Go easy on the A/C this afternoon *update*


Texas’ main electric grid operator is warning customers to reduce their usage during the peak power demand hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. today as high temperatures and unexpected power plant outages will stretch supplies.

“We are expecting the statewide power supplies to be very tight over peak hours today, primarily due to the forecast for continued temperature extremes which causes higher than normal electricity use, and because of unexpected unit outages,” said Kent Saathoff, vice president of grid operations and system planning for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

Despite headlines from some other news outlets, ERCOT is not saying “brownouts” are likely or rolling blackouts. Rather this is the sort of warning given as the first of ERCOT’s three-stage emergency steps (see it below).

Consumers are asked to shut off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., delaying laundry and other activities electricity-consuming until later in this evening.

According to ERCOT up to 3,800 megawatts of power plant capacity is offline today due to unplanned maintenance issues.

ERCOT isn’t allowed to disclose which units are down, but according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s web site one of the two 1,200 megawatt units of the Comanche Peak nuclear power plant southwest of Fort Worth is offline for an unplanned maintenance issue.

Also about 500 megawatts from some Houston-area power plants were offline unexpectedly today, according to sources.

One megawatt is roughly enough electricity to power 500 average homes under normal conditions in Texas, according to ERCOT, or about 200 homes during hot weather. That means the downed plants could handle about 760,000 typical Texas homes.


As of 11:30 a.m. power demand is expected to peak at 65,550 megawatts. That’s below the all-time peak demand record of 65,776 MW, which occurred Aug. 23, 2010, but more than what was expected to be the peak for this summer, 63,898 MW.

By 2:25 the peak projection was down to 63,789 MW

That’s a mark that was actually topped on Wednesday, when ERCOT set a new July record with 64,203 MW. (To be fair, ERCOT projects the summer demand peaks based on “normalized weather” data, using a widely accepted methodology that is detailed in this report .)

Other conservation tips from the Public Utility Commission’s “Powerful Advice” include:

  • Turn off all unnecessary lights, appliances, and electronic equipment.
  • When at home, close blinds and drapes that get direct sun, set air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, and use fans to cool your house.
  • When away from home, set air conditioning thermostats to 85 degrees and turn all fans off before you leave. Block the sun by closing blinds or drapes on windows that will get direct sun.
  • Do not use your dishwasher, laundry equipment, hair dryers, coffee makers, or other home appliances during the peak hours of 3 to 7 p.m.
  • Avoid opening refrigerators or freezers more than necessary.
  • Use microwaves for cooking instead of an electric range or oven.
  • Set your pool pump to run in the early morning or evening instead of the afternoon.

The conservation warning is the first of a three-step plan ERCOT can use to handle power demands should the situation deteriorate.

Under Energy Emergency Alert Level 1, ERCOT can bring in power from other neighboring grids — if available — via a handful of DC lines.

If the situation does not improve, ERCOT can move to a Power Warning, or Energy Emergency Alert Level 2, which lets it call on large commercial/industrial customers to cut off predetermined amounts of demand.

The third level, a Power Emergency, or Energy Emergency Alert Level 3, allows ERCOT to have local power utilities (such as CenterPoint Energy in the Houston area, CPS Energy in San Antonio) reduce demand through rolling blackouts, which typically last 15 to 45 minutes in each area.

Categories: Electricity, Social, Weather
Tom Fowler

70 Responses

  1. Energy Moron says:


    “Energy Moron, The PUC or ERCOT need to step up their game to take advantage of this new technology if we are to make progress.”


    Here is how I see what should happen.

    We need to move to time of us pricing as you point out (this could be done without dumb meters, but dumb meters do allow for this).

    On the buy back side-and you will recognize I am trying to be win/win thinking here rather than win for the solar only–there is an issue in that I am using the common grid to sell a product.

    Now, I could just throw electric lines over the fence to the neighbor… unlike wind in West Texas it is truly local area distributed generation. Like the common lines the electrons are running through are the ones from my house to a few neighbors, so selling the solar doesn’t need as much money from me as supporting the entire grid.

