August is typically the peak demand month for electricity in Texas. Power consumption jumps as homes and businesses crank up the air conditioning. Consecutive high-demand days can strain power plants and transmission facilities and lead to unplanned outages. Wholesale electricity prices spike.
M. Tyson Brown, a statistician with the U.S. Energy Information Administration, contrasts the situation this year with the record heat wave of two years ago.
“In 2011, the whole month of August was very hot for a very long amount of time and you got, you know, $600 a megawatt hour was the peak price that year. And in 2013, there were a couple of days where it was hot, you know, it was 105°F in Dallas. But because the days weren’t consecutive — it wasn’t for a long amount of time — you didn’t have those really high wholesale electricity prices.”
Prices reached as high as $90 a megawatt hour in parts of the state last month. More commonly, Brown says, prices ranged between $30 to $40 a megawatt hour.