New Records Set in North Texas

All Texans expect summer to be hot and humid. Some years, the temperature can rise higher than expected and staying cool is a challenge. Unfortunately, this year, the weather is even more expreme and the pressure put on electricity providers has increased significantly. According to ERCOT, it’s setting records, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Texas Sets Another Electricity-Usage Record For July, Sixth This Week

Texas’ electric grid operator planned for a challenging summer. Now, it’s here with electricity-usage records falling daily since Monday.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas set a sixth electricity-usage record in the last four days. Between 4 and 5 p.m. Thursday, Texas averaged 73,259 megawatts. That topped the amount of electricity used an hour earlier and also in consecutive hours Wednesday afternoon.

Those numbers all beat the August 2016 mark of 71,110. On Monday and Tuesday, Texas also set consecutive records for usage in July.

The temperature at DFW International Airport was 107 late Thursday afternoon. At least one observation point in Fort Worth hit 110.

“We fully expect to keep hitting new demand records as summer 2018 continues,” ERCOT officials said in a written statement Wednesday.

Tuesday, usage averaged 70,963 megawatts between 4 and 5 p.m. That was the most ever for a single hour in July. Monday, Texans set the July record of 70,587 megawatts. Since then, usage has only escalated.

One megawatt is the amount needed to power about 200 Texas homes on a hot day, according to ERCOT.

While air conditioners struggled to keep homes and workplaces cool, the state’s electric grid was holding steady. Oncor, which operates power lines for most of North Texas, reported only small, routine outages on its website.

“We know it’s hot out there. Operators are working around the clock,” said ERCOT spokeswoman Theresa Gage.

She said there have been no problems or red flags as heat has blanketed Texas. Triple digit temperatures were common throughout North, Central and West Texas.

ERCOT, which predicted a record-breaking summer, has been watching the weather and power generators carefully. The gap between generation capacity and projected demand this year is the narrowest in 11 years, partly due to the closing of three large coal-fired power plants early this year.

Combined, those plants had enough capacity to power nearly 2.1 million homes.

With that smaller margin between supply and expected demand, ERCOT executive Dan Woodfin said in April that rotating outages, better known as rolling blackouts, were a possibility. That would happen only if other emergency measures, including importing electricity from other states, weren’t enough.

Despite the warnings, ERCOT officials have said they expected to have enough electricity generation to meet demand.

Electricity generators came into this summer knowing that the margin was small and that would likely mean higher prices. In Texas’ competitive electricity market, electricity generators have a strong financial incentive to make sure they have as much capacity available when demand pushes up prices.

Early Thursday afternoon, prices throughout the state averaged $30 to $50 per kilowatt hour. The price eventually topped out at about $2,000 for a brief period late afternoon.

The last time rolling blackouts were needed was February 2011, the week of Super Bowl XLV in Arlington. Sustained freezing temperatures and ice and snow storms taxed Texas’ electricity infrastructure that week. Equipment at new coal-fired power plants stopped working because of the cold. And some natural gas pipelines lost pressure, which affected gas-fired plants.

There haven’t been such notable problems this summer, even though temperatures have soared way over 100 degrees. ERCOT has issued advisories, noting that additional generation capacity has dropped below 3,000 megawatts.

With plenty of hot weather to come, officials expect more electricity-usage records to be broken before the summer is over. ERCOT is projecting a summer peak of 72,756, which assumes normal weather. That would be about 1,600 megawatts higher than the previous record set in August 2016.

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