Energy & Environment

Texas power grid can take this week’s spike in demand, ERCOT says

ERCOT officials project more than 75,000 megawatts of electricity will be used Wednesday, which would break the current daily record set in 2019.

The sun sets on electrical power lines in Grand Prarie, Texas.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) expects power demand to hit an all-time record this week as temperatures increase across the state into the mid and upper 90s.

While Texans saw brownouts and calls to conserve energy during last month's heat wave, the power grid is in "better shape" than a month ago according to Daniel Cohan, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University. He discussed the topic on Tuesday's Houston Matters.

Cohan said the majority of power plants are currently active, which was not the case in May when several were down for maintenance work.

ERCOT officials project more than 75,000 megawatts of electricity will be used Wednesday, which would break the current record 74,820 in August 2019.

This week should have sunny and windy conditions that would provide power plants with as much as 20GW of power from wind and solar farms. This will aid in handling the high power demand, Cohan explained.

Although it is uncommon for record-high demands to precede the first day of summer, ERCOT released a statement saying the power grid has the ability to keep up as Houston heads into a "dangerously hot" week.

"So far, so good," Cohan said of how the power grid is managing the surge in demand. But he says how it holds up this week will be key in determining its preparedness as temperatures rise and Texas heads into July and August.

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As for consumers, most households with fixed rates will not see immediate price increases but may see higher power expenses as AC usage goes up during the summer months.

"Most of us are paying 60 – 70% more than we were a year ago," Cohan said, explaining that the costs have gone up for most residential plans.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz expressed criticism of electricity prices on Twitter on Saturday, attributing their rise to President Biden being "beholden to the Green New Deal radicals in his party."

Cohan batted down Cruz's claim, stating that natural gas prices set the cost of electricity in the power grid. He emphasized that wind and solar energy, as well as battery storage, are adding capacity to the statewide grid.

"To blame [The Green New Deal] for the problems of power plants...is really getting things backwards," Cohan told Houston Matters.

The perpetual concern Texas faces is the isolated nature of its power grid from the two others in the country. This makes the state vulnerable to power outages.

"If things ever do go wrong in Texas, we can't bring in any help from our neighbors," Cohan said.