    Thus, the probably optimal solution is to do seasonal time of use less about 1 cent a kwh of cost overhead for the lines for the selling end, which means I get more base money since it is daytime but then lose some on the common carrier line fee.

    Fixed price net metering works out about the same.

    Once again, the line fee for the solar sold should be MUCH LESS than that of purchased power since it is used very locally.

    However, none of this is going to with a deregulated market since there is no incentive for anybody to take a time of use contract unless they have made efficiency upgrades. The current pricing scheme merely subsidizes those who love to WASTE energy starting with the libertarians.

    WASTE is not a CONSERVATIVE value folks.

  2. David Gower says:

    Energy Moron,
    The PUC or ERCOT need to step up their game to take advantage of this new technology if we are to make progress. I really don’t see why there is so much resistance because it is a win win situation for all parties concerned. The cost/benefit of demand response on the utility side of the meter needs to be reflected in the “buy back” prices available on the consumer side too. The Smart Meters make this possible and practical. I would like to see them give this a try. Most of the cost is on the consumer side (voluntary) and the technology challenge on the utility side is minimal.

  3. Energy Moron says:


    “Energy Moron, we need to get ERCOT to get right on the purchase price of your solar during times like this. I think the grid regularly pays gens $100 per megawatt but if faced with blackouts will pay $5000 per megawatt.
    What’s fair is fair don’t you think?”

    Duke Energy actually has a time of use/seasonal plan that does reflect somewhat the wholesale price situation of selling solar. Like, there are times during the winter where I would get 3 cents also.

    I did play with the Duke plan on my own energy profile (the dumb meter did help out a little bit here) and it turns out that it works out pretty much to be like…

    net metering…

    which is much simpler.

    The legislature has failed to act on this and the PUC has given a weird definition to net meter in 2009.

    It is the PUC’s fault that net meter is a joke in Texas (in 15 minute intervals).

    But, David, you are basically correct… I am generating during peak usage, unlike wind, which might be useful for electric cars…

  4. azjenn says:

    Cannot see why people are getting so concerned about turning down their air conditioners. We do not use ours….& I’m still around to talk about it. You would be surprised once you get used to either using no air conditioning or turning it down to say 78 (to me that’s low)..when we lived back east we kept ours at 80.

  5. DandyDon_dd says:

    Looks like obama and his allies, the greenies, the EPA, and the anti-Nukes are turning us into a Third World Nation… thanks a lot!
    (anybody have any good fried rat on a stick recipes?)

  6. geraldoh says:

    Why? I did everything asked up here in Austin in February only to find out 90% of Austin was exempted and so was most of Dallas so as not to upset the early arrivals during Super Bowl week. And as a result I suffered 6 hours without power. Thanks Republican appointees and Gov Hair who was in California with the Koch brothers. Excuse me, must put the laundry in the dryer and start another load. And didn’t ERCOT previously announce we were in good shape for the summer?????

  7. Charles Hixon says:

    I think these messages to conserve is having the opposite effect.

  8. Pat says:

    Another round of “unplanned outages”. Was there any explaination for the last time it happened back in Juny?

  9. gson says:

    I keep my thermostat at 79 during the day when I’m not home – or when I’m home but working from home. I turn it down to 77 when I go to bed and have ceiling fans in each room running 24×7. Luckily, I have a house that is very well insulated and stays quite comfortable at those temps.

    But, about “blaming” someone for the current situation. At the moment, I would say we need to assess this situation as it arose years ago when Congress passed bills against drilling in our own country due to environmental causes. Since those laws have been passed, exploration and drilling technology has improved to the point that drilling no longer destroys/harms/maims local ecological systems. Congress must readdress those regulations and open drilling in Alaska (most of the oil there is in uninhabitable areas)where we can become self-sufficient when it comes to energy. We must stop relying on OPEC and the Saudi’s for our oil!

