Mayor Sylvester Turner and County Commissioner Adrian Garcia announced the start of the 18th annual Beat the Heat project Monday morning. The city will open cooling centers throughout the summer and give out portable air-conditioning units to senior citizens and those with disabilities.
With $95,000 donated by Reliant Energy and the Harris County Area Agency on Aging, the city has purchased 350 window-unit air conditioners to dispense to the community. Turner said city will also provide recipients with information and assistance with transport and installation of the unit.
The city will be opening 22 cooling centers to the public beginning June 12 through the end of September.
Reliant Energy has also announced it will be providing $1 million throughout the state to Reliant customers who cannot pay their electric bills.
“If you don’t have air conditioning, then we’re doing everything we can to try to get you one," said Mayor Turner. "And let me tell you, even if you can cool one room, it’s better than no room being cooled at all."
Meanwhile, Turner said that conservation of energy will be necessary moving into the summer as Texans are already exceeding energy usage estimates.
"I can tell you this is going to be a challenging summer by all indications because the Public Utility Commission and ERCOT are already saying that the demand may exceed capacity,” said Turner, alluding to a potential grid failure.
ERCOT recently released a forecast of energy demand up to 82.7 gigawatts on June 16, shattering the all-time peak for this time of year. The estimate is near what ERCOT expected the peak to be in July or August of this year.
"It's going to require energy conservation and demand management," said Turner. "There are going to be a lot more conversations on this as we head down the pipe."
Older adults and disabled individuals interested in receiving a free window-unit air conditioner as part of the program are encouraged to call 832-393-4301.