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Energy & Environment

Texas Breaks Records For Peak Electricity Demand

The state’s largest grid operator says it’s because of sustained high temperatures.

Macie Kelly/ Houston Public Media
The Magnolia Multi-Service Center is used as a cooling center during summer.

For the last four days in a row, Texas set new records for peak energy demand.

According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, also known as ERCOT, Texas broke the August demand record Friday. The August record broke again on Monday, when electricity demand reached more than 74,000 megawatts, and ERCOT predicts Tuesday could be another record-breaking day as well.

The state also pushed through the weekend record on Saturday, then broke it again on Sunday.

"Everybody's on summer vacation so all the kids are home. Everybody's cranking up the air conditioner because it's super hot outside, and so residential homes are the ones that are really pulling the high demand," said Gina Warren, an energy law professor at the University of Houston.

ERCOT says the record-setting demand for electricity is due to sustained high temperatures across the state.

"If it exceeds a certain amount they have to start buying it wholesale and that will increase costs for the retail customer,” said Warren.

The heat wave is testing the state's power grid. Last year ERCOT warned backup power reserves would be at an all-time low this summer because of delayed or canceled energy projects.

Houston’s heat plan

According to Houston Health Department spokesperson Porfirio Villarreal, the city activates its heat emergency plan when the heat index reaches 108 degrees on two or more consecutive days. Villarreal said the city extended the hours of four air-conditioned multi-service centers around town.

"We don't have large amounts of people going into the multi-service centers. They're available in case they don't have air-conditioning," Villarreal said. "Most people will go to a relative's home or go to a mall, a shopping center, or a library."

Villarreal said during a heat emergency Houstonians without transportation can call 311 for a ride to a nearby multi-service center.

A full list of cooling centers can be viewed here.

MORE: Discussing Texas Energy Demand on Houston Matters


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