    I don’t care who you blame at this point – the solution now is to get our lawmakers back to the task at hand – drilling at home!!!

    • bayshorebabydoll says:

      Uh, no. Drilling for oil has ZERO to do with this. There are very few if any oilfired plants left in the state, so I’m curious to know why you think increased domestic drilling will help with potential power shortages in Texas.

      Not saying I don’t agree with you on the drilling, just that it won’t help this situation.

  10. Omega 13 says:

    Hey ERCOT, why doesn’t one of your partners BUILD A NEW FRIGGIN’ POWER PLANT?

    I don’t mean one of those wussy solar or wind plants but a REAL man’s NUKE PLANT! COAL! OIL! You know, stuff with a lot of potential energy?

    (Unlike some of our lefty posters, I’m not saying this sarcastically or with snark. Solar and wind are for wussy leftists.)

  11. Peter says:

    liz J, what did it cost to put your house on solar power? What, you didn’t? You say it’s cost prohibitive and you can’t?
    Sorry, but the efficiency isn’t there for solar on an individual basis. You’d have to spend a bare minimum of $30,000 (after tax breaks) to allow a smaller home (in Houston terms) to run off of solar on an average summer day while conserving power.
    If you have tons of money, sure not a problem, but for the rest of us, it is a problem.
    I hope one day, the efficeiency of solar cells will be high enough and the cost low enough where I could be on solar for a responible cost, but right now, it’s just not possible.
    BTW, yesterday, my wife had raised our thermostat to 83 degrees. When I got home at 6 pm, I turnded it down to 77. It was 8:30 when it finally made it to 77. I told her, 81, no warmer than 81. When I’m doing things around the house 77 to 78 is fine, but at night sleeping we bump again down to 75 or 76.

  12. RST10 says:

    During WWII, we had victory gardens, rationing, metal and rubber recycling drives to help with the war effort. People made do for the better good. I fear for where we’ll be if this generation is called upon to sacrifice in the face of a threat to our country. We’re only as strong as the effort we’re willing to put forth compared to our enemy. From what I can tell from these postings, we won’t last long when the going gets tough.

  13. old oak says:

    too bad everyone can’t have a wife like mine-my house feels like a freaking blast furnace, and she’s still shivering-energy crisis averted

  14. BOB says:





  15. ntangle says:

    Get a VOLT rote: And just how do the Green Monsters think we will charge all those electric cars they say we should drive?…
    That much extra business would be a godsend for the utilities. Because most of the additional load would be at night, when there’s currently ample capacity. (It would help to even out their very lopsided demand curve). The extra revenue would pay for a lot of extra baseload generation. Not to mention keeping the money at home instead of buying so much imported oil. In the case of a Volt in particular, there would be no fear of utilities’ load shedding anyway, because if it does occur, or if there’s outages because of a hurricane for example, it’s among the most flexibly sourced vehicles, as it can run on gasoline alone or electricity alone.

  16. Chris says:

    Be grateful you aren’t dealing with ENRON like much of the rest of the country a few years. Intentionally taking supplies off line and then laughing about it. They deserve what became of them.

  17. Houston Dude says:

    Electric cars charge at night when electricity is cheaper. Duh. Sheer ignorance, on your part. Plus its nowhere near an a/c in electricity usage. More like a refrigerator.

  18. Indianpaintbrush says:

    I already set my ac thermostat up and conserve electricity when I can…. I still got a $400.00 electricity bill. The only way I can cut back is to shut down the computer. Go ahead, spoil my fun! lol

  19. RONALD777 says:

    I will conserve my power when they pull my cold de*d hand from my A/C thermostat.

  20. David Gower says:

    Energy Moron, we need to get ERCOT to get right on the purchase price of your solar during times like this.
    I think the grid regularly pays gens $100 per megawatt but if faced with blackouts will pay $5000 per megawatt.
    What’s fair is fair don’t you think?

