $208 per MWh so far in 2021 due primarily to price spikes over $8000 during the February freeze when ERCOT imposed rotating outages that left millions in the dark - some for days - to prevent an uncontrolled collapse of the grid.

That compares with an average of $26 per MWh in 2020.

If most of the state's power plants continue to operate, ERCOT said it should be able to meet this summer's projected peak of 77,144 MW and still have enough reserves in case something unexpected goes wrong with generation or transmission lines.

ERCOT has said it expects to have about 86,862 MW of power supplies available this summer.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Will Dunham)