  21. Get a VOLT says:

    And just how do the Green Monsters think we will charge all those electric cars they say we should drive? We can’t even keep the a/c on now. Sheer stupidity and ignorance.

  22. saved says:

    When are they going to get rid of these people who run this thing and get someone who can keep things up and running?

  23. Tacolover4ever says:

    After winter’s rolling blackouts and now this I am irritated. If the same power generators is at fault as the winters backouts it’s time to give the problematic generators the boot. Kind of like my job, you don’t do your job well and your gone…

  24. theallknowningone says:

    LOL at the posters blaming this on the POTUS. You should ask town drunk Bush why a plant wasn’t built.

    How’s that deregulation workin’ out fer ya?

  25. Garrett says:

    Thank you Rick Perry. Why don’t you pray for some money to build another power plant now already!

  26. blacksteelinthehourofchaos says:

    Big deal… I’ll head to the front of the neighborhood and jump in the pool with our daughter for a few hours, good way to cool off and enjoy being outside at the same time.

    I’m curious as to what the people complaining here do all weekend since it is just as hot out. Do you adjust to it, or sit inside and complain that your freedom is being taken away because someone asks to turn your AC down for a few hours? Grow up.

  27. Sweathog says:

    Go ahead and run your AC just as cold as you like. Go ahead and spend your hard-earned dollars on electricity so that you can put more money in the pockets of big oil, big coal, big natural gas, and big nuclear which end up indirectly producing most of our electricity. Don’t worry about producing more carbon dioxide, and don’t loose a minute of sleep worrying over the fact that power plants in the U.S. totally withdraw more than 40% of the fresh water that we have to use for all purposes. Have a cool and comfortable life.

  28. liz J says:

    Solar panels will work for Republicans or Democrats. Why wait to buy?
    The electric bill will never get cheaper.

  29. pino says:

    What a bunch of winers Oh you can’t live in 78 degrees. Or can help your fellow Texans by cutting off some lights. Bunch of spoiled brads. The rest of the world would love to live in 78 degrees in the middle of summer and drive around in 4,000 to 6,000 pound vehicles. You folks are an embarrasment to this state and this country get a life……

  30. Godiva55 says:

    shared sacrifice is SOCIALISM
    NO IT’S NOT.

    How noble, how honorable you sound.

    Unfortunately, how WRONG you sound, as well.

  31. Southern Select says:

    Cable boxes (dvrs etc) are the second biggest consumers of electricity in the house – more than refrigerators. They never really power off.

  32. shoogerkane says:

    i’m not arguing about the need for more power plants (I’m for nuclear, specifically) but living like a third world nation? really?! that’s quite a stretch. there’s a big difference between being temporarily inconvenienced and living in the third world. and not running electrical appliances for 4 hours might not even qualify as an inconvenience. that just means you can put off chores until later.

  33. Houston Dude says:

    Why is everyone blaming Obama? He’s been in office, what, 2 years? Do you know how long it takes to build a power plant? Blame the previous administration. Anyway, from reading the posts, that’s why Houston is on its way down, no sense of community. I see it everyday when d-bags cut in line in traffic or drive on the shoulder or are just plain selfish aholes.

  34. Katie says:

    Texas governmental agencies proudly show defiance when asked to regulate, perhaps Texas consumers should follow their example.

    Then again, we could always just pray for electricity.

  35. shoogerkane says:

    i forgot to mention above that i do believe the bit about 85 degrees is just not reasonable (and maybe not even mechanically sound)

  36. Cris says:

    I refuse to live like a 3rd world nation because our infrastructure is inadequate due to politics.

  37. joe says:

    85 degrees???????????????????

    It would take 24 hours to get your house back down to 76, are you nuts!?!

  38. shoogerkane says:

    come on, people. behave. grow up. why do so many of you take things like this so personally and dig in. there were unexpected problems at the power plants. just kindly follow their advice and chillax. or move to another country and find out how reliable their electrical distribution system is.

    that’s one of the main problems with this country: nobody can be inconvenienced in the least anymore and will complain when something is taken away, no matter how short a time period. and everybody is way too concerned with their own selfish interests.

    also, what if everybody decided, as another commenter put it, “No, I will not cut back on my electricity usage. I pay for it”, and the power plants resort to rolling blackouts in your area? Who’s screwed then? it’s just plain foolish. but im sure it makes you feel good to not play along.

  39. karl koch says:

    What a bunch of BS!!!

    Set my AC to 85???????? HA HA HA HA HA HA

    The solution is to build more coal and nuclear power plants.

  40. ntangle says:

    So that’s why my condensing unit went out today. ERCOT musta sabotaged it. Dad gum commies. When the A/C guy comes this afternoon, maybe he can tell me for sure.

  41. CT Blake says:

    Here is a clue: maybe if Reliant and the other power companies had bothered to upgrade their equipment and invested in clean power plants, instead of buying foreign power companies in Brazil, or Spain or whatever, then they might not be in this fix. We need to go back to actual, public utilities– company-run utilities are too expensive, have terrible service and fail to keep up with changes in technology (no profit incentive to do so).

  42. Nathalie says:

    They are full of crap. This is the same agency that, despite knowing there would be a high need for energy in the winter, weren’t ready and then fell a part and charged US for their mistakes! 85 degrees when you’re not home? Really? So that when you get home, your a/c has to run even harder, your refrigerator and freezers have to run even harder, everything uses MORE power to catch up? Nearly 90 degrees inside in humid Texas? Right. I bet their houses are all set at 70 all day long. Yes, it’s a good idea to change things like pump settings, etc – but this is ridiculous.

  43. ME says:

    Yet again I see how selfish people are! Who cares about power issues…I’ll keep my a/c cranked. Just like all you d-bags who use water like crazy not caring about everyone else during a drought “because I pay for what I use”…people letting off fireworks or burning when they put everyone else at risk “because my grass is green and won’t burn” or “I aim the fireworks away from my house”. People make me sick…

  44. Herschel says:

    You know you really have to wonder. The “Green” push makes me think…Hmmm electric cars how you gonna charge them when they can’t supply enough power to run you toaster?

  45. RST10 says:

    I wish not everything had to be political on these posts. Explain to me again what electrical usage and the power grid has to do with Republicans or Democrats? If there is to be a solution, it will involve conservation, efficiency and addressing our aging power grid over the span of multiple administrations. This country is so polarized at this point that we can’t accomplish anything. So very very sad.

    One point I have to make is that I was looking forward to smart meters which would incentivise electrical use at off peak hours by charging lower rates and charging more during these 3-7PM periods of peak use. Well I got my smart meter, but no variable rates. I’m pretty sure that’s the fault of Obama, Perry, Palin, FDR, Thomas Jefferson and Muslims worldwide. Someone please tell me where to park the hate.

  46. mike says:

    No, I will not cut back on my electricity usage. I pay for it. I want more power plants built to handle the load. But the commie-in-chief is making sure that sensible solution won’t fly.

  47. Efyou says:

    Im blasting my AC at 65 all day long…I don’t give a damn what anyone says.

  48. Jason in SL says:

    Why is this so hard for people? It not like they are telling you to use no power and let your house swelter. These are reasonable requests. Our house never goes below 78 anyway and 85 is way better than the 98 that sits just outside.

  49. roadchick says:

    Of course the anti-government nuts are going to complain, when it has nothing whatsoever to do with the government. ERCOT is just asking you to help avoid brown/blackouts. Is that so frickin’ hard???

    I do find fault with their recommendation of setting the thermostat to 85 when you’re not home. I’ve heard if it’s more than a 4-degree difference in settings, you’ll use more power to cool the place back down again.

  50. Bill Weaver says:

    Oh so now we have to set and sweat power outages by the Texas government, while we set and sweat if Obama and the federal governmemt is going to cut out Socical Security Checks to pay the bill. This country is in trouble

  51. Greg says:

    What does Perry have to do with this? You probably blamed Bush for the high gas prices in 07/08, but blame speculators today for $3.60 gas

  52. rat618 says:

    Big Bidness fails again. Thanks Texas Republicans.

  53. Energy Moron says:

    Howdy Neighbor:

    Two points

    “Consumers are asked to shut off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.”

    First, those who are in love with Edison’s invention and are against efficiency should consider the fact that what the WASTE (horrible, horrible WASTE) that Americans have regarding electricity is requiring more and more power plants to be built, which is a drain on capital. Wasting electricity not only increases the cost for the waster but also for all of us owing to the larger generation capacity needed. (tax ’em… read the federalist on excise taxes it is a perfectly CONSTITUTIONAL solution).

    Second, even with the most favorable solar customer electric contract there is there is still incentive for me to use the solar rather than put it back into the grid. I typically sell ~20 kWH per day especially during the afternoon, but since I get somewhat less for selling than buying I have an incentive to use electricity during the day as much as possible.

    In other words, the Texas electric system is messed up if there is that sort of incentive for a generating site.

  54. mikey says:

    I heard a commercial from Direct Energy on the radio – The subject was how with Direct Energy you can run your A/C full blast and still save money. Maybe these stupid energy companies should shut up and stop encouraging people to do such a thing.

  55. Hotpuppy says:

    I think government could start by setting their thermostats to 78 degrees or higher…… I can’t remember the last time I was in a government office that wasn’t cold enough to be a meat locker.

  56. mikey says:

    Brent Jatko – shared sacrifice is SOCIALISM! GOSH! What are you? A fascist?

  57. goodtymecharlie says:

    I promise not to operate my can opener between the hours of 1 pm and 8 pm.
    85 is way too hot. The house becomes sticky because you can’t remove the humidity and everything has a damp feeling inside. You hot, sticky and clamey sitting under the ceiling fan because its stirring up nothing but hot damp humid air.

  58. Brent Jatko says:

    Do your patriotic duty to your fellow man instead of yourself for a change and cut back.

  59. Tired of the bitching says:

    You people make me sick. Things go wrong sometimes and when they do, the responsible thing to do is tell everyone and ask that we all participate in the remedy. Why do people bitch so much these days?????????

  60. Y says:

    I actually have a heater on…brrrrrr It’s cold in this office!

  61. EatRunDive says:

    This didn’t happen prior to deregulation because our elected officials knew that they would be blamed for it. Vote for deregulation? Welcome to the free market!

  62. ReligionISForTheWeak says:

    Ayatolah Perry has spoken!

  63. mikey says:

    Dis here be librul propergander. I can der whatevrr I want ta do. No gobernment gone tell me what ter doo.

  64. Trail Trash says:

    Best go ahead and turn off your ACs. The EPA is going to shut down the power grid.

  65. hotline_Harry says:

    First, NO. I like my house to be 71 degrees! I dont mind paying the extra. You cut back. Second, hope you don’t have a new dumb smart meter! They are destroying peoples property all over H town!

  66. Art Vandeley says:

    Government over regulation will drive us back to the stone age. We have the means to provide everyone clean energy with current technology. Only if the government will stop piling regulations on top of regulations and get off their we’re going green or else attitude.

  67. luckyone says:

    How nice to be living in a 3rd world country and the regime will not let us produce energy.

  68. Katie says:

    I really don’t appreciate a pseudo-government agency telling me how to use the electricity that I pay for. It’s not my fault Texas power suppliers are incompetent in their attempt to provide a contractual service. All unnecessary lights, appliances, and electronic equipment is already turned off in my house, because that is what normal people do.
    Really ERCOT? Set the thermostat to 85 in the middle of the summer in Houston? No. They’ve deregulated to ‘better serve the consumer’, so start serving!!